Five shots of Goldschläger made Rose's world pleasantly fuzzy, and Neal had matched her drink for drink. So they were being maudlin together--what else did they have to do on a transatlantic zeppelin flight?
"People tell you that, after a while, it'll get easier," she complained.
"How would they know?" Neal sounded wretched, but his hands had quit shaking two shots ago, so maybe he was ahead of the game.
She had to stop nodding after two or three bobs of her head--she wasn't entirely certain it wouldn't come off. "Even the people who've lost someone themselves. It's still not your someone, and they aren't you. It's got to be different for everybody . . . doesn't it?"
Neal sighed. He rested his chin on his folded hands. "Has to be. Most people don't die in a zeppelin explosion."
Rose looked around the lounge nervously. "I didn't think they exploded anymore."
"Only if you offend the wrong people." He looked at her with brooding eyes. "What happened to yours?"
If he hadn't been as broken as she was--and as drunk--she never would've answered. "Scientist. Stuck in a parallel universe."
His eyebrows rose. "I didn't think there was such a thing."
If only it were true. "You have to be brilliant enough to break out of this one." She swallowed hard. "And I'm not."
She thought she could see him thinking. He sat up straight and curled one hand into a fist. "But you'll keep trying?"
She snorted a laugh. "Course."
"I'll drink to that." He raised a finger to catch a waitress's attention.
Before the waitress ever noticed, an older man in a bland grey suit left his dinner partner at nearby table to walk up behind Neal. He set both hands carefully on Neal's slumped shoulders and looked down at the empty shot glasses littering the inlaid chessboard. "I think you've had enough, buddy," he said.
Neal craned his head around. "But Peter, we're talking about losing the loves of our lives." Even Rose, who wasn't doing much better herself, had to smile at the way his tongue lurched and slid over all those ls.
Peter didn't smile; instead, the faintest flicker of something unhappy passed over his face. Rose was too tipsy to be sure whether it was pain or disappointment, and Neal didn't seem to notice, but she caught the dark-haired woman at Peter's table looking over at the two men with deep, serious eyes. Peter said, "Any more and you're going to spend the rest of the night kneeling in front of a toilet in a public restroom. Why don't I help you back to your seat?"
"I can walk," Neal protested, getting to his feet and swaying.
Peter slung Neal's arm around his own shoulders. "Sure you can. Have you paid your tab?"
"We're on mine," Rose said, very careful about getting her own feet under her. "Much better than drinking alone."
The dark-haired woman walked up beside them. "I'll get ours, honey," she said to Peter.
Neal looked abashed. "I'm sorry, Elizabeth. I didn't mean to ruin your dinner."
She gave Neal a quiet smile. "You haven't, Neal. We were finished. Get some sleep." When the men were out of earshot, she glanced at Rose. "What were you drinking? I've never seen Neal drunk before."
Rose shrugged, waving to the waitress and tapping her credit card. "Goldschläger. Haven't drowned my sorrows in about a year--might as well do it in style." She looked over her shoulder at Peter and Neal. Peter had his arm around Neal's waist, though Neal wasn't swaying quite that much. "You and him, you'll look after Neal, right?" she asked, looking back at Elizabeth.
Elizabeth looked a little sad, but she nodded. "We'll be there when he's ready."
Well. At least some people got a second chance. It made Rose smile for the first time in a long while. "'M glad. Maybe there's some hope after all."