It’s after-work hours on a cold, foggy night in London when Darius shows up on Paige’s doorstep, tuning the bell. He owned her earlier to ask if it was alright for him to stop by after work, so the only surprise should be that he’s only half an hour late. He’s huddled into his peacoat against the fog, and of course has his book bag with him.
It only takes a minute for Paige to get downstairs and open the door when Darius rings. She's dressed rather casually in jeans and sweater, her hair pinned back partially off her face. She certainly looks a lot better than she did in the hospital, back to her normal self. "Hey!" she greets with a smile, pulling the door back so he can step inside. "Not even too late, it's a miracle," she teases, gesturing for him to follow up the steps to the living room. "How was work?" she asks once they're upstairs.
Darius returns the smile with a tired one of his own and follows her up the stairs, removing his coat as he does. “Oh, it was fine. Actually fairly quiet today, as days at Mungo’s go, which was a welcome change. What were you up to today?” He drapes his coat over the back of the chair and shrugs off his book bag, settling it out of the way.
"Quiet is good," Paige murmurs before shrugging at his question, "Actually had a rather quiet day myself. Roxie and I went out for breakfast and then I had a short practice in the afternoon with the World Cup team and that was actually it today. So no complaints here. Want a drink? Or something to eat? I made some pasta." And the smell coming from the kitchen is actually garlicy and not burnt, which means it might be something edible.(edited)
“You’re playing on the World Cup Team?” Darius asks, clearly having not read the news. “Hey, that’s great! Congratulations!” At her offer, he looks skeptically in the direction of the kitchen. “Ehm… no, thank you. I had something at work,” he says. “Did I interrupt your dinner though? I’m sorry. You should go ahead and eat.”
"I am! I guess I didn't really have a chance to tell you. They announced the team a few weeks ago. It's in the US this year. I've got tickets too, so I know Quidditch isn't your favorite thing in the world, but I would love if you came to watch," Paige tells him with a warm smile. "Oh, no. I ate already. I've actually gotten a bit better at cooking," she adds with a small smirk. "Want a drink then? I've got fizzy things to whiskey. Pick your poison."
“No thanks. I’m fine, really,” Darius replies, sliding his hands into his pockets as they stand there. “The US? Well that’s certainly exciting. I’ll have to check if I can get the time off. It’s… in the fall?” he asks, squinting as he tries to remember the quidditch season.
"Sure?" Paige asks with a tilt of her head. "Want to sit then?" she glances at the couch, waiting to let him decide. "End of summer. Max should be coming too. Last time it was rather fun. It's a bit more than just the game. You should at least go once in your life."
Darius does take her up on that invitation, moving over to sit back on the couch and letting himself get comfortable. Or try to, at least, something about him is definitely uncomfortable right now. “Is she? Well. Maybe. I had heard it could be a bit of a party, and I do like to camp.”
Paige follows his lead, sitting down on the couch and turning towards him, pulling one leg up under her. "I'm pretty sure, yeah. Roxie too," she tells him with a nod. "Oh yes, definitely a party. Win or lose it's fun for everyone I think." She stops though after that, watching him carefully for a moment as he tries to settle. "Okay, tell me what's on your mind," she says rather bluntly, though gently.
Darius winces when he's called out. Glancing around, he picks at a snag in his sweater, fidgeting and suddenly regretting not accepting that drink offer. "Well. I've been thinking," he starts, still not looking her in the eyes. It takes a moment for him to gather himself up, but he eventually manages to blurt out, in one breath, "I don't think we should shag anymore."
"You're not very subtle," Paige points out gently at his wince, watching him fidget. Her gaze is settled steadily on him as he avoids looking at her, though as he finally blurts out what he wants to say it's clear that isn't what she was expecting. She glances down, reaching for one of the throw pillow on the couch to pull into her lap. "I see." She says it softly, looking at the pillow in her lap rather than him now, but finally she looks up. "And do I get a reason for that? Because…well, I thought we had a rather nice time."
"We did," Darius is quick to insist, finally looking up at her. "Or at least, I did. But I don't think I can keep it up if…" he trails off, not knowing how to say what he's trying to say. But he tries again: "I mean, I can't just casually date you. We have too much of a past for that. I want to be able to hang out with you without having all of that hanging over our heads, and I'd rather just… actually get to know you again, first." He bites his lip for a moment before adding, "We haven't exactly just been friends before, you know?"
“Me too,” Paige murmurs in agreement. She is biting her lower lip slightly, staying otherwise silent as she listens to him try to explain. “No, that’s true. We haven’t ever really been just friends. But…isn’t that what dating is too? Getting to know one another. Becoming friends.” She pauses, blue eyes on him. “That night at your flat. You know what meant the most to me? Sitting on your couch and being able to open up to you,” she murmurs, also clearly struggling to find the right words. “And sitting with you while I talked, holding my hand. You don’t get that type of intimacy if you’re just friends with someone.” She frowns slightly, looking down at her hands still wrapped around the pillow in her lap. “Though I suppose that is perhaps what you’re saying, that that’s all you want between us.”
“I… don’t agree?” Darius frowns, pinching the bridge of his nose between two fingers. “Honestly, I’ve had more intimate conversations with Dan in the six months I’ve been back than I had with my last girlfriend in the two years we were together. What I’m saying is that if I’m going to be with someone, I need to at least be able to get to the level I’m at with Dan. And Dan and I don’t tend to hold hands when we talk.” He shakes his head and manages to sit up a bit straighter, even as he averts his eyes again. “I don’t see friendship as the lesser of two options, here, although I of course understand that it might look otherwise. And I’m saying that the you I know is the same you who broke my heart five years ago. And I need to know that there’s a different you before we ever try again. Because I don’t want to go through that again.”(edited)
"I think that depends person to person, but okay, that's fair," Paige says softly. She's sort of looking up at him for a moment from under her lashes before focusing on the pillow. "I am guessing you mean being able to open up to the same level, not having the same relationship. Though to be fair, I've probably held his hand while talking. But yes, I would like that too." Her tone is lighter slightly and she glances up at Darius, a tiny flicker of a smile at her lips. It's just there for a moment though. His words after make her wince slightly and she reaches over to squeeze his hand gently, despite the talk of holding hands. It's just a light, brief gesture before she sets her hand back on the pillow in her lap. "I know. I don't want to go through that again either. I can't change or erase how I feel though. And yes, I want to get to know you again too, the you now." She pauses again, biting her lower lip a bit as she thinks. "I just hope you're not expecting someone entirely different," she murmurs finally. "I'm still me. I mean yes, I think we've both grown up, and learned. But…at my core I'm still the same girl you fell in love with back then."(edited)
“I just mean that I don’t think you need to be shagging someone to reach that level of intimacy,” Darius explains, sounding more confident now that she didn’t immediately shoot down what he was trying to say. He doesn’t pull his hand away when she takes it, but crosses his arms over his legs once she lets go, leaning on his elbows and shifting his gaze to the coffee table. “I don’t have expectations, really. I don’t really know how this’ll even work. But it seems like a better idea than what we’ve been doing.”
Paige gives a little nod. “Well that I can agree with. I mean, like I said, I had a great time but if I’m being honest the unknown after is hard for me. But I have been really trying not to push you.” She pauses briefly though, looking up at him more fully. “But. Can I just ask then, it’s not that…” She furrows her brow briefly, struggling for the words. “It’s not, well that you don’t have any interest in…me? This isn’t just your nice way of letting me down?”(edited)
Darius lets out his breath and actually manages a smile. "If I was trying to let you down, then I'd hope there's easier ways to go about it than this," he jokes. "No, it's not that. I just don't know how to be in any sort of relationship with you, quite frankly, and this seems like the best way to start. Which isn't to say you should wait around for me or anything – I'm clearly not in a position to make any promises," he says, his laugh turning a bit bitter. "But I can try and be an actual friend to you."
"Probably, but this is you," Paige manages to tease back when he makes his joke. "Well, as you have been deciding most of this. I am going to add two things. For now at least. One, we can be friends, but don't expect me to draw a nice formal line. I'm definitely still going to flirt with you. So better to accept it now. Plus, I find it adorable when you're trying to flirt." Her tone has lightened a bit, and she's teasing him a little. "And two. If and when that day comes, Dare, it is on you." She does meet his gaze now fully, a flicker of a smile, but a rather serious one. There is a hint of sadness there, but it's faint. "And if you want to be a friend, and since we're not shagging, I could actually use your help," she adds rather suddenly.
Darius goes back to fidgeting, and staring at a corner of her ceiling while she makes her demands. He tilts his head to the side, considering. Then nods. "Sure. That makes sense, I guess. Just… I mentioned space before, right? I'll still need some of that." He looks back over and nods again when she mentions wanting help though. "What do you need?"
Paige inhales rather deeply through her nose, watching Darius, carefully considering before opening her mouth again. "Yes, you have mentioned you need space. But Dare….sometimes when you tell me that I feel trapped," she murmurs rather softly. "What does that mean then? You've already come here to tell me you want us to stop shagging and just be friends. You don't want me waiting around for you either. But does it mean I shouldn't be asking you to hang out? Because I have already been /trying/ to give you space and I feel like it resulted in us rarely seeing each other."
Darius bites his lip, really regretting not taking her up on that drink now. “I don’t know,” he finally answers. “It does kind of feel like you push for us to see each other a lot. So not never, no, but it seems like you got miffed whenever I say no. Just… maybe chill out? A little?” He shakes his head. “You didn’t answer my question, though. What’s this favor you need?”
"Dare, I've maybe intentionally asked you to do something twice," Paige says softly. "If that is too much I feel like maybe you need to reevaluate if you really want us to be friends." She pauses thoughtfully. "And I don't think I've been miffed? Though, I am allowed to have feelings, you know. It's normal to be disappointed if someone says no." She gives a small sigh though before getting to her feet. "Right. Well…I need to make cookies for tomorrow. I did tell them I was not a baker, but everyone has to bring something homemade and I thought cookies might be easiest then. I found a recipe for just plain chocolate chip cookies," she explains looking down at Darius. "If you want to help me?"
Darius takes a deep breath. “The last time I asked for space, you literally sat on me,” he points out. But he shakes his head, and finally gets to his feet – although he only paces to the other side of the room. “Wait, who did you say you’d bake cookies for? Why don’t you just buy them?”
“I’m not apologizing for that, because I am not sorry about that night,” Paige tells him simply. “Plus you were part of everything leading up to that.” She turns her attention back to the cookies though. “It’s for the team. We do it every year. There is a woman that works for the Arrows that organizes it,” she explains. “It has to be something homemade though. I didn’t protest too hard this year because it was the day after I got out of the hospital and I thought it might be nice to do something normal. Just…you know me and baking.”(edited)
Darius stops pacing and winces at Paige’s words, head dropped forward. “Cool,” he says flatly. “So, I’m just going to go. Before this gets… worse.” He takes his coat from where he dropped it across the chair, shrugging it on.
Paige sighs, pinching the bridge of her nose, though her expression is rather hard to read. “It doesn’t really matter what I say. It’s always wrong unless I agree with you or we are having the conversation you want to have. So yeah, maybe that’s best. I’ll see you around.” She says this rather softly, but calmly if not a bit flatly and with that she turns to walk into her kitchen setting out the ingredients to make her cookies.(edited)
“Well woe is fucking you, I guess,” Darius grumbles as he heads for the door. He’s not calm – he’s pissed, but also really done at this point. He shows himself out.