Some coffeehouse near the office
In which they eat and talk.
Neville looked up. It was almost lunchtime. He hadn't talked to Tonks anymore after she had invited him to have lunch with her but he was certain she would show up soon.
Indeed, a couple of minutes later, Tonks walked into Neville's cubicle, for as far as that was possible. She smiled.
"Ready to go have some fun?"
Neville blushed and he hated it. Telling himself that it was just Tonks, a friend, a woman he'd known for years, didn't help much.
"Yes," was all he managed to squeeze out before he got up and put on his coat.
"Where do you want to go?" asked Tonks.
"Anywhere is fine, I don't really have a particular place in mind," Neville heard himself say. Good, at least he was recovering fast this time.Time to do what Ryan taught me.
Tonks noticed the change. "You're getting more comfortable around me. That's good."
"It seems I am," Neville agreed. He smiled at her, a smile that was mirrored on her face.
They went out and minutes later Neville found himself in an unfamiliar place.
"Like it? It's my favourite coffeehouse," Tonks said.
"It's nice." Neville looked at the menu. "What is good here?"
Tonks marvelled at Neville's... normal... behaviour. He was acting like he had never ever felt uncomfortable around her. It was actually quite unnerving.
"Well... I always have..."
She was interrupted by a handsome looking waiter who couldn't be older than 20. The way the boy beamed at Tonks made Neville think they knew each other, perhaps even better than he wanted to know.
"The usual?" the boy asked.
"I'll have the same," said Neville defiantly, causing the waiter to look at him curiously. Neville looked back blankly until the kid left. Then he smiled and turned his head.
"What did I just order?"
Instead of answering, Tonks stared at Neville for a moment before asking, "what happened to you? You're not the Neville I know. It's not been that
long since the last time I saw you, how come you've changed so much?"I learned how to be an actor
, thought Neville, but he didn't say anything. He just looked at her, the hint of a smile on his face.
Tonks didn't know what to think. She was happy that Neville seemed comfortable around her, but she didn't know what brought this about and she didn't understand why Neville wouldn't tell her. If she had been an insecure woman, she would've thought he didn't like her quite as much anymore. But she wasn't, which is why she merely concluded, "you're not intimidated by me anymore."
Neville, however, was still very insecure behind his mask of nonchalance. He couldn't lie to her, he was afraid she would see it in his eyes.
"Actually, I still very much am. Ryan told me a bit about how to be relaxed around beautiful women."
It was really quite remarkable that he didn't blush.
Tonks laughed, more relieved than she wanted to admit.
"He's a good teacher," she said, "you certainly fooled me. But really, there's no need to act tough around me. I like you blushing and muttering."
At this, Neville laughed out loud, a short laugh that sounded somewhat like a bark.
"If you don't mind, I'll try and find a path somewhere in between," he answered gaily.
Tonks said she didn't mind and explained to her that he had ordered a club sandwhich. She couldn't tell him what was on it, though, because it was different every time.
"We're in for a surprise, then, I suppose," was Neville's unconcerned answer.
The food arrived and looked very tasty. The two friends talked about work while picking apart their sandwhiches, a habit they seemed to share. When both their plates were empty, Neville spoke, his voice barely more than a whisper.
Tonks looked at him, not sure what to make of this.
"What are you thanking me for?"
"For a great lunch with an amazing woman," Neville mused. Then, he laughed. "That sounded so horribly cheesy even I noticed it."
"It's still a sweet thing to say," Tonks reacted, amused. "The pleasure is all mine. I know we haven't seen much of each other since the War, but I find I like spending time with you."
"That's good," said Neville, "because I would love to spend a lot more of it with you."
For a second, they looked at each other in complete silence. Tonks wanted to say something but again she was interrupted by the waiter.
"Was the food to your liking, Miss?" he drawled.
Tonks squinted her eyes, looking from the waiter to Neville and back.
"Yes, we liked it very much, thank you."
The waiter didn't seem to like this answer very much. Neville's heart jolted when he heard the word "we". In her own way, Tonks seemed to say that right now, she preferred Neville's company over the boy's. The waiter nodded curtly and disappeared.
"He uhm..." Tonks said, "I knew him once."
"I figured as much," said Neville. "Have you... known many blokes like him?"
"I suppose. It's something to do."
something to do?" asked Neville, his tone suggesting that her answer could change everything.
"Not in the same way, no," said Tonks. "I geniunely like you. You're a friend, or you can easily become one. They... they're just..."
Neville did understand. He would never want to live like that, but Ryan did. Ryan had been with more women than Neville had met in his entire life. He didn't respect his friend any less for it and he wouldn't judge Tonks. Even if it did make him a bit uncomfortable.
Tonks watched him, waiting for the inner dialogue to end. She didn't want to scare Neville away but she wanted to be honest with him. It was important that he understood who and what she was. She half expected him to walk away. His next words surprised her.
"Why did you kiss me? Back at my place, why did you do it? Was it just to make fun of me?"
"What? No! I never meant to make fun of you. Okay, I suppose we were
making fun of you a bit, but no, that's not why."
Tonks wanted to say, "because you looked like you needed it." But she realised that it wasn't the whole truth.
"Because I wanted to."
Neville looked straight at her for a moment, like he was trying to find out how honest she had just been. What he saw apparently satisfied him, for all he said was, "okay."
A new waiter appeared at their table and asked if they wished to pay. Either the first one was on his break or he had given up on Tonks for now. Neville paid the bill, ignoring Tonks' muttered objections.
"I would love to stay and chat with you some more, but I have to get some work done," Neville said.
"That's okay, I know this. I work for the same company, remember?" Tonks smiled.
"That is true, of course. Well then, shall we leave?"
Neville took Tonks' arm and escorted her out. She let it happen without a word. Soon enough they were back at the office, where they each went their own way, Neville feeling calm and slightly hopeful, Tonks trying not to feel at all.