[M | Closed] A Thread of Ivy

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Aurelie Steerpike
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Fri Nov 08, 2019 3:21 pm

Loshis 39, 2719 Mid-day|Professor Keyes' Office
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This was not strange, Aurelie told herself. It was only polite to replace something when you ruin it, and common sense. Nevermind that Fionn himself had said he had plenty of handkerchiefs and had no specific need of this one. There were principles to uphold--even scraps had to have principles. Besides, she hadn't really thanked him properly at the time. Not for the help with her hand, nor for saving her from trouble after. Even now, half a week later, Aurelie winced in memory of the Matron's hand cracking across his face. Provoking the matron might not have been the most sensible course of action, and she still wasn't quite sure why he'd done it. And yet. That hadn't been fair--they weren't even doing anything to get in trouble over. "Fair" was not often a part of her vocabulary, but rarely did she also feel so directly responsible. So she had to do something, didn't she? Yes, of course she did.

Nervously Aurelie paced outside the door to Professor Keyes' office. There was nobody to see her, but she felt watched all the same. Her own paranoia was getting the best of her. It was that itch in her bones that had driven her here, some strange need to do something, to make some sort of change. Was this too much? Should she have just waited for them to cross paths again, by coincidence? There was no guarantee they ever would. Still--this might be crossing some sort of line. What if she was a bother? It was possible he was angry with her. The whole mess had been her fault after all. If she hadn't cut her thumb, if she hadn't looked like some sort of--of-- of frightened hingle when the matron had come in...

And there was the matter of the gift. The not-gift. The apology? In her pocket was a neatly folded white handkerchief, onto which she had stitched a pattern of ivy leaves that curved around one corner. Aurelie ran her finger over her own clumsy stitchwork. Favors had been traded and promises made to get her both the cloth and the moss-green thread she had used to decorate it, though neither was particularly fine. Just a bit of linen, and her own amateur needlework. She had worked into the night and between her shifts to make sure it was done, but the result... Well. It was the thought that counted, wasn't it? Nevermind that the leaves on the ivy were slightly uneven, the vine curving less gracefully than she would have liked. She had been told, though she could not for the life of her remember who by, that ivy meant "gratitude", and "friendship".

That's what they were now, weren't they? Friends? Or they could be, perhaps. Maybe. She would like them to be. For all that he seemed to attract trouble, she had enjoyed talking to him, and listening to him laugh. If there was anything deeper behind that, she resolutely put the thought away. That was an avenue best left unexplored. Still, surely the could be friends. Even scraps had friends. Even Aurelie could have friends.

She stopped her pacing and took a steadying breath. It wasn't as if she had all that much time to waste fretting about it. Some of the other girls had covered for her so she could slip away--she dreaded the questions later--but she had to go back eventually. If someone came and asked her what she was doing standing outside of a professor's office and gawping like a foolish goldfish, she would lose her chance entirely.

"This is fine," she whispered to herself. "You can do this Aurelie. Just knock on that door and see if he's there." The red-haired passive hadn't thought much to her plan of what she would do if Fionn wasn't there, of course. Sink into the floor and be swallowed by the earth, most likely. Another steadying breath, and she reached up a hand to knock on the door, only a little timidly. If Fionn was there and let her, she would give him the handkerchief, thank him for his help, and leave as quickly as possible before she was missed.
Last edited by Aurelie Steerpike on Sat Nov 09, 2019 6:32 pm, edited 3 times in total. word count: 753

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Fionn
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Fri Nov 08, 2019 6:49 pm

Loshis 39, 2719 | Midday
Professor Keyes’ Office
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”You can be a real cheeky little snot sometimes!”

Niamh’s voice was a huff, the exasperation clear to hear as she sat beside Gus’s desk chewing on a fingernail. There was a perfectly serviceable chair behind the desk and he wasn’t due in today but she wouldn’t sit there because it wasn’t her place.

Her brother snorted at her words.

”A real cheeky little snot! Wow, Niamh. You really- That’s almost a swear coming from you,” he teased from his perch on the windowsill. He was up on his toes as he scrubbed a wet cloth across the pane.

”And there it is again! I’m older than you for one thing and I’m also- I know more than you-”

”You’ve had a better education but you don’t necessarily know more,” Fionn countered, cutting her off. There was a squelchy squeaking as he scrubbed vigorously at a stain, tongue finding the corner of his mouth as he concentrated. ”For someone with all your access, there’s a lot that you don’t know. A lot that you haven’t looked into but then you never did ask the right sort of questions.”

The young woman got to her feet with ‘hmph’, feet too loud on the wood floors as she paced. She didn’t like sitting and watching him while he cleaned but he neither needed nor wanted her help and she was free to talk to him. It wasn’t as if she was twiddling her thumbs but he seemed to make her seem lazy. The eldest Madden was just as prone to allowing servants to pick up for her as any other Anaxi-raised galdor of a certain level of breeding so he didn’t know why she couldn’t just sit there. She did a bit of tidying up after Harper - Oh and what a huge selfless act that was by the way she talked about it! - and she thought that she was meant to do things.

His sister was feeling guilty but he knew from experience that if he gave her something to do, even something simple and non-taxing, she’d make a big deal of it. He’d rather work at a reasonable pace and get things done rather than having to listen to extra complaints from her before he had to go take over from her anyway. Her guilt came in waves and it was more likely to appear when she was feeling self-conscious like now. They had been talking about passives, initially about their biological and monic nature, but it had turned into something a bit different. She thought that she knew everything and he’d dared to challenge that view so she’d resorted to hurling poor attempts of insults at him in her frustration.

”I don’t have to put up with this, you know. I could leave right now and leave you alone here,” Niamh proclaimed, a slight tremor in her voice even as she made her ‘threat’. Her field passed within his range and he sensed her feelings. Upset, angry, maybe frustrated. There was also that nervous energy that so often permeated her field. Fionn had said some things that he suspected she was having a hard time coming to terms with, mainly because she didn’t want to do so.

He made no reply and she dropped back into her chair after a minute with a sigh. A quick glance her way revealed crossed arms and a troubled expression on her face as she considered.

The final year student was rather stressed he knew between one thing and another but she also had difficulty venting these things. The friends she’d made at Brunnhold were really just acquaintances and she didn’t seem able to share things with them. As such, she spent more time around her brother when she had a chance, the boy a confidante that she hadn’t had before - not since their childhood at any rate. It was why she was here on her day off from classes. She lingered because Gus had stayed at home for the day, having things to attend to and so they had privacy. She never knew where to put herself around the professor, how to relax around him. Fionn had some cleaning to do although he had plans to wander down to Laboratory Beta later in the day with his sibling to do ‘work’ there.

A silence stretched out between them, just the rhythmic sounds of his scrubbing, drying and polishing punctuating the air. Fionn could work in silence, sticking within the confines of his own thoughts and he’d discovered that his sister was happy to do so as well. It might be less of a companionable silence at the moment but she’d get over herself.

He had worked his way down the window and moved onto a new one, beginning at the top, when the knock came.

”I’ll get it,” Niamh assured him, and he grunted in reply. If it was someone looking for Keyes then she could just handle it, no sense losing his rhythm now. However, as soon as she opened it and delivered her greeting, Fionn changed his mind.

”Oh hello there! Are you here to see Professor Keyes about something? I’m afraid that he isn’t here right now. If it’s about cleaning, he doesn’t need that done.”

Just from the way she said hello, Fionn knew it was a passive at the door. It was her tone and choice of words. She sounded as if she was talking to a child, overly bright, sympathetic and also deeply patronising. By the time she’d gotten to the remark about cleaning - she probably gestured his way - he’d dried his hands and carefully but quickly dismounted the windowsill backwards.

”Lady’s sake, Niamh! Do you have to talk to other passives like that?” he snapped, approaching the door with some annoyance before he’d even seen who it was.

”Like what?” his sister asked, truly bemused as she looked from him to-

”Aurelie!” he blurted, the beginnings of a surprised smile finding its way into his face before he could think about it. Hazel eyes were suddenly fixed on him a little too intently, Niamh staring at him and the smile faltered, his face starting to warm. Well shit.

”Uh… hello! What are you, um… doing here? I mean… can I help you with something? To do with Gu- Professor Keyes.”

Professional. He could be professional. No, he wouldn’t look directly at Niamh.

”Oh! You know each other!”

Talk about stating the obvious! Niamh seemed to be awfully good at that.

”Are you here to see Professor Keyes or Fionn?”

Fionn spluttered, his face definitely heating more.

”See me? Why would- Actually piss off, why are you even talking?” he snapped. It just slipped out in his annoyance and embarrassment. All the wrong words but it wasn’t her business. She just needed to back off.

Some colour entered the tops of his sister’s cheeks, a slight warmth and pulse in her field before she smothered the oozing feelings. Instead she turned her attention to Aurelie as if he didn’t exist.

”Would you like to come in? I’m Niamh, by the way. Fionn’s sister. I’m sorry that he has the manners of a kenser.”

Don’t start shouting…
Last edited by Fionn on Sat Nov 09, 2019 7:19 pm, edited 1 time in total. word count: 1275
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Aurelie Steerpike
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Sat Nov 09, 2019 3:21 am

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Aurelie had expected that who answered the door would be, if not Fionn, then the professor himself. She wasn't really sure what Professor Keyes' schedule was, nor his habits--truthfully, all she knew of him was his name and what strange things Fionn had said about him. If had answered the door, she would not have recognized him. This was a flaw in her plan that had gone unconsidered before, but was now becoming rather prominent. What she had not expected was a pretty galdori girl of her same age, talking to her as if she were talking to a child. For one particularly stupid moment, Aurelie briefly wondered if she had gotten rather the wrong idea about Professor Keyes.

"Ah, no--no cleaning, I was actually wondering if, er..."

Before she could get much further in her improvised explanation for what, precisely, she was doing here at Professor Keyes' office, a familiar voice called out and Fionn came into her field of vision. For a moment she was so relieved that she hadn't been so wrong, after all, that her face split into a smile. He looked--surprised to see her. Which made sense, it wasn't often she was in this part of Brunnhold. But not unhappy, she thought. Or hoped, at least. One didn't typically smile at someone you were unhappy to see, after all? So it couldn't have been too terrible, the other day. Hopefully. So, surprised, but not unhappy. There were worse faces someone could make when they saw her.

There was the problem of the girl, however. Aurelie wasn't sure she had the courage to do what she had come here for, to give him the not-gift in front of someone else. It was one thing to do this in relative private, and quite another to have someone else there. When the girl introduced herself as Fionn's sister, her stomach tied a new knot in itself. With the way he had acted before, when they first met, having any family here at Brunnhold, let alone a sibling, that he was on speaking terms with... She felt a little ache, somewhere in her heart. Sister.

"Come in? Oh--Well, that is very kind of you, miss, er, Ms. Niamh." She shifted her weight uneasily from foot to foot. Oh, chimes, this would have been much easier if he just hadn't been here at all. Instead of either coming further into the room or retreating, Aurelie stayed awkwardly in the doorway. She chewed on the edge of her lip before elaborating, trying to evade Niamh's gaze.

"I'm not--I actually did come to see you, Fionn," she confessed, the last part almost an apology. She could feel herself turning red. Sweet Lady, she wasn't a child--why was she acting this way? Hair tucked, untucked, retucked behind the shell of an ear that was getting hot enough to fry an egg on. "If you had a moment, that is... Well..." She let uncertainty color her voice and trail away. Her eyes shifted from Niamh to Fionn and back. She didn't want to disturb, or intrude, or... whatever it was she was doing. Aurelie fished the handkerchief out of her pocket, though she didn't unfold it or hold it out. She just held it there in her hand, running a thumb over the weave in a steadying motion.
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Fionn
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Sat Nov 09, 2019 3:41 pm

Loshis 39, 2719 | Midday
Professor Keyes' Office
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Oh dear.

Why did Aura have to smile at him when she saw him? It made the desire to smile back at her difficult to resist, impossible actually. So a smile of surprise turned to a brighter one, Fionn unable to help himself. All under Niamh's watchful eyes. Honestly, there could be nothing worse because he realised what he was bloody well doing and well... He'd been trying not to think about Aura, that was true, but he'd also been trying not to think too hard about how he'd acted around her the last time that they'd met. And the fluttering feeling. He'd only ever gotten that around Lars before and he'd only realised what it was after the fact. It was why he'd let that Matron slap him across the face. And he didn't bloody well need to be thinking about all of that now, not in front of his sister, not in front of Aura, not when he needed to have his wits about him.

Fionn didn't want to grin like an idiot at Aura, didn't want Niamh to see and know. She'd known about Lars, she'd known before he had but it wasn't like that. He didn't feel- Aura wasn't- It wasn't the bloody same!

"I'm bad-mannered because I didn't introduce you or because I swore?" he snapped at his sister, left with all manner of emotions tugging back and forth inside him. Happiness and nerves and the fluttering at seeing Aura, maybe a little fear as well. Anger and exasperation at his sister for being here, for opening her mouth a-a-and ruining things.

Niamh simply ignored him, smiling in that slightly patronising way of hers as she looked at Aura. Fucking hypocrite. She talked about how passives weren't lesser than galdori, about how they weren't children and yet every passive she dealt with who wasn't Fionn, her behaviour went against every word she'd said. He set his teeth and scowled, doing his best not to say anything stupid.

"Madden but Niamh is fine, you don't have to be so formal," the eldest Madden explained, the smile holding firm despite the fact that Aura made no move to accept her invitation and Fionn didn't blame her. The girl looked ready to bolt as soon as an opportunity presented itself. She'd no doubt come for Keyes and now she was being shown courtesy by a galdor that she'd never experienced before and... yeah, he knew what that was like. The servant probably just wanted to get away as soon as she could now that she knew that Gus wasn't here and-

"Wait, what?" he blurted and then immediately scrunched up one eye as he winced. His sibling turned, an eyebrow cocked, a spark of interest in her eye at his outburst. He could feel his face growing hotter so he looked away from her to the other passive instead; it didn't help matters.

"Oh well, I uh... I have a moment, yeah, I'll just step out for a minute and uh-"

"Oh I'm sure that it's better if... Aurelie, right? Well, if Aurelie comes in then it'll look less strange than two passives standing talking in the hall, especially as you shouldn't be alone with girls."

She said it and then went pink, the apology clear on her face as she backpedalled. "Well, not that you shouldn't be, I'm sure that- You're not meant be around girls. There's a reason why passives are segregated along gender lines because um..."

The galdor went pinker and Fionn could only stare at her. Could she be any more embarrassing? Was she really-

"But at least I'm in here so no one can say that anything inappropriate... uh... you know," the young woman finished awkwardly, smiling too brightly now, solidly pink to her hairline.

Fionn's eyes were fixed on his sister, unable to look away from her. He was feeling humiliated and he could see the words coming before they came tumbling out of his mouth by Alioe have mercy, he couldn't stop them even though the shape of them was beyond terrible. It was like seeing something bad occur, time slowing so that you had painful seconds to register and understand what was coming but could do nothing to stop it.

"What am I going to do? Fuck her against a wall in the hallway?" he threw at the elder Madden, voice louder than he would have liked, not quite a yell but not far off it.

And then he wished that he could just drop dead on the spot.

The redhead recoiled from his crassness, a hand flying to her mouth which he was sure was as wide open as her eyes. He saw her horror for only a moment before his gaze flicked to the other scrap, his face full of apology, regret, shame before he covered it with a hand and spun away, moving away to Keyes' desk. He planted his hands on it firmly, head bowed as he let out a whoosh of breath.

"I shouldn't have- I'm sorry," he told the wood in a murmur.

"No... you shouldn't have," Niamh groaned, apology shining out of every pore as she looked at Aura and then up at the ceiling. "Manners of a kenser. I think... I think you should come in and um... yes. Whatever you came to say... I assume you're his friend or something even if he isn't meant to have girl friends but you must know that he's... like this. Come in now."

She beckoned Aura inside, mouthing an apology like it was a prayer, her field pulsing and shifting so much that it was difficult to place what colour shift it was. Fionn could feel it and it certainly wasn't comfortable to be around. This would be just lovely. Himself, Niamh, Niamh's clocking field and Aura all in a room together. And he was certain that the girl would feel obligated to come in now - Niamh had basically phrased the last bit as an order, even if the ring of authority hadn't been behind it. In all honesty, his sister sounded as if she wanted to cry.

"You are honestly just- Oh goodness, Fionn! Why can't you be civil?"
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Aurelie Steerpike
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Sat Nov 09, 2019 4:41 pm

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What was that she had been thinking before, about the earth opening up and swallowing her never to be seen again? She thought back to this scenario a little wistfully. She hadn't intended to linger, really she hadn't. She also hadn't intended on meeting Fionn's sister, however, so really none of this was going to plan.

For just a moment, relief washed over her when Fionn offered to step out into the hall. Inappropriate as it may have looked if anyone had come by, something about the presence of not just another person but a sibling made Aurelie want to crawl out of her skin. This completely ridiculous thing she had come to do needed no witnesses. So the hall was perfect, she could just give it to him and thank him for his help and then--

Oh, chimes.

If Niamh was pink at her suggestion that Aurelie and Fionn shouldn't be alone for reasons, the girl in question was positively incandescent. The whole walk to the office, Aurelie had been mentally rehearsing a litany of reasons why it was perfectly appropriate for her to come here, what she would say when she got there so as to not make it too terribly strange. All of these things fell right out of her mind. It wasn't like she needed Niamh to tell her--to remind her that they weren't supposed to be alone together. Which she hadn't wanted! She wanted to be friends! Not that she didn't think Fionn was charming in his strange way, or that she didn't feel a little thrill when he smiled at her, but that was entirely beside the point! Many people were charming and pleasant to look at, and some of them even had nice smiles. It didn't mean anything. She tried, desperately and immediately, to get her mind off this track. She would just give him the handkerchief replacement and leave. Aurelie opened her mouth to protest, to state her purpose and then, well, run away if she was being honest.

Then Fionn opened his mouth, and something in her brain quietly broke, with a "pop!" not unlike the bursting of a lightbulb.

Aurelie, as a general rule, tried very hard not to think about sex in any context involving her person. She had learned, to her great disappointment in her younger years, that she had no interest in women whatsoever, and it all just seemed like something better not dwelled upon for very long. A hassle to even think about it much at all. For most of her ten years at Brunnhold, this was actually quite easy to accomplish. She took so little interest in other people, after all, that it simply never came up. Which wasn't to say that she never had the odd idle daydream, but they were fleeting and insubstantial, easily dismissed.

The absolute force of her own imagination, therefore, took her entirely by surprise. There was an upsetting amount of clarity to the image her mind conjured, and the harder she willed it to go away the more stubborn it was. Oh gods, Aurelie, you are never going to be able to look at either of them in the eye ever again. You have to say something. You absolutely have to say something. If you keep standing there with your mouth open like some sort of ginger goldfish, you will make it so, so much worse.

The Steerpike women were long known for their conversational skills, their grace under pressure, and ability to navigate even the most choppy of social seas with ease and aplomb. Whatever essential spark it was that gave them this near-magical ability, the Circle had seen fit to make sure it skipped Aurelie completely. Instead of anything even remotely approaching a graceful response, or even proper Estuan, what came out of her mouth was a series of strangled squeaking noises, followed by her somewhat mechanically following Niamh's not-suggestion. Oh, chimes. Oh bells and chimes. Oh great, clocking--

"I-- oh no. I just came here for--well it isn't, that is to say... Well we aren't friends, really, which isn't to say I wouldn't like to be, but, oh no. That sounds wrong. I just meant to say that there's no reason to be concerned, is there, I really have very good self-control and-- oh please just take this!" All of this was delivered with her eyes fixed firmly at a point somewhere near her left toe, her face and hair becoming approximately the same color. At the end of her litany, without looking up Aurelie thrust the folded handkerchief out in front of her with both hands.

Please, please just take this from me before I die.
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Fionn
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Sat Nov 09, 2019 8:18 pm

Loshis 39, 2719 | Midday
Professor Keyes' Office
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He couldn't blame Niamh. Okay so he could definitely blame Niamh because she'd provoked him, provoked his response but she hadn't made him open his mouth. He was the only one to blame for that vulgar remark. There were better ways he could have phrased it and best of all would have been not to refer to it at all. He'd seen the gaping shock on Aurelie's face and he didn't blame her for it. Honestly, it didn't matter that his sister had been embarrassing because he'd just done a lot worse. He was capable of making things terrible all by himself. Really, everything she'd said was forgivable, everything she'd said could have been swept aside, disregarded like dust pushed under a rug.

Fionn was the one who had fucked everything up.

It was all his own fault.

He'd felt a little wobbly at the knees since the significance of his words had hit him and even with the desk for support, he worried that he was going to end up collapsing on the ground. Maybe if he collapsed hard enough, the ground would open up and consume him. That'd be nice. Or if Alioe allowed the stream his life to flow backwards. It was ridiculous of course, you couldn't reverse water - even metaphorical water - or time.

That was the problem with poor decisions and ill chosen words; you couldn't take them back, as much as you might want to do so.

He had no idea how to repair things though, how to defuse things and if not take back the vulgarity, at least temper it. He should apologise. Earnestly, sincerely, profusely but he couldn't do it while Niamh was here. He'd end up getting aggravated because of either her presence alone or something that she said and he'd come at this all wrong. Worse, he didn't want to take it out on Aurelie. That was the last thing he wanted, especially as she'd come to see him. He didn't even know why.

There was a very awkward silence between the trio, the youth able to sense his own nexus, Aura's nexus and Niamh's field and it was feeling uncomfortably crowded in here. Niamh's field was particularly troublesome right now, her emotions pulsing between them but he could also sense Aurelie in a way that surprised him. She was recognisable to him now and it was not a good time to realise this.

Fionn's gaze flicked to the side, pained. He caught sight of Niamh's face, their gazes meeting, brown to hazel, and whatever she saw there made her look away, biting her lip. He had no idea what she was thinking but he doubted that it was good. The teenager was a source of shame for her, he was sure. His sister still wasn't used to the shocking things that he came out with, the young woman always berating him for the things he said. It was one of the reasons why he'd taken to teasing and mocking her for her pseudo-expletives.

When the other servant began to speak, he turned slowly, leaning against the edge of the desk. His hands still gripped the edge and there was greater support in his new position but he felt more exposed. The youth could peer down at his feet but it didn't prevent him from catching glimpses of events from the corner of his eyes. It also didn't hide Fionn's face, which was quite scarlet. When he did risk a furtive glance, he found that the girl was also examining her feet. The only one who was taking in the entire scene was Niamh and she definitely looked troubled.

When the girl mentioned her good self-control, it was the boy's turn to be shocked. He'd been in the act of shifting position, intending to move closer to see what she was presenting when what she'd said hit him. So instead of pushing off from the desk as intended, he managed to lose track of the surface's edge, one hand slipping and throwing him off balance so that he tilted to one side. The hand that slipped followed gravity's path and he managed to catch his elbow on the hard wood. Breath was sucked in through his teeth, the youth's eyes rolling upwards slightly but he didn't swear, possibly because he was swift to press his teeth down on his lip, jamming his troublesome mouth shut.

It was while he was dealing with the agonising shockwaves of the impact, unable to register what Aurelie was showing him that Niamh spoke up suddenly.

"Good Lady! I've just remembered that I need to run an errand for Harper that has to be uh... done in a timely fashion," she blurted, abruptly bustling as she went to grab her coat. "I'll see you later, Fionn. At the lab. Maybe Aurelie too. Harper would cover for her."

The only Madden daughter was a horrible liar, especially for the child of a politician and Toibin Madden was a real underhanded snake. It was a very obvious excuse to him, almost certainly to the servant girl as well but he was surprised that she was making it. She didn't approve of this or at least, she wasn't supposed to approve. She had said that passives should be able to interact normally, as galdori did but... even with this? Right after she'd said-

No, he wouldn't complain or question it. Anything for privacy. Anything

"Oh. Yeah, I'll see you later," he replied, catching the sight of Niamh's face from behind Aurelie's head. Absurdly, Fionn chose that moment to think that a childish treatment of the girl probably made sense; she was small and young looking after all. Of course, it was in no way relevant, totally absurd but his mind wasn't working entirely logically anymore.

An exchange occurred around the smaller redhead, his sister mouthing what looked like 'Behave' while fixing him with a look that said 'Don't make me regret this', the worry of it pinching her features. He nodded subtly in response and then she was gone, her monic presence disappearing with her.

Still rubbing at his elbow, the blond realised that he'd gotten the privacy that he'd wanted but now he was alone with Aurelie after his comment. After her comment.

Good self-control! What in Alioe's name was that meant to mean?

The teenager stepped forward, right hand finding the back of his neck as he neared the other, hesitant. He licked his lips and gazed blankly at her offering, a disconnect there as he considered something in his head instead.

"I'm sorry. For the... the comment. It wasn't polite of me. I just... I'm used to s-saying things to shock her so that- so she- I didn't think. I apologise for being inconsiderate," he explained, the earnestness of it ruined when he laughed a moment later. "I'm sorry but... I seem to apologise every time we meet! I should really just... fuck up less. I mean, uh..."

Oh no, he suddenly didn't like to use that word at all, he wondered why...

"Is that a, er... handkerchief?" he inquired, peering at it more closely. It was definitely a handkerchief, he could see that given that he had eyes that could in fact see but it was a great way of changing the subject by saying nothing of substance. Besides, how could either of them screw that one up? An easy question, an easy answer.

"You didn't have to- I have others. I told you. I don't want you to feel that you owe me for that, especially not a fancy embroidered one."

It wasn't that fancy but embroidered was definitely a step up from the plain ones he'd been pilfering from Gus. The designs on this one were actually simplistic and not altogether good and he wondered how she'd managed to get someone's castoff work, especially-

He blinked. He blinked again. His eyelids actually fluttered as he stared. He took up the material, folding the stitched part over his finger and- Yes, very amateurish, it wouldn't be easy to get something like that unless you-

"Aurelie... you d-d-didn't... embroider this, did you?" the blond asked, disbelieving as he turned his eyes to her pretty freckled face, fresh warmth flooding his own.

Fuck, he'd forgotten about the pretty somehow.

She wouldn't have done this,

She couldn't have done this. It'd be more than a simple repayment. Repayment was one thing but to go beyond what was necessary that was a gift. Why would she be...

He could only hold the cloth a little too limply as he gawked until it slithered from his grasp and onto the floor and the boy moved to pick it up.
Last edited by Fionn on Sun Nov 10, 2019 10:52 am, edited 1 time in total. word count: 1553
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Aurelie Steerpike
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Sun Nov 10, 2019 5:42 am

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She had wanted some privacy, she really had. Except... she had wanted it before she had said... Oh sweet merciful Alioe, what was that absolute litany of nonsense that had come out of her mouth? Self-control? Yes, she had absolutely said something about her ability to control herself. Just what was that supposed to mean, Aurelie? As if that was all that stood between you and... and...! A small, miserable groan escaped her as Niamh made her excuses and left them alone. Alone! Just her, Fionn, and all of that drivel she'd let drop out of her stupid, stupid mouth. Why had Niamh left? Aurelie hadn’t expected or wanted to see her there, but it really seemed an inopportune time. Perhaps Fionn’s sister just didn’t want to bear witness to any more carnage.

At least he had taken the handkerchief from her. That was one part of her plan accomplished. Any rehearsed speech she had in mind on her way over was lost to her completely, but she had at least managed to get it into his hands. The casualties were high, but the mission was a success.

”N-no! Don’t, ah, hmm. It’s… fine? I’m the one who… well…” Fionn didn’t need to apologize, not to her. What he’d said had been crude, yes, but that in and of itself hadn’t shocked her really. She had been gated for ten long years; if he thought that the women’s sections were less crude than the men’s, well. He was rather in for a shock. She had heard stories from the other women that could peel the paint off a barn. She was the one who had taken it to some strange new level. If anything, Aurelie was the one who needed to apologize. She had chased off his sister and interrupted his work, and for what?

With great difficulty, Aurelie resolved to lift her face. If she stared at her shoes a moment longer, then things would get yet again elevated by her own strangeness, and she just couldn’t bear it. Besides, it would be difficult to get around if she never again raised her eye level much above the wainscotting. Looking Fionn in the eye--well. That wasn’t going to ever be possible again, was it? Surely somewhere in the region of his ear was the next best thing. Yes, that would do. It is a nice ear, though, isn’t it. No! No, it absolutely was not! It was a normal ear, attached to a normal person that she wanted to be normal friends with. Normally.

”Please don’t worry about it, the handkerchief, it’s not fancy at all really…” She bit her lip nervously and peered up at Fionn through a fan of pale lashes. From most outside observation, it had to be admitted that this was not a look without charm on her--heart-shaped face tilted upwards and ever so slightly to the side, just enough that an errant lock of red hair escaped to drape over her face; the way she bit her lip just served to draw attention to her mouth. Aurelie was not an outside observer, however, and was accordingly unaware.

”I’m afraid I did--oh!” Aurelie couldn’t help but let out a little cry of dismay as Fionn’s grasp loosened on the not-gift, causing it to flutter to the ground. Oh, you great clocking fool--he hates it! This is why you don’t make any friends. You never know when enough is enough. When Fionn bent to pick it back up, Aurelie did the same unthinkingly.

The result was a rather painful clash of foreheads and limbs, both passives bending to pick up the dropped item simultaneously. Aurelie bit back a mild curse, her fingers reflexively curling around the handkerchief--and what was, almost assuredly, Fionn’s hand with it. Though she immediately loosened her hand, she made no immediate move to draw away. Was it possible for someone to catch fire, spontaneously and unrelated to any monic activity? Aurelie felt certain that she was on a one-woman mission to find out.

”Oh, drats I--yes, I did the embroidery. Er, it’s supposed to be ivy. For… for you.” The last part she said so softly, it wasn't certain that Fionn could even hear her.
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Fionn
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Sun Nov 10, 2019 12:44 pm

Loshis 39, 2719 | Midday
Professor Keyes' Office
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His apology seemed to surprise her, maybe even make her uncomfortable and she seemed all to ready to brush it aside. In fact, she seemed ready to be the apologetic one. It didn't seem like she had anything to apologise for but what had she been about to say? She'd been the one who had... what? Come to visit? Or the one who'd been impolite? She hadn't said anything impolite, not from his perspective at least and the only comment that might be in any way-

"...I really have very good self-control..."

That certainly wasn't offensive but it raised... questions. Interesting questions that Fionn hadn't had a chance to dwell on yet but... not offensive.

"I shouldn't have said it. It was disrespectful to you," he explained softly, making it clear that he wasn't going to allow her to shrug off his words. Yes, apologising was certainly becoming a habit with Aurelie but it didn't mean that he didn't mean what he said. That being said, he'd be better off allowing his actions to speak for themselves rather than having to have words cover up for his failings.

The girl looked up at last, peering up at him from beneath her lashes, something that could be purely coincidental. She was shy and she was smaller than him so she'd have to look up, of course she would, and she didn't quite want to look him full in the face so it wasn't... it wasn't intentional. She wasn't looking at him like that with... purpose. Even though she must know that it was quite fetching. Certainly fetching. It had an innocence about it, yes but it wasn't... childish. It was quite distracting actually. He hadn't thought that it could be quite so distracting.

His heart was beating quite a bit faster now, racing along so that he could feel the pulse in his throat, feel it tightening, making it more uncomfortable to breathe, the need to swallow far more pressing than it had been before so he didn't feel as if he was going to choke. He cleared his throat awkwardly, ready to argue the point of fanciness, and then practically dove for the 'kerchief. Unfortunately, the servant in Aura had the same response, moving automatically so that they ended up smacking into each other.

"Urgh! Sweet Lady... fuck. Sorry," he groaned, swaying a little, disorientated, flopping into a sitting position with an 'oof'. He turned his legs to the side, leaning forward to resume his previous mission. One hand moved to rub at his injured forehead, inadvertently poking her with his elbow, while the other groped a little blindly for the dropped cloth. He found it at the same time that Aura did, snatching just a moment after him so that she grabbed his hand as well. The youth froze, choosing not to wrench his hand free and she let go of it soon enough in any case.

The young man took a moment to catch his breath, drawing his hand in to look at the embroidery work but finding them close together, peering at her over the top of the square, finding himself looking up a tad as she had a little height on him at the moment. She was crouched and she hadn't drawn away, even though she could have. He was on the floor and she was near to it, close enough that he could lean up if he wanted and-

Uh. If he leaned up then he could hear her a little better obviously. Hearing her was important of course. As it was, he barely caught the last thing she said, even though he had found himself leaning a little closer, hardly noticing that he'd done it. Pink dusted the tops of his cheeks as he looked down, focusing on the square and the amateur stitches. A finger traced the pattern.

Ivy, was that what this was? Well, there were leaves and it wasn't like those on trees, especially given how they'd been joined together - vines. Yes, the leaves were quite dark, the thread obviously purposely chosen for that purpose although she wasn't skilled enough to have rendered them well. No, that wasn't fair. There was more than one colour in an ivy leaf and the vines themselves didn't tend to be green. She'd tried and she'd done well given the limited materials. He was trying to be kind inside his own head, using his artistic insights to judge her more fairly. Why was he doing that?

"Uh... why ivy? Is there some... meaning to it? Sorry, is that a stupid question? Should I know the meaning?" he asked softly, peering up at her from beneath his own lashes. He licked his lips, raising his head a little higher, head tilting a tad while his eyes narrowed. "Actually... why did you do it? Why go to all this effort when... when... We aren't friends and you don't know me. If you knew me then... you'd know that I'm not worth it, Aurelie."

His lips flattened into an unhappy line, his expression troubled as he drew back. He dropped the handkerchief on his knee and leaned backwards, using one hand to support his weight. His free hand found the back of his neck, roaming upwards until his fingers tangled in his blond locks. "It's not that I don't appreciate it - I do, it's lovely - and I-I-I appreciate anything artistic and you- It mustn't have been easy t-t-to get the materials a-a-and- I- Thanks but-"

Fionn had no idea what he was saying. He could hardly say anything, the words piling up on his tongue and staying there, choking out the odd syllable until he ground to a halt, closing his eyes while he took deep steadying breaths, trying to get a handle on himself. He wasn't even sure what was wrong, why he was... upset? Clock the Circle, he was upset! How had that happened?
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Aurelie Steerpike
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Sun Nov 10, 2019 3:04 pm

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It was a curious thing for Aurelie to be looking down at anyone, but particularly Fionn. Curious and strange, though not unpleasantly so. They were awfully close together--her newfound angle put her close enough that she could almost count every freckle on Fionn’s face. If she wanted to. There were an awful lot of them. Aurelie had plenty herself, but the didn’t seem nearly as interesting. He had a scar on his face, she observed idly, watching him as he spoke. All her embarrassment and awkwardness had seemed to spread over her nerves, making them alert while her muscles remained resolutely frozen in place. Her heart felt very loud, battering against her breastbone. Blessed Lady, why was she so nervous?

”M-meaning? Oh! To the… the ivy? Er, well.” Aurelie tried to marshal her nerves together. She had planned to tell him what the pattern was, before. It seemed childish now, the actions of a besotted schoolgirl. Saying it out loud felt faintly ridiculous. If she could have gotten any redder, she would have. As it was, she already resembled an overripe tomato.

”It’s--oh, ticks. It’s for… for gratitude. And f-friendship. One of the other girls told me that once,” she added hastily. ”I didn’t expect you to--to know that, no. It just seemed nice at the time, and I… wanted to do something… nice?”

Fionn looked upset. She had made him upset. Somehow, though she wasn’t sure which part of it had been the worst. Miserably she curled and uncurled a strand of the hair that framed her face around one finger. She had made a great clocking fool of herself and now he was upset with her, which was sensible really. Who wanted some moony girl they didn’t even know come to see them in the middle of the day, bearing overly sentimental gifts? We aren’t friends, and you don’t know me. She had to admit to herself that this is what it was, a gift. A bribe, really, to convince him to be her friend. Except it wasn’t even a good present. Aurelie had tried her best, she really had, but she was no deft hand with fancywork and the results seemed poorer and poorer the longer the little square of cloth was on Fionn’s knee. In what way did that even look like ivy, really? It was very kind of him to lie to her and tell her it was lovely, but it was obviously not.

”Please don’t worry about it. You don’t have to keep it, if you don’t want it. I know you have plenty, and it’s--it’s not very good. It wasn’t too much effort at all, really it wasn’t. I just needed the practice, I’m trying to learn, you see, so…” This was only partially a lie--she had a sampler to practice on that she had abandoned in favor of this, but he didn’t need to know that. ”There’s no meaning behind it or anything. You can throw it away, or, or…”

A miserable groan escaped her, and Aurelie abandoned her hair-twirling in favor of dropping her face into her hands. At least then she wouldn’t have to look at Fionn’s face anymore and be reminded of how absolutely badly she had ruined this.

”No, that’s not true.” Her voice was muffled by her hands. She just--she needed to be honest, at least a little bit. She had barged in here and upset him and disrupted his afternoon, she at least owed him that much. Surely even Aurelie Steerpike could muster some scrap of honesty. Even if she had to deliver it all through the protective shield of her fingers. ”I know we aren’t friends, and I don’t know you well at all, it’s true. But I--I really am grateful, for the other day, a-and, well. It was--nice, or at least I thought--talking I mean, it was… I don’t know you, but I want to know you. But I know I’ve--I’ve really gone about this all wrong. I’m sorry. I’ll--I’ll leave and I won’t bother you again. Just, er, give me a moment here.” Just a little bit of time the last of her dignity to finish with its death throes, and she could get up and leave and never cross his path again.
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Fionn
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Sun Nov 10, 2019 4:42 pm

Loshis 39, 2719 | Midday
Professor Keyes' Office
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Gratitude and friendship. Clocking hell. He felt embarrassed just looking at the handkerchief now, at that painstakingly embroidered ivy because he didn’t deserve it. He really didn’t deserve it at all. It upset him more honestly because it was too nice, far too nice for the likes of him. She shouldn’t be thankful to him, not for anything, not when he was the source of trouble. She wouldn’t have cut her thumb if he wasn’t there to distract her, wouldn’t have had any reason to end up under the disapproving eyes of that Matron bitch if it wasn’t for him. She shouldn’t thank him for saving her from the mess he’d created. As for friendship…

Fionn didn’t think that he made a very good friend. Not a good friend, a good brother, a good lover, a good gated passive - he couldn’t even seem to do thatright, being a magical failure. Always asking questions, always talking back, he could be incredibly lazy and snobby to boot! But with others, the way he acted with them! Niamh was often upset or stressed around him. His allies had never fared well over the years. Fred had been killed, maybe Ayden had been too but he didn’t know what had happened to him beyond vanishing. Jamie was a nuisance that he tolerated and he was just as likely to terrorise and torment him, as he'd done to many of those he'd come in contact with over the years. And Lars...

Lars was the only person he'd been truly close to in here aside from Ayden. The young man certainly hadn't fared well from having contact with the middle Madden. Fionn had known that associating with him would be bad for his former roommate but he'd done it anyway. Lars had committed a murder, he'd almost gotten into serious trouble because it and their poor attempt at getting rid of the body - all Fionn's fault. Ayden had developed a sort of obsession with destroying him and so he'd coerced Fionn into beating the passive up and he'd done an excellent job of it, throwing a ludicrous amount of his frustrations into punches and kicks and the young man had almost died. He hadn't known that the Hessean had some sort of blood condition, hadn't known that he'd bleed that much but it didn't excuse what he'd done. It didn't matter that he'd turned on Ayden and ensured the other's safety because he'd ended up dragging Lars back into his orbit. He'd managed to convince him to have some sort of relationship with him and yet now he was being distant again, avoiding the older servant.

Clock the Circle, he'd hardly said two words to Lars since mid-Bethas and even then he noticed that the other had cooled towards him and why? Well, because Fionn had done an excellent job of holding him at arm's length, giving him one signal and then another quite contradictory one until he shoved him away. He used and he damaged and he seemed to attract trouble so no... no, he wasn't a good friend. He was no reformed character, not really, not when he still used so many people without any regards for the feelings. He was too selfish. Did he want to break someone else? Draw someone else into his orbit so he could ruin them?

Too late for that...

Aurelie wanted to be his friend, even though their interactions hadn't been good ones and even though such a relation would be unwise at the best of times. A friendship with any male passive would be a difficult thing, even if it was entirely platonic and non-sexual because the fear would always be there but with him? Clock the Circle, she even knew he had a reputation! It was entirely unwarranted, of course, because he'd never been near a woman, never even laid a hand on one of his fellow female servants.

Except her, he reminded himself, the remembrance of her hand between his own rising unbidden in his mind and he felt the flutter in his stomach return.

She must feel something towards him to have embroidered the handkerchief, even if it was innocent, a desire to have a friend, an ally in this place but the effort was an indication that he should shove her away from him hard.

But the blond didn't gain the same pleasure or satisfaction from hurting others as he once had and he'd never enjoyed hurting those that he had some genuine feeling for and Aurelie seemed to have ended up somewhere in that zone. So as she blathered on in front of him, he had a guilty twist in his gut to go along with that nervous little flutter.

"I won't throw it away! I'm not saying that- I didn't mean-" he spluttered out, cutting himself off while he tried to consider his words for once before rushing on without thought. They weren't as forthcoming as usual, not even ill-advised ones, especially when her face dropped into her hands. Brown eyes darted around in wild panic as if seeking inspiration for what he was meant to do. To all intents and purposes, she had the appearance of already having been broken,

Shit. He didn't know how to deal with this. He hoped that she wasn't going to start crying. He had a horrible knack for making women cry, he'd noticed of late and he wasn't sure that she'd be comforted if he tried to touch her. They were passive, people didn't touch them and he knew that; she was no pampered golly girl.

Aurelie began telling her hands all of the things that he'd worried about, the things he hadn't wanted her to be grateful for or to like about him and he huffed out a frustrated breath, hand very nearly tugging his hair out at the root.

Until she started apologising as if it was all her fault.

"Hey, no. No, no, no, don't say that," the servant chided, pushing himself forward so that he was sitting up properly, leaning closer to her. Both hands free now, he used them to pull her hands down. Provided that she didn't pull away, one hand would move to cup her chin, to lift it so that she'd look at him.

"You didn't do anything wrong, none of this is wrong, and you haven't bothered me. Do not apologise for that. Don't apologise for being fucking nice. If you've made it this long without turning into something bitter and vindictive or just dying inside then good for you. Do not apologise for still being a person, Aurelie Steerpike," Fionn told her sternly.

He was breathing a little harder, face red for a reason other than embarrassment and he was staring at her quite intently. And he realised what he was doing. He realised that he'd touched her, taking charge as he'd done in the Kitchens but now he was... differently aware. Maybe because they were alone, maybe because of the handkerchief and what it pointed to, maybe because she'd showed some vulnerability in front of him, shown enough of herself that he could take a stab at it and hurt her if he wanted to do so.

Slowly, the teenager started to move back, painfully aware of what he was doing and somehow thinking that doing it slowly would make it easier for both of them.
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