Disclaimer: Not mine. Except the obvious self-insert, of course.
So, here is the first chapter of our Q&A session! I had a wonderful array of questions to choose from, and if you don't see one answered in this chapter, there is a distinct possibility that it will surface in a later installment! Thanks for the interest in this little ficlet; it is proving quite fun and easy to write!
As always, read, enjoy, and review!
The cozy back room of the bookshop was sprinkled with copious amounts of sunlight, bright rays streaming through the windows and casting the three people who occupied the room in a golden glow. Paton and Julia sat hand-in-hand on the sofa, wearing almost identical expressions that were a mixture of amusement and horrified displays of "What have I gotten myself into?"
Across the room, seated on the arm of Julia's large, squashy armchair, was a young woman of unassuming appearance. Wavy brown hair framed a tan face and just touched her shoulders, and she eyed the couple seated opposite of her with an amused hazel stare. In keeping with the summer climate, she wore a tee shirt and running shorts, and was currently seated with her long legs drawn up to her chest and her arms wrapped around her knees. "Nice to finally meet you two face-to-face," she said grinning, her teeth flashing in a friendly smile.
Julia returned her smile. "And the same to you. Welcome to our home."
PhantomPenguin nodded in thanks. "It's spectacular," she declared, looking around the shop. "When we've concluded this little interview session, I think I'll have to peruse your bookshelves…this is the kind of place my friends always have to drag me away from." Her smile turned slightly devious. "Now, what do you say we start with some questions? I'm taking it easy on you this first round, so you won't get any that are too invasive"
Both Paton and Julia looked quite relieved to hear this.
PhantomPenguin laughed at their obvious delight. "Okay," she began, her is your first question, courtesy of CHooco. What were your first impressions of each other?"
At this, Paton and Julia exchanged a long, amused look. "Vastly different, I'm sure," Julia commented wryly, finally breaking their gaze and turning to address their interviewer. "For my part, I found Paton intriguing—intriguing, aloof, pompous, intimidating, and strange, all at once."
He adopted a wounded mien. "Strange?" he asked, pouting. "You thought I was strange?" He frowned. "And intimidating? Did I frighten you, my dear? That was never my intent."
Julia quirked an eyebrow and reached up to affectionately tug a lock of his dark hair. "Paton," her voice was dry, "Not to sound critical, but you came swooping into my shop late one evening behind Charlie looking for all the world as though you were some sort of vampire or eccentric recluse. How was I to know your intentions?"
"In his defense," PhantomPenguin interjected, "he kind of was an eccentric recluse."
Paton fluttered a hand in her direction. "No comments from the peanut gallery, please," he instructed. Looking now at Julia, he pursed his lips in thought. "So I frightened you?" he asked, his gaze softening. "I apologize profusely, Julia. For my part, I was overwhelmed by your beauty, intelligence, and obvious bibliophilic nature—I could not help myself."
The sincerity with which he said this made Julia blush, a light pink spreading across her cheeks and dusting her skin. "You make it sound so simple," she murmured.
"What?" he asked, surprised.
"Love at first sight." She ducked her head as the pink staining her cheeks deepened to a dark red.
Laughing softly, Paton drew her to him in a tight hug, cradling her against his chest. "Not to disillusion your romantic ideals, my dear, but it was hardly what one would call love at first sight. Rather, a sort of fascination and desire for any human companionship." He buried his nose in her hair, closing his eyes and inhaling, breathing in the sweet scent that was uniquely her. "Though," he added softly, a touch of pertness entering his voice, "it certainly didn't hurt that you are without a doubt the most stunning, sublime creature I have ever beheld."
She pressed her face into his chest to hide her blush. "You exaggerate," she mumbled, her voice muffled by his red shirt.
He moved his hands up to her shoulders and drew her back from him, earnestly looking into her eyes. "I assure you," he said slowly, "I do not. You, Julia Ingledew, are beautiful. You will always be beautiful, and I will always tell you that you are beautiful."
He gave her a fierce look, as if to say "So there!" and Julia giggled, reaching up to catch one of the hands resting on her shoulders and intertwine her fingers with his. "Fine," she said, squeezing slightly, "you win."
Bringing the hand he held to his lips, he pressed a light kiss to the skin of her knuckles. "I won the day you invited me back to your shop," he averred. Chuckling at her obviously discomfort with the onslaught of flattery, he looked across the room to where PhantomPenguin now sat on the perched on the back of the chair with her feet resting on the seat, diligently watching and not watching them at the same time. "Perhaps it is time for another question?" he suggested lightly.
She jumped to her feet. "Right! Excellent idea! Hmmm….okay, here's a good one! This comes from moony: Do you, Julia, and Paton plan on having children? You two are obviously very in love with each other. I'm sure you two would raise a child prodigy."
Paton and Julia looked helplessly at one another, trying to decide how best to answer. Finally, Julia spoke. "Well," she said slowly, "it is certainly something we have discussed now and then, but.." she trailed off,
"No," Paton said, "we will not be having any children." His mouth twitched upward into the slightest of grins as he imagined the slough of disappointed sighs that likely accompanied this revelation. "We are both a bit too old to be having children as it is, and as Charlie and Emma are practically our children anyway it seems a bit of a moot point."
"We have discussed it," Julia said earnestly, her eyes alight with sincerity, "but we decided we would be much happier overall without the additional strain of offspring."
PhantomPenguin looked over at them inquisitively from her perch on the towering armchair. "Have you thought about adopting?" she asked interestedly. "It's not the same as what Australian Wallaby would like to see, certainly, but you could still combine forces to corrupt the youth of today—I mean, raise a child in the manner of yourselves."
Biting back a rather unladylike snort of laughter, Julia grinned broadly and shook her head. "No, no," she said decisively. We've made up our minds on this point and our family unit will remain our happy little trio."
The woman on the upholstery heaved a sigh. "Fine, fine. Be that way, then. Here's a question from AustralianWallaby111 for you (she seems to be quite into this little session): What is your relationship with Lyell and Amy?" She pursed her lips. "You know, that's actually a great question. The books very seldom go into any detail about your interactions, other than the horrible gnawing guilt that haunted Paton through the first five novels regarding Lyell's 'demise'." Her brows drew as her mouth spread into a grin. "Do you guys ever go on double dates?"
Laughing, Julia turned to Paton. "I'll let you answer this one, love," she said, threading her fingers through his and swinging their arms back and forth. After all, you were the one who supported the entire debacle to begin with."
Paton sighed and shot her a rueful grin. "And you never miss an opportunity to remind me of it, do you?" he lamented. He shook his head. "We've gone on exactly one," he said, "and it was an absolute disaster. We just went to a casual little café down the road, but they had fluorescent lighting, and one thing led to another, and…" he trailed off.
"And we all left with glass in our hair and pie in our face," Julia concluded, trying and failing to conceal the smirk that was growing across her face.
"Pie?" PhantomPenguin raised an eyebrow and looked at them in obvious delight. "How did you get pie in your faces?"
Julia let out a great peal of laughter. "Well, when Paton accidentally exploded the lights, our server was approaching the table with our dessert—a delicious coconut cream pie. He tripped on a large shard of glass and sent the pie careening straight towards us."
Paton blushed and hung his head.
Sensing his discomfort, Julia took his hand in hers and ran her fingers soothingly along his wrist. "Cleaning was quite enjoyable," she said in a low voice, looking up at him from beneath lowered lashes.
He grinned, coming out of his moment of gloom. "That it was," he murmured, "that it was."
PhantomPenguin shook her head and began thumbing through a list of questions. "Pie, I ask you," she mumbled, grinning broadly. Finding a suitable question, she laughed and turned to the couple. "Okay, here's a question from CHooco: Julia, would you say Paton is an attractive man?"
Julia snorted. "No, of course not," she declared emphatically, stepping away from the man in question and turning up her nose. "I only ever fall in love with ugly men. What is the point in marrying someone you find aesthetically appealing?"
Paton flinched back, the picture of wounded male pride. "Fine," he sniffed, turning away from her as well. "I see how it is…you only married me for my books and vast stores of knowledge. See if I compliment you again." He strode over and leaned against the wall. "I'll just stand over here with my vile self and answer these questions in the dark so as not to trouble anyone with my hideous visage."
At this, Julia could not withhold the laughter she had been diligently trying to contain, and it burst from her lips in a great, ringing peal. "Silly man," she chastised, crossing the floor to stand before him, "you should know by now that I find you the most attractive individual I've ever met." She turned to address their unseen audience. "Paton is without a doubt an attractive man and what every woman secretly dreams of. He's tall, dark, and handsome. He has the most intense, soulful stare one could ever imagine; his voice is deep and stirring and has the capacity to be light and teasing or husky and intense, and it makes me shiver every time he speaks." She grinned at the man in question (who was standing and silently taking in her praise, his face pink but his back straight as his ego continued to expand) and gave him a light kiss on the lips. "He has the softest, most kissable mouth you could ever hope to find," she said, demonstrating just in case anyone failed to agree, "and he is in phenomenal shape." She quirked an eyebrow. "How could I not say he is attractive?"
PhantomPenguin glanced over at the couple and ran her eyes up and down Paton's lean frame appreciatively, which made him blush even more. She smirked and gave him a big wink, then looked out at her unseen audience. "She speaks the truth, my friends," she declared, leaning back and stretching her arms behind her head. "This man is sex on legs."
"Ye gods woman, could you be any more direct?" Paton yelped. "This is my dignity we are disregarding, here."
"But it's true," the woman in question retorted, grinning wickedly. "Julia agrees with me, don't you, Julia?"
Paton leveled an accusatory look at his wife and tapped his foot as he awaited her reply.
Julia grinned and reached a hand up to caress his cheek. "It's true, my dear," she said apologetically. "You are quite 'jumpable,' to use the fangirl term."
Heaving a great, resigned sigh, Paton conceded defeat. "Fine," he said, "appoint me to the status of sexy if you must, but there will be no jumping of my bodily person."
Julia lowered her eyelids and gazed up at him with a gleam in her honeyed eyes. "None whatsoever?" she teased.
Paton caught her glance and held it, a small smile playing about his lips. "Well, perhaps by certain, pre-approved parties," he murmured, catching her smaller hands in his.
PhantomPenguin gave a discrete cough. "Perhaps that is better saved for another time, though," she said. "Right now, it's time for another question! Okay here are some from Korre: First, do you really spend time reading together late at night or is that a cover?"
Both Paton and Julia turned a fiery shade of red unparalleled by any previously display. "What…what a question to ask!" Julia spluttered, blushing ferociously and sending Paton sidelong glances from beneath her lashes.
He shook his head slowly, amazed at the gall of the question. "Of course we read," he said, as though any other possibility were out of the question. "I'm a historian and practicing bibliophile; Julia is the same, and she owns a bookshop filled to the brim with the most varied assortment of tomes and literature that one could ever desire." He quirked an eyebrow and sarcastically added, "Clearly, it's all just an extremely elaborate front for our illicit personal life; our love of books is merely feigned.
Julia snorted and covered her mouth with a hand to mask her smile.
PhantomPenguin waggled her eyebrows. "And yet," she said, pressing them out of sheer amusement, "you both just turned an incredibly charming shade of chartreuse. Clearly," here she mimicked Paton's earlier scorn, "there is more to your evenings than you are willing to address."
The pair in question exchanged a long look until finally Paton shrugged and looked to their interrogator. "That's our story," he said firmly, mouth twitching slightly in amusement, "and we're sticking to it."
Their author friend grinned broadly. "Fair enough," she said, nodding. "Okay, next question, again from Korre. Are you guys not comfortable with public displays of affection?" She smirked as she asked this, already anticipating a deliciously diverting response.
She was not disappointed.
Julia thought for a moment. "Well," she said slowly, "we typically refrain from displaying much public affecting simply out of courtesy for everyone else. We get disgusted seeing various couples grabbing all over each other in plain view of the world, and we would hate to ever fall into that category; plus, we are two relatively private individuals who enjoy our anonymity and solitude, so I suppose you could say we generally do not advocate many displays of emotion."
"However," Paton picked up the thread of their answer as his wife fell silent, "that's not to say we are "uncomfortable" displaying our love." And to prove his point, he slid one hand behind Julia's neck and drew her to him, lowering his mouth to hers and demonstrating quite convincingly that they were fully capable of showcasing their mutual affection.
Idly, PhantomPenguin glanced at the running watch on her left wrist, watching the seconds—and then minutes—tick by. Finally she gave a discrete cough and the couple reluctantly broke apart, both breathing heavily and slightly flushed. "Finished?" she asked sweetly. When they had both nodded and caught their breath, she jerked her head in an approving nod. "Good. Okay, we have time for one final question this go round, and it comes from xXThe Painted LadyXx. She wants to know if everything went according to plan with your wedding, or if things got a little hectic and you had some unexpected big surprises." PhantomPenguin's eyes lit up with delight. "This is an excellent question!" she declared. "In fact," she said, trailing off for a moment as she thought, "hmm. You know what, don't answer that," she commanded Paton, who had been opening his mouth to formulate a response. "I think I'd rather address that fun little adventure in a chapter of Illuminations."
She smiled apologetically at her unseen reviewer. "I know you wanted them to answer it, but it now has a designated chapter all to itself in which you can get a fully detailed account—rather than the undoubtedly revised version these two were about to feed you—of the great wedding debacle—"
"It was hardly a debacle!" Julia protested hotly, irritated that PhantomPenguin was being so flippant about one of the happiest days of her life.
The woman flapped a hand at Julia. "Yes, yes, fine, whatever you say. It was quite an experience though, no?"
Reluctantly, Julia nodded. "That it was," she agreed, smiling slightly as she recalled the events of that day. "That it was."
Paton raised his hand mockingly. "Miss author lady?" he queried, in the style of an elementary student.
PhantomPenguin rolled her eyes and sighed, pointing at him. "Yes, Paton?" she asked.
"Are you going to ask us another question? Since the one you were going to ask turned out to be one you don't want us to answer?"
She pursed her lips and thought for a moment. "I suppose I could squeeze one more in here," she said slowly. "Okay, here's one—well, really two because I combined them—for you from AustralianWallaby111. How old and how tall are you both? This should be easy to answer—it's just numbers."
Paton grinned outright at this question. "Age and height, hmm?" he asked. "Well, I suppose since you haven't mentioned weight we can give you an answer. I, for one, am forty-seven, and am approximately six-and-a-half feet tall."
"He says approximately," Julia said, standing on tiptoes to press a kiss to his cheek, "because we've found that on certain days of the week (typically Wednesdays, for some reason) he is closer to seven. Not entirely sure why that is, but that's how it goes. Now, for my part, I want to first say that you generally don't want to ask a woman her age. However, I am forty, and am five foot nine in my bare feet."
"The perfect height," Paton declared, bending down to press a kiss to the corner of her mouth.
Julia smiled a slow, catlike smile, her eyes bright with delight. "I like to think so," she said demurely.
"Well, clearly it is time for a time-out," PhantomPenguin declared, hopping up from her armchair. "Our friends have much more important things to do now than to address your paltry questions, so until next chapter I bid you adieu!"
Keep those questions coming, my friends!