Ed had been practically forgotten about, but it was more than slightly likely that this was how Ed preferred it. The speed at which Paul had been drinking, and the fact that he hadn't really eaten much both came together to mean that he was feeling quite an affect already, but thankfully, as he was coming out of the front door of Fuse, he had his arm in the surprisingly strong grasp of Julia. It felt as though the woman meant business at least.
He directed her with mumbled instructions and an outstretched finger as to where he lived, which she followed easily enough. Of course, after less than a minute she pointed out that she knew where the Halls of Residence were and, since she had his details on file, his address included, she knew exactly where he lived and how to get there. Paul actually found it quite terrifying.
"This is not how I was planning to spend my evening Mr. Taylor," she told him as they walked away from the nightclub and down into the major sections of the town. The place was practically deserted, but the buses still travelled from stop to stop, picking up the few people that were still awake. The street lights provided their tired glow to show Paul both where he was walking and the usual mocking expression of a companion that he had not expected.
"Aren't you working?" he asked her, trying to inject her own tone into his voice. "I would have thought that, since Matthew Cooper writes your plans for you, you don't get a say in the matter."
His reward for this was the coldest glare that he had ever received in his life and, briefly, he felt her grip tighten even so slightly around his arm. He didn't complain. He deserved it completely.
"My dear cousin does not decide every aspect of my life," Julia announced, which Paul noted as the first time that she had actually spoken about Cooper as her family. Perhaps it was just the opportunity to lambaste him that had seized her. "Outside of hours I'm allowed to get pissed off with him for sending me on some fools errand. I went in there with the intention of getting some alcohol down my own neck rather than just watching you drink it. A woman can't survive on coffee alone."
Sensing an opportunity, but with his brain a little too addled to focus, Paul found his dislike of Cooper oozing out into his questions. "Why do you even work for him?" he requested, with a slight slur coming out with it.
"The same reason everybody has a job: money," Julia declared. She didn't look at him. Instead, her eyes were darting all around, as though looking out for something or someone. "There's nothing else to life really. You live, you work, you die. It's all very bland and predictable. After a while you just have to understand that you're probably not going to get very far in life."
"Erm...I really don't see where you get that from," said Paul. Looking at his own life, he thought that he was actually on the way up, even though a lot of his risks had not actually gone too well. "Look at me right now, I've been drinking. That's not the point, I'm getting to the point. Right now, I'll admit, I'm not in the best of places, and I'm inclined to agree with that thing what you just said. But, the thing is, everything's a risk, isn't it? If you don't take risks you don't get much of a chance of getting anywhere with your life. This one hasn't paid off right now, but it still might in the future. You never know."
"Well you're lucky to be doing something you love, even if it does go wrong," she replied. "I was dumped on Matthew's lap because my mother kept crying about me dropping out of university. Supposedly I'm the failure of the family and him, the golden boy himself was supposed to be my rescue of salvation or some other crap. Instead, he's giving me the job of babysitting you just because he thought you'd need some help tonight."
The idea that he might need babysitting was not one that Paul found entirely complimentary. However, the fact that he was being held onto to keep him from stumbling into a bus shelter or a lamp post was something that he couldn't deny. He had also slouched down so far that Julia was actually standing above him. Her little smile, a rare sight in itself, was proof that she was quite happy about that. "He's a very astute man, isn't he?" asked Paul.
"Oh, he's the best," said Julia, her voice dripping nothing but sarcasm. "I've been looking for a new job for so long, but as soon as my mother hears about it I have to stop right there and get back into the office. I mean, the pay's alright, but I'm not exactly a huge fan of doing what I'm told you know."
"I can see that," Paul stated with a smile. She looked him over with a confused glance. Apparently, the alcohol had flushed away his ability to be sarcastic. "What do you do when you're not working then?" he inquired in the attempt to rescue himself.
"I believe we've been over this question before now," Julia told him, smiling once again. "I work more. The work doesn't stop right outside of the office door. Unfortunately my entire job is based on paperwork. Paper can go anywhere. This is the most time that I've spent out in ages. I was hoping that you and your friends were going to show me a good time."
"If I had my friends together then we would have shown you the best time you've ever had," announced Paul confidently. "My friends are some of the best in the world, especially where alcohol is involved."
"So you guys only enjoy each other's company when you're completely pissed out of your skulls?" Julia asked happily, enjoying every moment of his pain.
"No, that's not it," explained Paul as they turned down one of the back streets that led towards the main road to the Halls. "It's just because that tends to be when we've just had an awesome show, so we're feeling successful and talented. When we're that confident, we're feeling on top of the world, so everything just sort of flows right like it never has before."
"It certainly flows better than this I would imagine," came Julia's retort. "You're not exactly the most entertaining man I've ever spent time with. Maybe I should have followed Jace when I saw him leaving either, or maybe it would have been more worthwhile sticking with the one who doesn't even talk and disappears whenever you turn around."
"Ed is very talented, like real serious talent comes out of his talent," mumbled Paul, mostly to himself. Whether Julia heard it or not, it certainly made her laugh. Shaking his head to try and clear it, while at the same time trying his hardest not to continue walking into a wall, he thought hard about what to say next. "What would be a good time for you then?"
Her first response was to look at him with a very amused expression. "Are you actually asking for tips now? I don't think I've ever been asked to examine exactly what works for me and what doesn't."
Confused, Paul spent a moment trying to work out what he had actually said, but he couldn't quite work backwards in that way. She was still looking at him with a happy little smile and a glint in her eye. In fact, she had even started laughing at his evident befuddlement. He racked his brains, struggled to remember as much as a single word, then she cut him off and forced him to give it up as a bad job.
"So where exactly are we going Mr. Taylor?" she asked of him next. Her eyes had begun to wander all around once again as they came up towards the art college.
"Why is it you never call me Paul?" he asked, hearing yet another slur slipping into his voice once again. "I mean, we spent ages getting past the whole Disbelief boy business. You could just call me Paul; that's my name and all."
"Yes, but then the professional edge would disappear, wouldn't it?" responded Julia, plenty of sarcasm slipping back into her words. "I'm not exactly your biggest fan or anything, so why would we want to get close and waste time? You do your thing and I'll do mine. Honestly, I couldn't care less about any of the idiots that come through my little walkway office."
"Then why is it you're walking me home exactly?" asked Paul, so confident that he caught her out that he let his expression show such emotion.
However, she got out of it with relative ease. "I love near the park. We all live somewhere you know. You didn't actually think I was concerned about your satefy did you? Oh, Mr. Taylor, you do have a very high opinion of yourself, don't you? Well, should I stop and bow in the presence of such brilliance or just beg forgiveness for ever questioning your vast knowledge of how to get drunk so fast that you can't even make a point anymore?"
Paul spent a moment hesitating with his mouth open slightly. "You like your little speeches, don't you?"
Julia let out a harsh little laugh before answering. "Right again at being completely bloody obvious," she began. He tried to think of something that would stop her before she got into full swing, but he couldn't think of a thing. "Your talents of deduction are completely unquestionable. How have I ever managed to live without you?"
Thoroughly sick of the abuse, Paul stopped abruptly, escaping her grip in the process. He stumbled a little, but, by the time that he had regained control, she was watching him with an expression of confusion.
"Look," he started slowly, "I'm sure I can make it home absolutely fine without you. It might take a bit longer and I might be trying to get into the wrong room a couple of times, but it will happen eventually. I don't want these proud little speeches and I don't think that I need them today either. So, if you're going to keep being bitchy and complaining in your usual sarcastic and whiney little way then you can just go off and leave or something. I'm sure you can walk faster than me anyway."
Halfway through, her face broke into an arrogant smile once again. She let him continue until he had finished, at which point she held herself still for another moment before speaking. "But then neither of us would get what we want, would we? I'm missing out on a good night out, I want to make sure that I get something out of this, so, if you stop complaining and let me have my little speeches then you'll find it very much worth it."
"I don't get it, and I don't think it's because I'm drunk," Paul said slowly.
In answer, she strode very carefully towards him until she was so close that he could feel her breath on his neck. Not sure of quite what was going on, he found the answer inescapable when she slipped one of her hands down the front of his trousers.
"Hurry up, Mr. Taylor," she whispered into his ear. "And don't try to keep me quiet. You know that I'm just going to do whatever I want. Stop complaining; I'm sure you'll like it really. Now come on, hurry up."