1 pointIn the quiet that followed, she wondered which, of the two of them, was the intended audience for his recitation. Or whether it might be both. Or, indeed, whether it mattered. “I don’t think you should apologize, Grim. At least, not to me.” The platinum-crowned heiress dared a glance up at the tall, wiry young man with the enigmatic eyes as she added first sugar, and then cream to the coffee she’d poured. “It doesn’t matter if they- your scars- are pleasant to look at or not. They’re proof that whatever it was couldn’t kill you. And, I really didn’t mean to stare. Honestly, I just-“ She hesitated, leaning back against the counter and watching the birds outside as she turned the cup in her hands. “I just thought it must’ve hurt. That’s all.” "It did." he said softly with a small nod. "At least I was alive to feel it, though," he added with a slight smile, casting his gaze her way. "Like you said, I survived it." He was silent for a long moment, his attention returning to the garden. "Sometimes I feel I've spent so long surviving that I forget about living. And then little kindnesses from others ground me, remind me. A proffered donut, an invitation into a home, sympathy rather than pity." He nudged her companionably with an elbow. "Good conversation," he added with a vulpine grin. “To which you’re most welcome,” she laughed, startled, but not displeased by the unexpected prodding; for a fleeting moment the encroaching chill of the changing seasons seemed strangely distant, the fading light of the afternoon more aureate than argent. “And thank you for being a gracious guest. I’ll try to be a better hostess next time you visit.” The hammered band of gold around her wrist jingled softly against her watch as Laurie lifted the coffee to her lips and, cautiously, nudged him back. They spoke for a while longer, draining their cups slowly while discussing Wordworth’s use of language and mythological and historical themes, and when James reappeared to collect them she pressed the antique volume of poetry into Grim’s arms. What good was it doing on the shelf, after all? Besides, she reminded him matter-of-factly as he protested: it came from a library, which meant he simply needed to return it when he was done. There was no arguing with her after that, the result having been decided from the moment she’d seen him with the book in the first place; persuading her to the contrary would have been like trying to reverse the tides. Into his satchel it went, carefully wrapped and packed in alongside the lukewarm can of Coke, two bologna sandwiches, and handful of cookies- and, before they left, a thermos of fragrant coffee, as well. …All of which, of course, the young Aesir would likely devour before he made it home that evening, while still eyeing Laurel’s thermos and the bundle of snacks James had prepared for her. Almost before the two half-divine teens realized it, they were back in the car and headed down the tree-lined lane that would take them into the city, and to the general vicinity of Mrs. Cunningham’s home.
1 pointHe lowered his gaze to his plate, the only sounds in the room a faint clink of fork on china as he ate in silence that seemed to grow and spread from him, an awkward stillness that permeated the air between them, cooling their nascent friendship like the autumn chill slowly sapping heat from the world outside... "No." he said at least, more to himself than her as he set the empty plate aside and looked up, giving Laurel a tight, but genuine smile. "He who takes offense when no offense is intended is a fool, and he who takes offense when offense is intended is a greater fool.” He shrugged again, picking up his coffee cup and standing, walking with his slight limp over to the bar counter where Laurel stood watching him. Leaning against it with one hip, he gave her a wry grin. "I'm still working on trying to be wise, but a good start is to avoid being a fool. You didn't intend offense, and I didn't take any." He raised his cup to his lips, looking away towards the large patio window. "It's me who should be sorry." he went on more quietly, lifting a slender hand to examine the patchwork of scars on his fingers and the back of the hand. "It's not the most pleasant of sights." He shrugged again, tugging the sleeve of his shirt down a little further to cover most of his hand, then smiled at Laurel - another tight, wry quirk of his lips that reached his eyes for a moment before they shifted away from hers and went back to regarding the room. "Though nothing can bring back the hour / Of splendor in the grass, of glory in the flower; / We will grieve not, rather find / Strength in what remains behind; / In the primal sympathy / Which having been must ever be...” he quoted softly, a grave expression in his eyes as they looked out of the window at the room's far end. Glancing back at Laurel again, he flashed her another of his rare, warm smiles and took another mouthful of coffee.
1 pointGrim was well into his second helping of quiche when the sound of footsteps, muted though they were by the carpets, announced Laurel’s return. True to her word, she’d cleaned up a bit, pulling her hair up into a high ponytail and exchanging her fashionable leggings and sweater for a crisp white blouse and dark jeans that looked as though they’d never been worn. “…Who, not content that former worth stand fast, looks forward, persevering to the last, from well to better, daily self-surpast,” she recited with a faint, wistful smile as she entered, glancing from the Wordsworth to the view of the garden outside, and then back to the canny youth in the oversized chair. “My father loved the Romantics. I think my mother just loved that he-” Her bright azure eyes widened reflexively as she took in the sight of him slouched there, lingered in mute horror on the network of fine lines that marked his thin forearms; she’d heard rumours, of course, that he’d been abused or even engaged in self-harm, but the sheer number of scars she could see- traceries of white crisscrossing the pale skin in a web of old pain- was almost incomprehensible. Whether someone had tortured the taciturn young man, or the wounds were self-inflicted, it must have been unimaginably painful. “Mementos.” The single word, softly-spoken, shattered Laurie’s horrified fascination as surely as a ringing slap, and with the same sharp, stinging sense of mortification as she met his gaze. She hadn’t meant to stare, had no desire at all to cause offense, and yet that’s precisely what she’d done. To a guest in her home. To a friend, perhaps, which was even worse. The unsettled, uncomfortable feeling stirred again behind her ribs as it hadn’t in days. Grim gave her a slight, sad-and-bitter smile as he tugged the sleeves of his shirt down and shrugged in the offhand, indifferent fashion of teenagers. ‘No big deal,’ the gesture implied, but the art of studied nonchalance was one the flaxen-haired young heiress knew well, and here it reassured her not at all. She nodded, slim fingers twining together, and straightened. “I apologize.” The daughter of Apollo met his eyes unflinchingly as she spoke, the girl’s stricken expression slowly fading as her composure returned. “That was rude, and I hope you’ll forgive me for staring. Curiosity should not supersede courtesy, however surprised I was.” Crossing the room to let Grim finish his meal, Laurel noted the tumbler and the coffee service on the counter. She leaned over the half-full glass, sniffing the amber liquid curiously before blinking, wide-eyed and shaking her head, waving a slender hand before her face as if to clear away the scent. She’d been kidding about the bar, but it was hardly reasonable to say so now, was it? “Please, take your time eating, and we’ll drive out to the residential area you mentioned afterward. It would be a shame to waste James’s cooking,” she added, and turned over an empty cup to pour herself a coffee. It was, as he’d suggested earlier, likely to be a long night.