(2019-01-18) Tell me about Yourself
Over dinner, Nina reveals a bit more about herself to Julian.

Italian Affair Calaveras
Fri Jan 18, 2019 — Fri Jan 18 14:21:16 2019

Please Wait to be Seated.

Once led to a table, drink orders are taken and then as soon as drinks are delivered, they also leave endless breadsticks and salad upon request. There is a classic elegance to the restaurant, a few raised tables on small dais, a few in secluded alcoves and others scattered about in between. The drink glasses are fancy stemware and the prices are more suited to $$$$ income than the lower class. Soft music plays throughout on the surround sound speakers. Pay at your table with the folders left there by the wait staff.

The trip from Nina's studio apartment to the restaurant is quite literally a short venture down a flight of stairs, a short distance that Julian has often taken advantage of for lunch while Nina is away at work. When he first got out of the hospital, a short journey like that seemed impossible. Now he's taking it with minimal effort (though Nina can certainly sense the subtle hint of struggle on the stairwell itself).

Of course, they are also well known by the Italian Affair's staff, who have come to call Julian by name when seeing him. Despite his best cankerous efforts, they've taken quite the liking to him (he can be a grouchy old man sometimes, though he has come a long way from the solo drinking hermit Nina had first met - something her presence has certainly played a part in improving).

A quiet table off in a soft-lit corner of the restaraunt is the usual place Julian sits and leads Nina to tonight as well. As staff pass by them, they greet the two of them with the familiarity of people who say hello to them on a regular basis. They even leave that table vacant for them whenever it's not too busy.

Now, Julian, with his arm hooked on Nina's as much to show affection as to require help walking (though he'd never admit as much), leads her to the table, even taking the time to pull her chair out for her and sneaking a quick kiss on her cheek when he thinks no one is paying attention as he pushes the chair in.

Settling into his own seat, it doesn't even take them a few minutes before a waitress, a young college just trying to get by while in school. She brings them a basket of bread and waters, as well as a wine and dinner menu. "I'll be back to take your orders in a few!" She chirps happily and spins around with the energy of youth and darts off to take care of the few other tables of the night. It's a slow night.

Nina is all polite smiles and 'thank-yous' to the restaurant staff, as she, probably even moreso than Julian, has been a very regular customer since she moved into the studio above. Allowing Julian to pull the seat out for her, Nina takes the opportunity to tease him a little, with an offhanded "So gentleman" comment before taking her seat. The menu is quickly scanned, but Nina already knows what she wants.

"Do you want to share a pizza?" She asks of Julian from across the table, then adds thoughtfully. "Among other things. I think, maybe a bit of wine won't hurt for what I want to share."

"Don't let the word get out," Julian retorts with a smirk, "I have a reputation to uphold." Smiling and holding Nina's gaze intently for a moment, it's only the question about pizza that breaks eye contact and brings Julian out of whatever dreamy state he was in momentarily. Picking up the menu he briefly though it's more out of habit than any interest in an alternative option. He looks up after just a few seconds and nods eagerly, "Sounds good to me…as long as it has pepperoni on it I'm good with any other topping."

Additionally, as Nina mentions the wine, Julian's eyebrow goes up and he is once again studying her curiously. "Did I leave the toilet seat up?" This elicits a small smile from the man as he leans back in his chair and looks up for their waitress.

"Wouldn't that give you the wrong message? Leaving the toilet seat up is rewarded with wine?" Nina muses with a wry smile, then turns her head towards the waitress just as the latter returns to the side of the table; it's as if Nina has this sixth sense when it comes to perfect timing. "We are going to share a large pizza with pepperoni, salami, mushrooms with just a sprinkle of olives, please. And a bottle of Barbera, thank you." With a smile the menu is handed back to the waitress so that she can return her attention to the conversation. "Nothing too spicy. Spice is bad for recovering injuries."

Julian cannot help but chuckle, head tilting thoughtfully as he sucks his bottom lip into his mouth and bites down. "Huh. Yeah, I suppose not." After the waitress takes their order, he slips his hands across the table, palms up and open. "Listen…" He trails off, his expression taking on a more serious look. "I know everything has kind of been crazy for you…with me being around so much. And, well, us. It's a lot in a short period of time, don't I know it." His gaze remains transfixed on his hands at first, which maintain their openness, almost like an invitation for Nina. He eventually looks up, managing an appreciative smile. "I appreciate you… more than I can really say."

Nina does in fact reach out her right hand and takes Julian's, giving them a light squeeze as he speaks. "I know." She replies softly. "I also know you are not accustomed to opening up, but there are a lot you don't have to say out loud for me to grasp." She rolls one shoulder and tilts her head. "And yes, things have been a bit crazy, but I trust in my ability to deal with crisis situations. So, that isn't what I wanted to talk about." There is a longer pause now, as if she is gathering her thoughts. And when she speaks again, her exotic dark eyes are focused on Julian's. "When you told me that you love me on New Year's Eve, I didn't say it back. It's not because I don't feel the same way; it's just that you caught me by surprise, and I felt bad about it." Beat. "Well, I said it back today." She squeezes his hands. "Still, we've only known each other for a few months, and you don't really know that much about me. I don't think it's fair for you to jump into something you don't fully understand; you can't make an informed decision until you know more about me."


Julian studies Nina quietly as she speaks, giving her hand a warm squeeze and surrounding it with his other one. "Oh…" He breathes quietly, eyes flickering away briefly before reinforcing their attention on his lover. He does remember New Years night quite vividly and certainly there was a moment of awkwardness that followed his unanswered admission. Taking a deep breath, he remains silent and attentive, though as she squeezes his hands, he brings hers up to his lips and kisses the top of her right hand.

"I'm not afraid." He straightens, staring intently at Nina for a moment as he gathers his thoughts, but quick to at least tell her that much to set the tone. "I may not know every facet of your life yet, but I know enough to tell you how I feel. The rest is just… stuff." His eyes flicker as he searches through her deep, exotic features, trying to peer past the professionalism and the neutral mystery she is so adept at keeping up. "I love you, Min. As far as everything else goes, we can figure it out, right?" There's a pause as he continues to study her, gauging her reaction carefully.

A smile cracks his solemn, searching expression, "I mean, unless you're about to tell me you're some sort of secret agent or spy. To be honest, with everything that I've been through in the last couple months, that'd probably be the most believable thing."

Nina breaks into a tolerant smile at the tease, followed by a brief shake of her head. "Yes, let's leave out the most believable thing for now." She deadpans. "Although, being in love with you doesn't mean I am going to tell you I'm a secret agent. I think that sort of thing is specifically forbidden in the job description."

Giving his hands another squeeze, Nina releases him and withdraws her hand. "I do have trust issues, however. I don't know why I trust you as implicitly as I do; maybe it's the way you have opened up to me in the past few months, or maybe it's just you being you. What I mean to say is, you have helped me with my issue without realizing it." Beat. "Remember you telling me about your time in the Marines? The PTSD that you had to deal with?"

Julian cannot help but grin despite the overall serious tone of their conversation. "Of course." He concedes with a chuckle, giving Nina's hand another squeeze as his thumbs begin to trace random little patterns over the top of her hand. "But you admitted it. You're in love with me. There's no take-backseys." This is followed by another squeeze as he finally relents and allows her to finish her thought.

Julian's expression darkens if only for the briefest of moments as she mentions his PTSD. It's a knee-jerk reaction as the man has kept that particular topic close to his chest for years up until meeting and falling for the exotic beauty across the table from him. He quickly smoothes out his features and nods quietly. "I do remember. That you know that, all of that, about me, and still here you sit, speaks volumes."

Nina bobs her head slowly in agreement. "I know, and I am still sitting here, yes. But I haven't told you that I deal with PTSD too. Everyday." She sits back and takes a moment to glance around the restaurant, watching the few customers and the waitstaff to make sure no one is looking their way. With a quiet sigh she opens her trusty handbag, and holds it up for Julian — and only Julian — to see inside.

Aside from a purse, her keys, and some basic cosmetic supplies, there is a side pocket in the handbag that contains a handgun — a .22 LR concealed pistol. She lets that sink in for Julian, before adding her comment. "As I said, I also deal with trust issues. But no, this does not mean I am a secret agent." The handbag is closed and withdrawn. "It is why I have a lot of locked drawers, however."

Julian's expression shifts gradually, eyebrows slowly rising in surprise and then flattening again as he takes a closer look at Nina. For a moment he's quiet, just allowing everything to sink in and absorb itself while he stares into the eyes of his lover. As he sits there and contemplates everything she said, their waitress returns with the pizza and he quickly releases Nina's hand and sits back in his seat. Amazingly, his expression flips and he's all smiles as the familiar waitress chats a little while placing their food down and opening the bottle of wine Nina ordered. Julian insists they can pour for themselves and thanks the girl, who scurries off to attend her other tables.

When he turns back to Nina, Julian reaches for her hand again, supporting it in his warm clasp. At first, his expression flashes in that certain, playful way of his where he is about to crack a joke. But this time he resists the urge and instead just nods his head solemnly.

He's silent still as he formulates his response, carefully choosing his next words. He's never pushed or pried or asked her too many questions. The ranger has never been that type of boyfriend. He accepts what she offers welcomingly, though, and has, over time, given quite a lot of himself and his secrets though it is clear from just a peek into those blue eyes of his that there is still much, much pain waiting to be released to someone who'd be willing to take on that responsibility of listening.

"I understand." He begins, eyes flickering left and right as they remain transfixed on Nina's deep browns. "I'm here if you want to talk. Maybe not /here/-" He pauses, glancing around their surroundings, "-I'll never judge you." Pause. "Though." Julian adds, a small smile creeping back into the corner of his lips, "If you -were- a secret agent, I'd think that was totally awesome."

There it is again, once of those indulgent smiles at his joke. "If I told you I -were- one, I would have to kill you." She deadpans, before her attention goes to the delivered food and drink, contemplating where to start as if the serious conversation has already been forgotten. A hand lifts and she's pointing at the Barbera bottle, with a "Care to pour for us?" She asks lightly, and lets him take care of the drink while she folds her arms on the table.

"I don't mean to talk about the trauma or the feelings /here/, but as I said, here are some things about me you should know." Nina continues quietly, her expression becoming serious once more. "When I was thirteen years old, I was… kidnapped." She goes silent for a long moment, but she manages to keep her composure. "For two weeks, they kept me in an abandoned house in the countryside. Each day during those two weeks, I thought it was going to be my last. And everyday since, I remember that house. I remember the ropes around my wrists. I remember the taste of the plain rice they fed me. I don't think… I will ever forget any of it."

As Nina speaks, her voice and composure crack a bit, but that's the extent of it.

Julian has learned to recognize when Nina is indulging his boyishness but he still smiles, welcoming her deadpan sense of humor. "Could at least kill me like the praying mantis do and give me one last pity fu-" The sentence is interrupted as a patron walks by, heading to the back of the restaraunt in search of the bathroom. Julian smiles secretively to Nina, flashing her a look that she'd recognize immediately as that lusty desire that always seems to reflect from his eyes. Though now it has attained a new level of intensity, intertwined now with a deep love from one damaged individual to another.

"Certainly, ma'am." He replies and already begins to pour as Nina once again continues. His expression softens and grows more intent as he sets the bottle down, deliberately filling up both their glasses to the brim. He remains quiet for a moment as he absorbs everything she just shared with him. "You won't." He finally begins, searching her eyes and gauging his lover carefully as he chooses his words. "It'll stay with you forever, though…" Trailing off, Julian reaches out and takes her hand, squeezing it inbetween both of his, encompasing her delicate digits in a protective warmth. "… you can find things…and people, to make the memories and the nightmares more bearable." He looks into her eyes meaningfully, in no uncertain terms giving the beautiful girl credit for allowing him to harness his own dark past.

"I'm with you." He murmers after remaining silent for a moment. He follows it up with another squeeze of her hand before releasing it and taking a moment to let everything settle. "I'm not going anywhere."

Nina locks gazes with him again, a hint of silent gratitude flashes across her face as she nods. "Even if you are, I'm glad you are here to listen. It's not something I have really spoken to anyone about." Beat. "Back home, people don't worry so much about the psychological impacts of such an ordeal to the victims." She tries to turn her hand around so that her fingers can find his in a reassuring embrace. "After the ransom was paid, I was released and went home, but they brought me back to identify the kidnappers a week later. I pointed them out, and…." Nina pauses to take a deep breath here. "…they were executed on the spot. So in a way, I felt like I had killed them." There is another brief pause as she looks up at Julian again. "This was in China, so things are done a bit differently than here in America."


Julian's expression is unreadable, a rarity for him considering how expressive he normally is around Nina. It offers up a rare testament to just how intense the man can be for those who didn't know him back during the war. The way she turns her hand around seems to shake him out of it and he immediately reacts by interlocking each of his digits with her more dainty ones, squeezing with renewed affection.

"They died a long time before that, Min." He murmers after maintaining his silence for a moment longer. "Men like that? They have nothing in here." He emphasizes his words by taking the hand not clasped with hers and touching his chest. "They'd been dead for a long time, they just didn't know it yet. The trick," He adds, taking a deep breath and exhaling slowly and bringing her hand toward his lips for a kiss, which lingers over the top of her hand before breaking away with his thumb following up to wipe away the moisture left behind. "-Is to stay out of your own head. That guilt will eat you up, baby. Those scumbags did it to themselves, you only served as the catalyst. There's nothing for you to feel guilty about."

Maintaining the hold on her hand, fingers interlaced, Julian manages to smile, though it is strained. "But you'll blame yourself, as I have done. Just know, from someone who knows exactly what you're going through, that it's not your fault." Pause. He squeezes her hand again. "It's not your fault, Min."

Nina nods again, faintly while her gaze drops to where their hands hold together. "I know." She concurs quietly. "Objectively, I know it's not my fault. I think that, if this whole thing happens to me today, I can probably deal with it much better. But I was only a child…." Trailing off, Nina takes another deep breath and straightens up. "…Anyway, now you know a bit more about me." She flashes a bit of a forced smile, now that she's looking at his face again. "I am not just a boring but professional office worker, after all." A quick nod is aimed at the filled glasses. "Shall we drink to that?"

Julian nods, allowing Nina to roll over the thought for herself while simply holding her hand. As she straightens, his posture changes too and reflects her own, matching her strained smile with a more believable one. As he releases her hand, his fingers draw down the length of her palm, across her digits until it's just their fingertips touching. He presents another smile, this one quite softer before finally breaking contact and reaching for his glass. The wine glasses, for that matter, are filled all the way up and Julian acknowledges it with a big boyish grin as he lifts his up, balancing it carefully so as not to spill, toward Nina.

"To leading very interesting and not boring lives." Before he takes a drink, he adds the last part meaningfully. "-For the record, I never thought you were boring. The moment I saw you, I knew there was something amazing about you hiding just beneath the service." Pause. "I'm glad I know I wasn't wrong." He then doesn't take a /sip/, rather, he gulps down his entire glass and then proceeds to use the pizza spatula to separate a couple slices for the both of them.

Nina also picks up her glass and lifts it to the toast, though she doesn't immediately start sipping the red wine. Instead, she seems vaguely amused as she watches Julian down the glass like it's water. "So being a kidnap victim makes me amazing?" She muses aloud, only then does she take to sipping the wine. Nina seems to have a real handle on her emotions; even when revealing her traumatic past, the Chinese girl never really loses her composure, and is able to shift right back to light teasing at the flip of a switch. The glass is put down and she patiently waits for Julian to serve the pizza. "I am not sure how I am going to top that story."

"No," Julian begins, still smiling though there's an inquisitiveness to the way he's studying Nina while carefully placing a slice of pizza on her plate. "You haven't allowed that to define you. Most people, some of the strongest men I've ever met, have crumbled under the same trauma." He takes a bite out of his pizza, hunger overriding his sense of etiquette as he continues to talk despite having food in his mouth (another Julian quirk of his - he can very much be a total /boy/ sometimes). "Most of the guys I've served with are in rehab, prison, or dead. But you, you are one of the strongest people I've ever met -despite- your past, not because of it. I love that about you."

Predictably, Nina picks up her fork and knife and begins cutting the pizza all lady-like. She cuts the slice into little squares before one is fed to her mouth - which is almost the complete opposite of Julian's feeding habits. "Thank you for saying that." She nods her gratitude after swallowing. "I guess I credit my family for that. There are expectations to meet, and we are not allowed to let little things throw us off the rails. My father told me I would never amount to anything if I could not get past the experience, so…. I tried to move on. Failure was never an option."

"That's the problem with that attitude…they're afraid of failure. Avoid it at all cost, they say." Julian remarks, setting his pizza down. "Baby, if there's nothing else you ever take away from this moment, us spending time together right now, talking…it's this: never be afraid to fail. We don't grow or learn without it." He pours himself another glass of wine and, as an afterthought, tops off Nina's as well. "The only failure I see in front of me…is the way you're eating that pizza." Under the table, she can feel his food nudge her own playfully while he bites back a chuckle. "I want you to do something for me…pick that slice up, fold it, and take a big bite out of it. Would you do that for me?" Mimicing his words, Julian displays the proper way to eat a slice of pizza, complete with taking a bite that is probably a bit too big. "Mmmfrfgaa?" Chew chew. Swallow. "See?"

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