(2018-12-07) Feeling Human Again
Julian brings Nina to his cabin, and reveals more of his past.

Walker Cabin San Juan Mtns.
Sat Dec 08, 2018 — Sat Dec 08 21:50:12 2018

The outside of the cabin appeared rustic and in need of repair, the inside is quite the contrast. The strong smell of pine briefly overwhelms the senses before it dulls away, though there is always some form of incense being burned ranging from lilac to lavender. The interior floors are burnished wood and the walls have been finished with dry wall and the whole of the cabin is fully insulated and brought to the local municipal code of standards and regulations.

The cabin itself is made up of three main rooms: a great room that incorporates into it the kitchen, a bedroom, and a bathroom. A sliding glass door looks out over the southern face of the San Juan range and opens onto a wooden railed deck complete with table, chairs, and tiki torches for extra lighting.

The great room itself has a high ceiling with no second floor, a large ceiling fan front and center for the warmer months of the year. A plush, leather couch that wraps around the fireplace in a 'U' shape segregates the living area from kitchen. Above the mantle is a fifty-five inch, 4K smart television mounted to the wall with an arm mount that can be extended and adjusted. The fireplace itself is old-style brick, probably considerably older than the cabin built around it. An old burnished red wood coffee table sits out in front of the couch. A thick, fur rug has been thrown down over the wooden floor at the foot of the fireplace.

The kitchen is small, with a simple gas stove and no dish washer or any other extra fancy appliances. This allows room for a small dining room table that seats up to four comfortably. Overall, the front area is designed efficiently to take advantage of the limited space allotted.

The bathroom is simple, with a shower and tub combination and an older style sink, medicine cabinet, and mirror. It's a little roomier than it needs to be, probably, but there is a door leading both out to the living area and also one that connects it directly to the master (and only) bedroom.

The bedroom itself reflects the simplistic living style of the owner. A queen size bed with an old red wood frame and banister, thick covers and more than enough pillows, most of which are feather-filled. A nightstand sits on one side of the bed, and a tall chest of drawers sits on the other. There's a small walk-in closet but it seems as though it's being used to store all his old military gear rather than any clothes. Anything he needs hanging up, such as dress clothes or his work uniform, is normally hung from the banister or a doorknob.

Julian - A weathered, twenty-something man.
Nina - Young Chinese woman, chic and mysterious.
Exits: [O] Overlook Road

Although Julian had been talking to Nina about spending the weekend up at the cabin, the man had been working so much this week that it was questionable as to whether or not it'd even happen. Apparently, there was an emergency that had Julian out at the canyon all Saturday morning, seeing to it that Nina had woke up to empty bed and a note, if she slept through his early departure.

"A group of kids got lost on the north side of the canyon." The ranger explained later on that evening when he finally arrived to pick up Nina in his bullet-ridden jeep. "Other than being a little cold and hungry, it turned out a lot better than I expected."

The drive up main and into the San Juan without traffic didn't take too long, but the winds and turns up to the cabin proper turned a half an hour trip into an hour long one. Julian did a lot of talking, discussing the dangers of the north side of the canyon and even telling a story of a reporter who nearly fell to her death if not for his quick actions.

The cabin itself, on the outside, looks misleadingly small, simple even, with a neatly stacked pile of firewood and a chimney that is already releasing smoke from the top. The driveway is gravel and dirt, but his wrangler makes short work of the long, winding road that leads to the southern face of the mountain where the cabin is located.

"I had a neighbor get a fire going for me so it would be pretty cozy by the time we arrived." He explains, gesturing back the way they came. "There's not many of us small timers left up here with the land grabs going on by big corporations." And rightly so, because even from the front of the cabin Nina can see the southern face that overlooks the entirety of Calaveras. It might not be the fanciest cabin on the mountain, but the view is absolutely stunning.

For this trip, Nina has adopted what she calls "rustic", which consists of a white long-sleeved t-shirt, form-fitting jeans and a matching denim jacket, a pair of short boots that might be a tad too fancy for hiking, plus a black coat and long white scarf. Even though she packed a carry-on bag, she also has her trusty Gucci handbag with her, which is clutched as if it might slip away when she's not looking. In fact, Nina seems slightly nervous on the drive over, and contents herself with listening to Julian than speaking much, her gaze constantly looking along the sides of the road. Even when they arrive at the cabin, she pauses outside to look around. At the scenery? Yes, but also looks out about towards the woods.

"It's… beautiful up here." She bobs her head towards Julian, finally allowing a small smile to spread across her lips. "You don't need me to tell you not to sell the place, but probably for different reasons."

When Julian had picked her up, he did make a comment about her outfit, a very flattering one that was followed up by a playful swat over her bottom. "But it's going to be a lot colder up there than down here." Pause. "I'll keep you warm though." For the rest of the trip, he would occasionally touch her hand when he didn't need to shift gears. But the last part of the trip climbing the mountain took all his concentration - the roads are well taken care of, but it's still pretty treacherous for the unwary.

He notices her trepidation and nervous glances as they exit the vehicle, so as he circles around to help her out of the keep, his arm briefly slips around her dainty waist. "I know every inch of this area, baby. There's no safer place for you on this planet than here, next to me." He finishes that with a brief kiss to the top of her head before he heads around to the side of the jeep.

Julian is quick to grab her things before locking up the jeep and leading Nina to the front door, which is made of old red wood that looks as though it could stand the test of another hundred years. Everything about the cabin is rustic, simple, and old, but with an unwavering strength that matches the owner's.

The fireplace crackles with life, just as Julian had promised. "We're a small, tight knit community up here…so small favors, you know? It helps that I keep old man Walsh supplied with game through the winter." He grins, setting her things down on the plush, curved couch that crescents around the fireplace. Notably, there are two wooden rocking chairs off to the side, separated by a small table with a cribbage board set out.

If the chill is almost unbearable, mixed with the strong wind of this elevation, than inside the cabin is the polar opposite. It's quiet, other than the crackling of the fire, and much bigger than the outside indicates. It's very clean too, something that Nina would probably guess isn't the norm for her lover, seeing as how she's had enough time to really get to know him (and his habits) at her own place.

Nina gives him a soft smile for his reassurance and kiss, but as always, it's impossible to tell whether she is convinced. Whatever the case may be, she makes a valiant attempt to brush aside her nerves, and by the time she enters the cabin her trepidation is all but gone. Is she reassured by the cozy interior? Or has she had everything under control?

Then again, perhaps it's the sight of Julian's home that now seizes her attention. The coziness of the decor and the fire does seem to help put her at ease, but she is also noting the cleanliness with an analytical eye. Taking care to brush off any snow that may be clinging to her boots on the welcome mat, Nina fully steps inside and heads carefully towards the rocking chairs. "My uncle and aunt have a cabin up in Mount Tamalpais that is somewhat similar to this." She notes even as she continues to study the place. "But it's more… how do I put it? Artificial?" She turns her attention back to Julian with a smile. "It has a lot of amenities which makes it feel more like a resort than a cabin. This feels more… wild and rustic. How do you live by yourself out there?"

Julian leaves Nina some space, allowing her to take in the sight and atmosphere, much like he did their first date that saw them down at the canyon to watch the sunset. In the mean time, he busies himself with setting his utility belt on a small wooden table near the front door, though his radio is unhooked and placed on the small table next to the cribbage board. His firearm and holster are set on the kitchen counter for the moment. He turns around now, leaning against the counter and watching the exotic girl as she absorbs her surroundings. And when she speaks, Julian smiles softly and nods, clearing his throat.

"It's a pretty old place," Julian begins, looking up at the ceiling and around the open area. "It needs some work but I've been slowly bringing it back up to speed. She's not much, but she's mine." He takes a deep breath, pushing off from the counter and moving back into the living area. "I have satellite internet and t.v.," He adds, gesturing toward the big screen above the mantle, "Though I'm sure you can guess I don't use it much. But, you know, if you ever decided to take a day but you wanted to do some work…"

He flashes her a meaningful smile then gathers her things from where he left them on the couch, "That door is the bathroom and that one is the bedroom. Where do you want these?"

"Is there some flat surface in the bedroom that you can spare? A chest, or low table?" Nina glances briefly over to the bedroom door, and already she is making her way over in order to steal a look inside. Likely not just looking for a space for her luggage, but to examine the place as well. The decision where to place the bag is left to Julian, and Nina makes her way to a window to look outside. Enroute, she idly unwraps her scarf and shrugs off her coat, leaving her in her almost-entirely denim ensemble; after peering out the window for a few moments, she wanders towards the couch and carefully lays down her coat and scarf.

"You have done a wonderful job upkeeping the place. But isn't it lonely up here by yourself?" Nina asks then, taking a moment to pull her hair back with both hands, as if preparing to tie it into a ponytail, but instead lets it go loose again.

Julian goes about just setting her bag on the bed, which seems to reflect the same rustic quality as the rest of the cabin from the redwood bed frame to the thick covers and quilt that appear to be hand sewn. Surely, Julian isn't talented in that sort of thing? "I've got an ironing board!" He calls out from the bedroom, and, from the relatively small closet space in the bedroom, he produces said ironing board and unfurls it, setting it up at the foot of the bed.

The bedroom itself is minimally decorated, there's a single picture, framed in wood, on a dresser along the wall that depicts several men in uniform, posing in their full battle rattle - including body armor and weapons on the backdrop of an american flag being stretched out by two men in the back of the group. There's no family pictures, no friends, no nothing, outside of that single picture.

There is a door that leads out to a back deck that overlooks the entirety of the south face, including the city and surrounding regions. At the moment, the sun is barely peeking over the horizon, casting pinks, reds, and oranges across the sky - all revealed by the window Nina looks through.

Poking his head out to make sure she heard him, Julian spots her shrugging out of her outter clothing and quickly takes the garments from the back of the couch, meticulously slinging them over the hooks on the wall near the front door.

He considers her question quietly as he adjusts the hooked clothing, removing his own jacket as well and hanging it next to hers. He turns then to face her, head tilting slightly. "I'm not alone, now." The quiet observation is followed up with an affectionate smile.

"I like the peace and quiet," He clarifies, moving back over to her side near the couch, "But honestly? Sometimes it is…maybe not in the last couple months." The last part, he admits while reaching up to comb a hand through her silky tresses after they've fallen back down from her temporary lift.

Nina knows well when he is talking about her, and she tilts her head and smiles in return. "If I am the cause of the disruption to your peace and quiet, then I will apologize. Even then, I don't believe that I am the only one to blame." She teases, turning to face him fully. "Do Katherine and her sisters come here at all? If they do, I assume you'd have to sleep on the couch." She spares a meaningful look at that piece of furniture. "It just looks so pristine here, especially for a bachelor's pad."

She pauses with another glance around, before giving her Gucci bag a pat or two. "Can I put this in the bedroom too?"

Julian squeezes Nina's waist with a straying hand, then flicker downward to the bag she clutches so protectively. "Yeah, or if you want you can put it in the closet." He offers helpfully, noting the way she's holding it with a easy to catch meaningful glance at the bag. Moving past her, he gestures toward the one of two doors that lead to other areas of the cabin, the one he had previously pointed out as the bedroom. He moves into the kitchen, rummaging around the cupboards while she settles the rest of her things.

"I've offered, but they don't take it up very often. Lynnie likes to come up to ski, but the weather has been pretty rough this season - the resort isn't even open right now, due to the problems we've been dealing with lately." Of course, he's probably referring to the death cult.

As for the compliment to the rest of the cabin, Julian is standing in the bedroom doorway, holding a Caymus Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon bottle in one hand, and a Rombauer Chardonnay in the other, wine options that someone like Nina may be relatively familiar with. They aren't cheap.

"Well, I do clean up quite nicely, I think." Julian remarks ambiguously, maintaining a smile as he presents the two bottles to her.

Nina moves towards the bedroom as Julian points out, and while he gets the drinks, she's inside and carefully putting her bag away. Once the closet door is closed, she checks out the bedroom closer, peering through the window, examining the dresser, before sitting on the edge of the bed and studying that lone picture curiously. It clearly is a picture of Julian's old military comrades, and there is much to be gathered from such a display, for someone who is as perceptive as Nina.

When Julian appears at the doorway with the drinks, Nina again smiles over at him. "Come sit with me." She gently pats the spot next to her on the mattress. And when he does, Nina points to the picture again. "This was Iraq?" Beat. "And your military unit?"

Julian's bedroom is simple, to say the least, but also very deliberate. Everything about this room is meticulously placed, even the way he unfolded the ironing board for her is perfectly parallel to the foot of the bed. There are no decorations on the walls, nothing really at all outside of that single picture on the old wood dresser. The flooring is finished wood, but there's a heavy, thick bear rug that comes out from the center beneath the bed and extends out a few feet from the edges.

The bed itself isn't hard, it gives even beneath Nina's petite body and the thick quilt cover is incredibly soft, beneath that another thick winter cover. There are four pillows, each covered with black silk which, presumably matches the sheets beneath the quilt and covers (it does). The closet door is open, revealing a weapons rack on the wall with several rifles and a multitude of other equipment, hunting gear, even his old military ruck sack which is most likely full of equipment. Shelving built along the wall in there has what appears to be boxes of ammo. The man has enough firepower to take on a small army in there. Though it is no secret he's an avid hunter.

He continues to cradle the two expensive bottles of white and red, but at her request, he sets them down on the dresser and settles down next to her on the side of the bed. Which just so happens to be the same side that faces the wooden dresser, where the framed picture stares back at them.

Nina can absolutely feel her man's body tense slightly at the question, but he quickly recovers, taking a deep breath and exhaling slowly as he gathers his thoughts. "Afghanistan. Outside of Khandahar, right before our last mission." In the center of the group is a really big guy that Nina may or may not recognize as the local Calaveras beat cop, Franklin Payne. A little younger, but no less impressively built.

Julian looks almost like a baby relative to now in the picture, but with that same, simmer in his expression that weather his features. "We were a bunch of idiots." But the tone of his voice has a level of admiration and nostalgia to it.

Nina doesn't actually know Franklin (imagine that!), but he is big so even in the picture, he's hard to miss. Her attention is drawn back to the picture, but while Julian seems a bit lost to memories, Nina is also studying his profile. Maybe she understands him more than he can imagine, but gently, one of her slender hands move over his, covering it and giving it a gentle squeeze. Ever perceptive and observant, she even falls silent, allowing Julian to have his moment of memories and nostalgia.

"You were serving your country, and keeping people safe." Nina tells him softly with a reassuring tone, after almost a full minute of silence. Her eyes remain on his face for a moment longer, and then they shift back to the picture. "Do you keep in touch with them? Your old comrades?"

Julian breathes heavily, each seemingly carrying the weight of the world with every long exhale. Nina can see the telltale gritting of his jaw - the combination of frustration and… guilt? His eyes are haunted, not unlike the day she first met him in the bar, drinking alone. The touch of her hand over his snaps him back to reality and he turns to regard Nina, his smile sincere, yet the pain clearly evident in his glassy eyes. A man like Julian has spent years mastering the ability to hide that pain, to mask the damage done as a result of years of war. But someone as observant as his lover, as intimately familiar with him on so many levels, can see right through that.

Turning away again, studying the picture, Julian nods, leaning forward and reaching out to take it by the frame, bringing it back to his lap as he studies it intently. "Gunny," He replies, flicking a finger at the glass, tapping it where the big man stands in the center. "He's local PD here in town. The other four…well, he didn't make it." He begins, pointing out a man almost as big as 'Gunny'. "He killed himself. He killed himself." Each one are pointed to individually. "And he's in rehab… probably. We were a six man force recon team. I was the weapons specialist. Thirty seven missions that last deployment."

Nina listens to her lover; her gaze follows each point towards a figure in the picture. Even with her unreadable face up, there is a noticeable slip, as Nina looks almost sympathetic to each revelation. Deaths in war are no surprises, but suicides. "PTSD." She says quietly, almost to herself, then gives Julian's hand another squeeze. "It's difficult to understand, for people who haven't lived through a traumatic event, isn't it?" She turns back to him again, eyes on him. Yes, she has demonstrated that she can see through him, and try as he may, the pain in his eyes, the tension and frustration on his face, are all visible to her.

"You have never talked about this with anyone, have you?" She pauses a beat. "You can talk to me."

Julian stares down at the picture for a long time, or at least what feels like that. A couple minutes can seem like an hour in silence. His eyebrows knit together as he stares intently at the picture, and then carefully, with reverence, he places the picture back up on the dresser, even adjusting it slightly 'just so' back to its original placement. Slowly, he turns his head, and his body slight, drawing his knee up onto the bed as he faces Nina. Those metallic blue eyes of his are slightly glassy, and there's an intensity in his demeanor that gently begins to bleed away as she touches him.

Slowly, wordlessly, the weathered veteran shakes his head at her question. "Gunny and I…well, he has his family. I think he's pulled through pretty well, you know? When you have that support structure at home." His next exhale is shaky, at best, as the man seems to trapse along that line between composed and broken down.

"You asked me how many women I'd been with, before." He begins, raising his eyes once again, meeting hers pointedly. "Just one. She was my support structure, or, at least I thought she was. You think you have a good read on someone…" He clears his throat, taking a deep breath again and this time steadying himself better. "She left me for someone else while I was deployed, took everything, left me nothing. That was seven years ago."

There is a long pause of silence before Nina speaks quietly. "I'm sorry." It's clearly not meant as an apology, but merely expressing her sympathies. "I don't suppose you have ever confronted her." It's more of a statement than a question, her grasp on his hand tightening a tad more. "In a way, you treat Katherine and her sisters as your family, someone you can focus on and keep going. They had their own trauma, so they needed you in that same way."

Julian shakes his head and shrugs helplessly, "There really is no point. I spoke to Jen once and she had spent so much time rationalizing what she had done that she truly believed she was in the right." He glances down at her hand holding his, then back up at her. "I won't give her another moment of my thoughts." The promise is followed by a squeeze of Nina's hand. Mentioning Katherine and the girls elicits a sigh and chuckle, lighthearted enough to segway them out of that murky subject.

"I've got a knack for carrying everyone else on my shoulders." He rolls them as if to accentuate his point. The mirth in his expression clears quickly though and, rather then maintain eye contact, he looks down at their hands and carefully begins to intertwine each of his digits with hers.

"I remember waking up each morning. Over there. And I would take every piece of myself, the pieces that define who I am, and package them up and bury them as deep as they can go." It seems as though, somehow, Nina has managed to open the floodgates. Perhaps he -wants- to talk. Or maybe, he just needs to. Either way, the level of trust he has to confide the deepest, darkest of secrets with Nina says an awful lot about how the man thinks of her…and perhaps, sheds light on some of the secret looks he's had for her when he thinks she isn't looking.

"At the end of the day, I would bring that package back out, unravel it, and…become it, once more? If that makes any sense." Pause. "The problem," And now he's looking up at her again, eyes glassy as they flicker left and right, trying to maintain eye contact while also maintaining his composure. "Is that when you do this over, and over, and over again, day in and day out. It damages you. It makes it more and more difficult to bring that package of who you are back out. Until one day…it stays buried. And you go through life walking around like this, uh, broken robot? Disconnected from everything and everyone."

Julian brings their hands up, the pair that are intertwined together, and covers them with his other hand, bringing it to his lips and kissing the top of her palm softly. "Min, you make me feel like a human being again. I'll forever be in your debt for that."

Nina shakes her head slowly, while watching him lightly kiss the back of her hand. "You don't owe me anything, Julian. You were the one who took the step, to take a chance to reconnect with someone. I… I just happened to be the person you chose to do so with." Slipping her hand free, she places it on his cheek, cupping it gently. "I am not a doctor, let alone a psychiatrist, but you know if you need someone to talk to, you can always come to me." She pauses again, this time allowing a small smirk to appear on her lips. "I've been told I am a good listener, after all."

"Maybe," Julian begins, eyes looking up into the air and the same smirk reflected on his own lips. "But you were the one who stuck around. Maybe we… maybe we just work for each other? Oddly enough." He shrugs, then unsettles himself from the bed, stretching as he stands and unraveling his hand from hers. "I don't know about you, but I need to get out of this uniform before I go crazy." He reaches down, taking Nina by the wrists, gently tugging in an attempt to draw her up and against him. "How about we both get comfortable and have a drink by the fire?"

Nina rises to her feet as well, allowing herself to be drawn up by the wrists. Once she stands against him, Nina's hands automatically go to rest on his chest like they always do, her gaze following the reach of her fingers as they idly toy with the buttons of his uniform. "A drink by the fire sounds lovely." She says softly, even though there is a moment of thoughtfulness in her tone. Then again, maybe she is simply contemplating his revelations. Finally, she looks up into his eyes. "Maybe tonight you will sleep well in your own bed." She tells him as his first button becomes undone.


Julian seems to easily mold against Nina, as if this were as natural to him as breathing. He lets her undress him down to his boxers - and there's a moment there where he has a certain look in his seyes, even playfully swatting her butt before throwing on a fresh cotton tee and a pair of plaid pajama bottoms. One of these days, she's going to have to do some clothes shopping for him, otherwise resolve herself to a boyfriend who will never wear anything else. "I'll grab some glasses and meet you by the fire." He plants a kiss on her forehead while gathering up the bottles of wine, "Also, red or white? Or…both?"

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