Title: On the Outside, Looking In
Authors: RuthieBelle (Ruthie Green and Fallenbelle)
Characters: William Murdoch, Julia Ogden
Rating: Teen for brief mentions of violence and sexuality
Notes: This is what happens when two FF writers (Ruthie Green and Fallenbelle) decide it would be fun to collaborate and write a story together. The first chapter is William's POV, written by Fallenbelle, while the second is Julia's POV, written by Ruthie Green.
Warning: Major spoilers for 10.01 Great Balls of Fire. Do not read if you don't want to be spoiled.
The last time they'd been intimate was the morning that she'd been shot.
He hadn't been in a hurry to resume the physical side of their relationship, as he'd wanted to give her some space and a chance to recover from her wounds. He was so happy to simply have her alive, he really hadn't minded that they'd been abstaining. After all, he'd abstained for years before, so what was a few months when it was necessary for her continued healing.
His physical desires had initially complied, having gone dormant in support of his wishes to allow her to heal, but as time went on, his desires returned, and he prayed that he could control his urges for her sake. He so longed to touch, to taste, and to smell, but with increasingly greater difficulty he held these longings in check.
But his resolve to wait was broken one fine afternoon on an unusually warm day in late February when Julia was more or less physically recovered. William arrived home from work to discover her stretched out across the bed, completely nude.
Reclining on her stomach, hair cascading down her back and her legs curled up behind her, she was a beautiful sight to behold with a novel in front of her and twirling one of her curls around her finger. William's heart sang with joy that she was in his home and on his bed while his blood began to sing with desire for the woman herself. With the sublime view of the side of her breast pressed against the mattress, and how the plane of her back tapered to give way to the irresistible dip of the small of her back, and finally all the way to the curve of her buttocks as they met the back of her thighs William stopped to admire his very own Aphrodite, a goddess exquisitely laid out before him.
Before he realized what he was doing, his jacket, vest, tie, and shoes had been shed and he had joined her on the bed, kissing her passionately; something else he hadn't done since the shooting. Rolling her onto her back, he made his way down her body with his lips, like a devotee worshipping his goddess. Not sure if she was ready for him to acknowledge her scars or not, he left them alone.
She'd made no move to stop him, but she did nothing to encourage him either. She'd merely lain there dispassionately, as though she had resigned herself to performing her marital duty. She was not her usual self, participating and giving as good as she got in the act of physical love, she was just passive. Somewhere through his lust-addled brain, William realized that she was not a willing participant and immediately ceased his attempts. He'd never forced himself on a woman and wasn't about to start now.
Apologizing profusely for his actions, William quickly redressed himself and left for a brisk ride on his wheel, the whole time wondering if he'd done anything wrong. When he'd returned later that evening for dinner, Julia had dressed herself in a high-necked quilted flannel nightgown and a heavy blue robe. Any attempt to apologize and further discuss the earlier incident was quickly dismissed by Julia, and William decided that he was wrong to have forced himself upon her. Perhaps she simply needed more time to recover was all, and thus he decided to wait until she reinitiated intimacy between them.
The next several weeks went by and Julia only seemed to become more despondent and withdrawn, failing to show interest in the things that had once brought her great joy. She wasn't even interested in the progress of their house, declining to visit or help select an architect, or even consider potential building sites.
"Time, William. Just give it time," he'd admonished himself, as he'd become frustrated at the lack of progress that he, she, or even they were making. He just needed to be more patient, he decided.
When Julia announced that an old family friend would be coming from London to attend the Toronto Season, William hoped that attending the parties and debutante balls would help her recover, although he did wonder why Julia was interested in attending functions whose main purpose was introducing marriageable girls to eligible young bachelors. Particularly given how much Julia had loathed her own début experience (or so she had once told him), he found it strange that she would go willingly, but if the thought of buying new dresses for the Season's parties would raise her spirits, he'd more than willingly wear his evening clothes and nurse a single glass of champagne all night long.
He'd lied to the Inspector. No, it hadn't been his intent to deceive, but rather to deflect an unwanted conversation. But the uncomfortable truth was no longer unavoidable if the Inspector had noticed and commented upon Julia's strange behavior.
He hadn't exactly done anything to allay the Inspector's concerns by denying that there was anything wrong with Julia when there so clearly was something amiss. Prior to becoming Inspector, Brackenreid had been a detective too, and William knew any half-decent detective would take that opening and investigate the matter further.
Thus, he knew that this was not the last he'd heard of the matter from the man as he left the Inspector's office and returned to his own.
Forcing his mind to concentrate on the investigation, he considered the facts of the case. It didn't take long to recall his conversation with Mr. Strong the morning after the murder. What had been the purpose of asking Mr. Strong if he had been intimate with Miss Embry? What bearing did that have on the case? Had he asked the question merely because he'd wanted to live vicariously through the young man's sexual exploits? To recall a time in the not so distant past when he had been a satisfied man in all matters, enjoying the boost that regular sexual activity had delivered to his confidence.
Sitting down at his desk, he closed his eyes and tried to relax. There was no doubt that his home life was impacting his work and it was no surprise that the Inspector had said something to him; it was becoming problematic. He wasn't sure how much longer he could go on with the current state of affairs; it really was becoming quite untenable. Something had to change soon, for better or for worse and he prayed that it was for the better.
There was going to be another soiree this evening at some genteel home or other to host the debutantes and as the murderer was likely to be in attendance, his presence would be required in an official capacity rather than as a guest. The only positive aspect of the evening was that Julia would be there and he could at least keep an eye on her. Not for the first time, he hoped that the party would put a genuine smile upon her face. It had been so long since he'd seen one.
Ever since he had heard that Julia had not attended the evening's event as she'd not been feeling well, he'd wanted to get back to her immediately. Unfortunately, Faye Sloane's non-appearance at the party had been enough of a concern that he'd been forced to go to Miss Sloane's room to check on her wellbeing, and unfortunately, his concern was warranted: the young lady had joined her friend in death.
Miss Sloane hadn't seem particularly interested in winning the hand of Mr. Strong, and as thus, hadn't been considered a front runner for marrying the man. Therefore, he now wondered if there wasn't another factor silencing these girls. Miss Sloane had been digging for gossip, what if she'd discovered the very thing that had led to the murder of Ruth Embry?
But it was late, and there wasn't much he could do until morning anyway. Allowing himself to take his mind off the case for once, he instead allowed his mind to drift back to thoughts of his wife.
If he had to be honest, Julia hadn't been well or her normal self for months now. At first, he'd left her alone, allowing her the space and time necessary to heal from what she had gone through, but time had cured no ills in this instance. If anything, she was drifting further and further away, and he was at a loss at how to respond.
As he climbed the stairs to the Hotel's third floor, his mind raced with the possibilities of what he might find in their rooms, and he wasn't sure what he wanted to discover. Julia had always been a drinker, and he'd hadn't particularly minded it previously as her custom never led to inebriation very often, but she wasn't drinking just a glass or two of wine anymore, it was now several glasses of whiskey. At first, he'd chosen to ignore how much she'd been drinking, even challenging the hotel bill one month when he saw that there had been several bottles on the receipt as some kind of mistake. The hotel had graciously removed the charges without argument, but when a similar number appeared on the tab the following month, William knew that it was no error, Julia really had been drinking that much.
Arriving at their door, he opened it with trepidation, nervous as to what might be awaiting him. Half expecting to be greeted with another occurrence of Julia passed out on the couch with whiskey tumbler by her side, he breathed a sigh of relief when the room was dark and Julia was soon found in bed. Observing her form for a few moments, he noted that she was not asleep, as he'd spent far too much time studying her and knew how her breathing patterns differed while she was awake versus while she was sleeping.
"Julia?" he called out, hoping that they could talk.
But there was no response, and William knew she was pretending to be asleep as to avoid talking to him.
Sighing, he sunk back against the doorframe, hitting it with a solid thud, and rubbed his face with his hands. She didn't want to talk with him; she was avoiding him. There was no denying it.
Deciding to give her the space she clearly desired, William grabbed his pajamas and slipped into the bathroom, performing his nightly routine. Finished, he opened the closet and grabbed the spare blanket and pillow, and walked back out to the living room, dropping them on the couch. Walking back over to the doors to their bedroom, he closed them none too quietly. He hadn't slammed them, but he was angry at the current situation and he realized that he didn't care if she noticed that he wasn't buying her act that she was sleeping.
He'd been truthful when he said that all he wanted was a quiet evening at home with his wife, but this was not what he'd meant by that statement. He wondered if he'd even enjoy such a thing again. For the first time since the whole ordeal had begun he allowed himself to acknowledge that when he'd vowed to stand by Julia in sickness and health, and for better or for worse, that perhaps the better part of their relationship had passed and all that was left was the "worse" as it were.
Further adding to his sour mood, a glance at the side table featured two tumblers sitting next to an empty bottle of whiskey.
It appeared that Julia had entertained a visitor, and while Lady Atherly had been a known guest the past few days, William knew she only drank wine. Plus, she'd been at the social gathering doing whatever she could to ensure that she sold her daughter's hand in marriage to the highest bidder, he thought distastefully. Therefore, the glass wasn't hers, but someone else's.
Not too many women drank whiskey, so odds were that Julia had entertained a male visitor. Who? Why? Had they merely talked? Or had they done something more?
William exhaled and closed his eyes in an attempt to channel his anger. Jumping to conclusions wasn't going to help him or Julia, and he reminded himself that he needed to be patient; she needed time to heal emotionally.
But it made no difference. Grabbing both of the tumblers, he hurled each of them into the trashcan along with the empty bottle.
If she'd heard any of this (and he knew that she had), she made no effort to come and see what was going on.
He laughed bitterly.