3rd of Ophus, 2718
Laboratory Beta | Evening
A gift, with a kind countenance,
is a double present.
— Thomas Fuller
There was never enough time. Ophus had just started and yet Harper Moore felt the pressure of the new year approaching far faster than he would have liked, especially given Headmistress Servalis' insistence that she needed Castor and himself to put more effort into making their quantifiable studies understandable to the chairs, to the Magisters, to the King and Queen for all he knew. It was one thing for it all to make sense to himself, for the monic theorist to be able to put the data together in his mind and see the shape of things, to imagine the future of Vita, to picture the way passives worked without having to put those things into words on paper using all that he'd written down over the past several months.
Gods, it was so clocking difficult to speak plainly sometimes.
He'd been attempting to simplify things all afternoon once his classes had ended, meandering and muttering to the Laboratory and laying out across the lounge floor every book he'd written in. He tore out pages. He arranged things. He rearranged. He broke out his pen and ink. He broke out a new pad of paper. Piles of crumpled rejects littered the floor. At least three cups of half-finished tea sat at very unstrategic places—one perched so precariously on the sofa that it may as well have spilled already. Alioe herself must have been keeping it aloft with her mercies. He'd gnawed two nibs, unwittingly smearing ink across his face, staining his nails, and dribbling on his trousers. All for what?
Two clocking paragraphs.
It was just not enough.
He was about to start tossing more crumpled paper when the door opened and Professor Moore barely managed not to crawl out of his own skin in utter surprise, bespectacled, haggard hazel eyes wide like a startled kenser on the streets,
"Hello—yes—I'm bu—oh, good evening, Miss Madden." She was staring at his mess and had he not been caught up in his own head, unkempt dark hair and all, he might have blushed. Instead, his chagrined smile was lopsided. He was confused and it showed, voice wavering on the single syllable:
Harper almost brought the pen back up to his teeth again but stopped, smile suddenly broadening, "Oh! Oh gods. It's my birthday, isn't it? Oh. I totally—oh. Did Castor tell you? Did you make that for me? I—uh—I wasn't expecting company." Shirt half untucked, suspenders at his knees, cravat buried under papers, he stood there for a few shocked moments, useless and struck stupid, jaw open in the most awkward of expressions. Nodding and smirking, he finally jolted into action, tossing his pen down and shifting to stack papers on top of the low table next to the sofa, organizing them while reading their titles out loud, reading a few lines of each to himself before he set each one in its specific place, making little piles until there was room for her cake.
He swept his hand at the cleared space with the smallest hint of pride before he considered it too small, staring at it as if he'd only just now noticed what a mess he'd made of himself,
"I'm sorry. I'm ridiculous." The monic theorist was clearly flustered now, wiping hands on his shirt only to immediately regret that, noting his undress and beginning to attempt to remedy the situation in a hasty fashion, tucking and tugging, tsking at himself,
"No no no. You're definitely not—I'm so very sorry for my mess, Niamh. I just. I've got this report to put together for the Chairs, for all of Congress from the way Ophelia makes it sound and I'm—it's just—I'm having a terrible time of things. Please, I don't expect you to do all of the cleaning. If we could—uh—not touch that. Or that. Or, tocks, that over there." He was waggling his ink-stained fingers at half the godsbedamned room, now blushing, biting his lip, wincing, "Clock it all. I'll just pick it up and start over. After—or something."
He was blinking, standing there amid his works, staring at the young woman for a moment before he removed his glasses and wiped them with the collar of his shirt—a habit he was known for by even his least observant of students. Moving to clear the three stacks of paper away and give the entire surface of the small table as an offering to the Living student,
"There. Let's put the cake there. Maybe I have a candle or two. Some matches. I should wash my hands—oh—my face, too? Is that it? Mmhmm. I see. Just—hold on. Or put the kettle on—I have a teacup around here somewhere—"
Harper turned to make his way to the washroom, hip so perfectly brushing the precarious teacup on the lounge as to send it teetering to the floor with a crunching, chipping sound. Dregs of tea oozed over paperwork and the handle and delicately curved lip fell to pieces,
"Damn." He'd just wanted to clean up, but stopping himself, he bent down and began to reach for things, chuckling at himself in self-deprecating embarrassment, "You've really surprised me. Thank you."