A Little Moore Conversation (Muse)

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Maximus
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Thu Mar 07, 2019 1:42 pm

Ophus 3, 2718 | Evening
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Niamh was having a difficult time. She'd managed to put off returning home for a few extra days but the return to Vienda was inevitable. Soon enough, she'd be back under her father's thumb and her mother's watchful gaze, a certain expectation placed on her shoulders, especially as she was set to enter her final year. And it would be made all the more bitter by the fact that Oísin would be swanning around the household, the next master of the family despite being nearly four years her junior. He was master of all he surveyed and she was being measured up and judged by her parents as they tried to decide how to marry her off. She was running out of time and while her brother had managed to secure a valuable connection by befriending the son of a very reputable Magister, the boy in the year above the youngest Madden, Niamh had failed to make the kind of connections that they'd hoped. She hadn't managed to gain the interest of a potential marriage partner (a decent one) and that was the main reason to let your daughter go to Brunnhold, wasn't it? It was the main reason that they stayed in school, right?

Well, Niamh had plenty of ideas about what she wanted to but but it was highly unlikely that they'd allow her to further her education, especially as they already disapproved of her being so studious.

First of all, what was the point? Her mother's education hadn't amounted to much given the sort of role she'd been inserted into in life so what was the point of filling the girl's head with ideas that would only make her an unhappy wife. Secondly, who wanted a girl who was so concerned with such things? Intelligence wasn't an attractive quality in a broodmare.

It didn't matter what Niamh wanted and she wouldn't really have much choice in the end, agree or be disowned. The young woman was somewhat resigned to the latter occurring, which was why she'd been saving money, it was the reason why she'd taken the job that she had and stuck with it. Well... one of the reasons she'd stayed.

Which brought her to the other thing she was worrying about. The girl had received a letter from her father the previous evening basically demanding her presence in the coming days and the redhead had been upset - was still upset - about it, which was why she'd made the decision that she had. It had been silly and impulsive, the need for a distraction obviously driving her to the height of stupidity. When she'd gotten up this morning, Niamh had been full of a manic optimism, clearly overcompensating and it had prompted her to pop to the kitchens to have words with the passives. She'd made a very polite request - much to their discomfort - for them to make a cake, including a little icing if it wasn't too much trouble. For today was Harper Moore's birthday and the student had decided that she ought to help him celebrate it.

Of course, the bravado that had existed in the early afternoon was gone by the end of the same period but by then it was far too late. The eldest Madden couldn't go back on her earlier whim, not when the passives would already have put the work in and how ungrateful would she seem if he asked it of them or worse demanded and then changed her mind? It just wasn't on because it wasn't fair. That didn't mean that she didn't put things off a little bit, worried about going to see the man who she felt certain would probably be working away, forgetting everything around him including his own birthday.

However, she couldn't put off going to see him indefinitely and she didn't actually want to do so. Niamh quite wanted to see Harper, which was part of the problem. It was why it made her consider her appearance carefully before she went to collect the requested baked goods. The young woman wanted to make some effort to at least be noticeably pretty - even if it was likely to go unnoticed - and she was anxious about appearing too obvious.

Professors and students shouldn't have relationships of a romantic or sexual nature, the power dynamic definitely skewed towards the older professor in society's eyes. The older professor who should certainly know better. That didn't mean that there weren't those students who went out of their way to seduce their teachers. The last thing that Niamh wanted to be accused of that.

So she considered and she agonised over her limited choice of wardrobe, the young woman not really requiring much outside of her uniform and so she either had casual clothes, often quite comfortable and a bit frumpy (even she knew that) that weren't really meant for wearing out and about and clothes for going out in the Stacks. Not that Niamh went out too often and even then she was quite understated. So she had to settle for a mix of things. She decided that something simple would work. She had a lovely taupe skirt that was very plain but quite versatile. It was calf-length, cinched lightly at the waist before falling down almost straight, the barest folds in it that couldn't really be called pleats. It had always been fine to her until she looked at herself in the mirror while wearing a white blouse and suddenly realised that it was terrible. Had she worn this? Gods, no wonder other girls despaired of her.

Taupe skirt was definitely out. She might have to burn it in fact. Had she ever worn it in Harper's presence before? Circle preserve her, she bloody well hoped not!

Did avoiding making an obvious effort mean that she had to look like... that? She certainly hoped not. Although... she did have a nice skirt, didn't she? It was ankle-length (that was modest enough right?) but it was fitted at the hips (she just about had those), which might show off something of the minimal assets she possessed, and it gradually widened to the hem. And it was quite pretty with its soft green floral print that she'd been told worked well with her hair and her eyes, and it had subtle white flounces at the hem topped with a band of lace. Maybe it was a bit much to wear in the ordinary run of things but it wasn't too far off her normal uniformed state so was it really so bad?

And there was a form-fitting white blouse to go with it, the sleeves slightly ballooned but tight at the cuffs, ruffles at the neck, that gathered frill continuing down the front on either side of the buttons. It wasn't like it was over the top ruffling, she could get away with it, right? Right?

Gosh, scandal was going to occur, it really was but she opted for cosmetics as well. She'd never been good with those. She worked to darken her lashes, the attempt something that had to be repeated more than once before she could say that she was somewhat happy with the result. It was subtle, not too much as it ought to be. That was the correct way but she kept going, ignoring the derisive voice within her, the names that she called herself, the self-disgust. She managed to line the top of her eyelids, getting a dark line that was thin enough before she added soft brown to the lids themselves.

You're such a whore. Mother would be proud, the voice in her head snide as she tried to push it away, to bury it deep but it didn't go away as she added a subtle pink to her lips and fled in the direction of the kitchens before she could stop herself and change her mind.

Father would be sick if he saw you, smack you for slutting for some passive-loving professor.

Circle, no, I'm good, I'm not Mother, I'm not, I'm not doing anything wrong, she thought back at it, feet moving faster, shoes clattering loudly on the floor as if that would drown it all out, smother the memories that rose.
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She'd been young, it was before Brunnhold, Oísin had still been quite small and she'd been left in her mother's room, curiosity driving her to the woman's vanity table. It had been play, mimetic as she copied what she'd seen her mother do. She got into the colours, the ones that definitely weren't considered good for a woman of a certain class to wear. And her mother had come in while her face was heavily painted, lip stain as far down as her chin. She remembered how the woman had laughed, lightly scolding her for wasting it but she had cleaned her up and started again, using the colours that Niamh wanted and the girl had looked... not like a woman, not with those babyish features, the childish roundness of her face but she looked pretty, mature. It had been a pleasant thing until Father came in, until he lost his mind.

It was impossible to scrub the recollection from her mind of his hand rough, twisted in her hair as he yanked it back, the girl child sobbing while he rubbed her face raw, words filling her young ears that weren't directed at her but were about her.

Child whore. Tart.

Words thrown at her mother, abuse, so much abuse and then Fionn had come in as a result of Niamh's bawling, entirely unbidden and he'd demanded that she be left alone. Father's anger had somehow increased, the Incumbent roaring as he backhanded the boy across the face and sent him flying, the edge of his forehead striking the corner of the vanity and the blood spurting, painting everything while her Father left, chaos remaining in his wake.

She wasn't supposed to wear makeup. She wasn't. She was meant to be a good girl. She was meant to be good and she wasn't being good. Harper wasn't the sort of man that her father wanted her to make herself pretty for, wasn't marriage material. If Toibin Madden had his way, his daughter wouldn't even associate with the man. She was likely to get an earful about working with him and Professor Devlin when she got home. But if he knew about her infatuation, had even an inkling of it...

If she hadn't gotten as far as the kitchens and been seen then there might still have been a chance to turn around. Maybe she could still go back, clean herself up, make herself appropriately dowdy and then go to see the professor. Or maybe it'd be better if she didn't go at all but she could hardly eat a whole chocolate cake by herself, the layers thick and luxurious looking, the icing certainly not as minimalist as she'd hoped or expected. It would be mean to have asked the passives to make such a thing and run away with it herself because she was being a fool.

Who was going to see her like this? Some passives who didn't care about what galdori got up to or their comparatively trivial concerns? Harper Moore who wasn't likely to notice in any case? It wasn't as if Father was going to find out so she was safe... wasn't she?

She was definitely a little dewy-eyed as she left the kitchens, blinking rapidly to stop herself from crying because after the effort and the decision that she'd come to the last thing she needed was to make her makeup run. She walked as briskly as she dared given her rather chocolatey burden and the pale clothing she was wearing that would broadcast the tiniest stain to the world at large.

There was a nervous energy running through her as she walked, heading for the familiar laboratory, wondering what she was meant to say. Assuming that he was there. Yes, he was wont to live - quite literally - and work in the lab but what if he wasn't? What if he'd gone home to Muffey? What if one of his colleagues had dragged him off to make him take a break and celebrate? What if he was out with some other woman who'd managed to catch his eye who was smart enough and pretty enough and wouldn't need to pad the top of a corset to pretend that she had a bust? She hadn't even bothered with that because what was the point, what was the point in lying to herself? She had to listen to the snide comments often enough, her brother's friends particularly cruel to the frigid, titless bitch because that was what she was, wasn't it? The idea that Moore, or anyone else, might ever think that she was trying to seduce the man was laughable. With what?

And if he was there, what was she meant to say? Oh, I brought cake because I found out it was your birthday by eavesdropping? Oh yes, it would all be marvellous! She really hadn't thought this true and the redhead was having many regrets but she was on her course now and she was going to see it through, no matter how humiliating it might turn out to be. He might just tell her to go away, not wanting the silly girl to disturb his work and if he did that then she was going to shatter into a million little shards and he'd probably unthinkingly and unknowingly grind them underfoot.

All too soon - or maybe all too late - Niamh arrived at her destination, adjusting her grip on the cake so that she could hold it with one hand, leaving her free to knock on the door and turn the handle, returning to a two-handed grip when it clicked open. She used her elbow to push the door inwards, coming through it to... chaos.

Harper Moore was absentminded at the best of times. The man became very absorbed in his work and so it wasn't unusual for things to became a bit disorganised and... slovenly. This was... this was a new level of mess. There was paper everywhere. The scrawled sheets seemed to be absolutely everywhere, every surface littered with them or some other artefact of his work and that included on the floor. It looked as if he might have laid them out on the ground at one point for some unclear reason. There were teacups dotted around the place as well, some leaning askew from their saucers, the dregs of their contents plain to see. There was every sign that the man had slept there, the couch bearing clear hallmarks of use especially as the man had forgotten to tidy up anything at all, blankets thrown haphazardly from where they'd been tossed back. And in the midst of it all was the whirlwind himself with ink staining his fingers and smeared across his forehead.

The girl stared, exuding a shocked breath. Hazel eyes were wide in her flushed face, the walk and the excitement having filled her visage with colour, and she might have blushed at the sight of it all, what she'd so innocently walked into if she wasn't so warm already.

"Um... good evening, professor. I... don't mean to impose, especially as I can see that you're... busy." Her gaze travelled around the room, more than a little dismay in her features as she used her foot to gently push the door shut behind her. "I'd heard that it was your birthday so I-I-I brought cake," she explained, holding up the offering in question as if it wasn't already obvious enough. Gods, she had no idea where she was going to put it? What was the man doing? What on Vita could be so important that he hadn't noticed this? There was even a lived-in smell in here that wasn't wholly pleasant.

Maybe that was why her tongue kept going entirely unbidden. "Well, I think that you could use a break in any case and then we can see if we can't clean this place up a bit because honestly, professor, it really is a state," she chided, a new voice screaming wordlessly in her head as she just carried on, as practical as can be.

"I know that I'm meant to help you with your research but I don't think that means that I'm meant to pick up things after you. I'm not a maid, your maid, I'm not um..."

Okay, now she was blushing because she'd managed to have an unfortunate thought in the middle of declaring her non-maid status. No, she was that, a virgin, yes but then the thought had kept going in line with the words, especially that little voice that said that it wanted him to be the one that-

"So where will I put the cake?" she asked with loud enthusiasm.

Gods, don't let him notice, don't let him notice, don't let him notice-
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Thu Mar 28, 2019 4:03 pm

3rd of Ophus, 2718
Laboratory Beta | Evening
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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:

"Cake?"

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."
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Wed Apr 03, 2019 5:55 pm

Ophus 3, 2718 | Evening
Laboratory Beta
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She shouldn't have come, she shouldn't have done this to herself. Maybe she shouldn't have done it to him either. The professor was hardly fit for visitors, especially one of the female persuasion, not given his rather dishevelled state of dress.

Don't stare, don't tell him to tuck his shirt in, don't say anything. Pretend you don't see anything, for the Circle's sake, say nothing! she told herself, forcing her gaze to wander around the room, up to the ceiling, anywhere but at the suspenders dangling from his waist, the partially untucked shirt and the- Was that a flash of torso-

Sweet Lady, Niamh!

Her face could have baked the cake, especially as she highly doubted that the blush was going to go away any time soon. It felt like the heat had crept its way up to the roots of her hair and down the skin of her throat. He'd be able to see her embarrassment from a mile away. She just had to soldier on, pretend that nothing was wrong, nothing amiss.

"So I've been given to understand, it's your birthday, Professor, yes," she admitted quietly, making a non-committal humming sound when Professor Devlin was mentioned. If she was vague about how she'd come by the information then things couldn't come back to bite her later. She hoped. But she couldn't let him think that she'd made the cake though. Gods, just the notion that she might have done such a thing, gone out of her way- As if she wasn't obvious enough!

"Oh no, I didn't make it- I couldn't in any case, I'm not very good at... that kind of thing," she explained, desperate to brush hair away from her flushed face so that she could do something but her hands were occupied with the cake.

The young woman took hesitant steps forward, gaze flicking over the papers that he held but finding her eyes straying from the academic content and to his person. Oh she felt guilty for it, at least in part but it was all too easy to let herself consider him, to admire him when he was so utterly clueless. Her teeth bit into her lip, the eldest Madden finding that a sound threatened to rise from her lips, a sound that she had to bite off. If given the opportunity, she was going to let loose a noise of appreciation, a pleased purr at what she beheld. It was a good thing that he couldn't see her blush deepen and he was no doubt too clueless to note the guilty little start that she gave when she turned, Niamh's focus switching to the little space that he'd made.

She couldn't very well move the stuff herself now, could she? The only way that was going to happen was if she put the cake down, which was kind of the problem because she needed somewhere to put it first so that she could make room to put it down... Putting it on the floor wasn't an option - at least, not an acceptable one. So she stood there, waiting, trying to keep her focus away from him, especially when he finally copped the state he was in and tried to tidy himself up. Poor man, he had no idea, didn't have a notion of what had entered the room with him. He didn't know how deplorably enamoured the student was with him, how many secret hopes she'd pinned on him and how he so unconsciously succeeded in pulling on her heartstrings.

The girl felt sorry for what she'd done, for forcing her company on the man when he clearly had other concerns, more worthy ones. There she was, biting her lip to stop herself from smiling, field giving a delighted little flutter as he used her name while he spoke about the report he was putting together. He was talking about meaningful, important research, possibly even life-changing stuff while she was busy being a ridiculously silly little girl.

Gods, she couldn't even show familiarity with him by calling him Harper and it had nothing to do with respect or decorum or anything like that. If she called him by his first name then she'd more than likely end up giggling or grinning stupidly or some similarly idiotic behaviour that would be oh so obvious. Better to hide behind formality.

It was one of the reasons why - even if she'd come here with less than pure intentions, certainly not academic ones - she tried to turn her attention to what was plaguing him. It was easier to speak about such matters, to hold herself together, keep her treacherous field in some check because she had always been so poor at hiding things as she should have been able to do.

"Is there some way that I could help, Professor? With your report, I mean. Would it be easier if you... tried to explain it to me? I know that I'm nowhere near as well-versed in the subject as you are but I have a bit more experience than the people you're trying to explain it to so I can grasp a bit more. I'm also a bit closer to them though so I could maybe help you... tailor it to a less knowledgeable audience," the redhead suggested, feeling quite self-conscious at the suggestion.

She was glad to have the space to put the cake down because it freed up her hands, letting her move her fingers over her hair, tidying stray strands even if they didn't exist anywhere but inside her own head. It was just something to do, some way to keep herself occupied, an external display of her own nervousness and uncertainty.

Who was she to suggest that she could help the monic theorist in his task? Who was she to presume?

Clock the Circle, why are you such a fool? You should thank yourself that he doesn't just laugh at you for being such a bloody child!

"You don't have to worry about candles or anything, really, it was just- I'm not trying to make a big deal of things but- Yes, you uh... have some ink on your face as well as your hands but-" Niamh told him in a nervous rush, breaking off with a wince as the cup hit the ground, breaking in a frankly pathetic fashion and oozing its contents everywhere. Sad little teacup.

The young woman moved on automatic, hardly noticing how she adjusted her skirt as she knelt, making to clean up after him even in spite of what she'd said. She moved to salvage paper, wobbling it delicately to free it of droplets before it could absorb the liquid fully, shifting other things out of harm's way.

"I'm sorry, Professor."

Why in clocking hell was she apologising? Circle preserve her!

"I'll sort it, you're all right, just leave it, I don't mind I- What I said before, I didn't mean to sound-"

She broke off with a blush, not sure where she was going with that thought and how she wanted to finish it, his words derailing her further. She tried to bite back a smile but it crept out all the same, shy but a little mischievous.

"Not an unpleasant surprise, I hope. I wasn't sure what you might like so I just- Well, you can't go wrong with chocolate, can you?" she admitted with a soft giggle, hazel eyes flitting away self-consciously. "I'll sort this. Please, I don't mind. Really... Harper. Just... go tidy up, it's your birthday after all, you shouldn't have to do anything and you certainly shouldn't have to listen to students who are being far too bossy for their own good."

Her tone was a self-deprecating one, the young woman stunned at her own boldness, her own familiarity, hoping that the nervous little laugh in the middle would be taken as simple embarrassment because that was certainly in there. But she'd used his name and that was... that was a lot. It was why she had that desperate little flutter inside her, a delighted excitement from her own daring.

Gods, she was being pathetic, wasn't she?

Her fingers moved deftly, the final year quite used to dealing with her employer's various little messes and catastrophes and she had a greater surety about her while she did it because it was familiar and the routine of it was comforting. If he did what he was told then she would indeed deal with the matter, pausing briefly to sort out putting on the kettle with water to boil before she went back to her tidying. The redhead actually had a secret stash of teacups, spares that she kept hidden away so that those that met with misfortunes could be easily replaced. She had a little stockpile in fact so that neither of the professors would ever be without - Niamh was quite used to teacups being broken. As such, fresh teacups with new patterns would greet Harper when he returned from his wash, tea leaves carefully measured out already and the room fast on its way to becoming some semblance of tidy or at least far less messy than it had been.
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Thu Apr 11, 2019 3:17 pm

3rd of Ophus, 2718
Laboratory Beta | Evening
"You were informed correctly. The lower forms don't even teach much cooking any more, do they? Everything is so much easier with servants. Or so I hear. A cake is easy, really—" Harper mumbled nearly just as quietly, clearly not attached to the day of his birth any more than he was attached to any other day of the year. Did he notice how flushed the young woman was? Did he see any hint of her distractedness in his company? Perhaps he dismissed it as youth. Perhaps some part of him wanted to believe it was simply because she was a student and he was an esteemed professor of monic theory. It certainly wasn't because he was a decent-looking galdor or because he was at all interesting in that sort of way.

No one ever made it past the theory. Not for long.

He should have let his parents arrange something years ago, but at thirty-six—Good Lady! thirty-seven—what kind of prospective husband was he anymore?

"I suppose your suggestion isn't a poor one, actually. You might be onto something." Professor Moore admitted off-handedly, chewing the inside of his cheek for a moment while clearly in thought, turning over her words more than once in his mind, "Though, honestly, Miss Madden, you're perhaps only a little less knowledgeable but you're certainly no less intelligent. You've got far more experience in monic theory and research than some of the Magisters I have to present this to, if you'll believe it."

He smiled while he moved objects out of the way, aware that he'd complimented her mind and her ability to understand his research in the same breath but wanting to encourage the young student who he saw as unsure of herself in this moment more than anything else. She was a likable woman, kind but nervous, full of an anxious energy that Harper both felt in his own life but also didn't understand in the lives of others.

The teacup tinkled and shattered. In mirrored motion, both himself and Niamh bent down to begin picking up the pieces, her apology snapping his attention upward. Their hands brushed accidentally more than once and he attempted to keep himself out of her way while they both foolishly applied themselves to the same small task, "Don't apologize. Here—it's fine—I can—"

The professor chuckled, flustered and suddenly very unsure of himself, reaching awkwardly for a couple of crumpled up pages and reopening them, offering them as a place to set broken porcelain on. Once the pieces were gathered, he stood with every intention of tossing them and washing his hands,

"—no, it's not unpleasant. I just—no one really—I don't celebrate much. It's nice. I'll bring a towel. Just hang on—bossy? No. It's just another day, really, but I appreciate the sentiment. I don't think anyone has brought me a cake ... ever. Chocolate was the right choice. You must be one of a handful of people who know me well enough to decide that."

Harper grinned, but it was so extraordinarily shy that he all but fled the room, stepping over some of his mess of paperwork and disappearing toward the small washroom. It was hard for him to not imagine all the blood every clocking time he walked in there, the memories of a broken Lars having left a very deep impression on the sensitive galdor all those months ago. He always expected to see it all over again, holding his breath while he opened the door, hazel gaze sweeping the tiny space with a hint of anticipation. But it was clean and dark and he tossed the broken tea cup into the waste bin, reaching for the faucet and remembering to exhale.

He was still smiling.

It felt odd. It felt good.

No one other than Castor had made much of his birthday in years, and Castor either took him out for a much-needed drink or dragged him home to his wife's delicious meals. Miss Madden had brought him a whole cake and it was with very welcome reluctance that he was glad for it, though he had no idea until this moment the younger student had any thoughts about his person at all.

She'd snapped at him about cleaning. She'd felt so eager to do things he should have done himself.

Was there something he should have said?

Harper stared at his own face reflected back at him in the tiny sliver of a washroom mirror. He was tired. He'd become used to sleeping on the sofa, but he missed his bed. He felt pulled in so many directions between his passive research and the passives—the people he'd come to care about one by own—themselves, not to mention his classes and campus politics. How had another year slipped by so swiftly? He'd hardly had time to be thirty six!

Returning to the lounge after having attempted to wash the ink away from his face and hands, he realized that Niamh had not been still in his absence. The room looked different. Tidier. The kettle was back on. New teacups were on the small coffee table. The cake was waiting.

Where had those teacups come from, anyway? The bespectacled galdor might have stared at them for a moment too long, confused, before his hazel gaze swept back to the redhead who'd worked some very spectacular secular sort of magic while he hadn't been looking.

"You really didn't need to go to all that trouble, but it's nice. It's really nice." Professor Moore fumbled lamely, offering the most awkward of shy smiles, "I'm a grown man and should know better. You're a—er—um—a young galdor woman who shouldn't have to clean up after a damn professor. Now, please. Come sit. I should have a knife somewhere and we can have some cake before I ramble on about all of this technical data."

Harper waved a hand almost dismissively at the compiled works of his controversial passive experiments. The nexus. Genetic histories. Diablerie results. All of it had to mean something, and all he wanted was for some part of it to mean acceptance for a forgotten, senselessly abused swath of their own population.

There were old plates and a bit of cutlery tucked away in a drawer near the shelf of books—Professor Moore known to eat in Laboratory Beta almost as often as he was known to sleep here like some reclusive religious hermit lost in the mountains of Gior. He moved to cut the cake, pausing with the knife over the frosting for just a moment,

"Thank you." He repeated as if it was necessary before making slices, offering the first plate to Niamh as if it was a toast,

"To birthdays and clocking ridiculous theories."
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Tue Apr 16, 2019 4:30 pm

Ophus 3, 2718 | Evening
Laboratory Beta
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A cake was easy to make? Well... Harper had never seen Niamh near a kitchen. When you had as much money as the Maddens did, you didn't need to be able to cook for yourself because you could employ people to do it for you. Even so, her parents thought that useless as it might be, taking some secular cookery classes in Brunnhold couldn't go amiss. An appealing domestic activity for a young woman, no doubt one they'd thought might be alluring to a husband, a proper housewife. Except that it turned out that the only Madden daughter wouldn't be fitting her parent's ideal. It was a good thing that she had magic because it meant that she could put out her own fires and that had definitely become necessary when she had that accident with the flour...

Just thinking about what a disaster she was when it came to the culinary arts was enough to make her crimson so she certainly wasn't going to tell Harper about those particular failings. But... he said that a cake was easy to make so... he could cook? Apparently. There was an unexpected thing but she supposed it made sense. He was nowhere near well off as her family was and if she was in his position - which she would be if she so displeased her father as to be disowned - then she wouldn't have people to cook for her; she'd have to cook for herself. Still, she hadn't thought of him as being in any way domestic before so it was an interesting tidbit of information to have handed to her so innocently.

Innocent and offhand comments were something that he made a habit of making. The professor responded to her suggestion in an unexpected but hardly uncharacteristic manner. She didn't think he had any real notion that he was complimenting her, the words that dropped so easily from his mouth hardly meant to flatter or cajole. They were genuine because as far as the man was concerned what he was saying was simply true. It was done so casually as someone else might make a comment on the weather and it was clear that he wasn't doing it for a response. Even so, it set Niamh's insides a flutter, thrilled by his easy compliments and readily believing them as they dropped from his lips, in the same way that she was usually wont to accept her brother's insults and poisonous rhetoric.

But what Harper said had power over her. He wasn't talking to her as if her knowledge or her intelligence were bad things, unattractive things. They weren't something to be ashamed of or aspects of herself that she should hide because they'd be off-putting to a husband. And then he smiled at her, kind and encouraging and the world flipped and turned around so that she had no idea which way was up.

He knew that he'd complimented her. They hadn't been thoughtless remarks after all, things that he might actually have considered, have thought before, have-

Don't be stupid! He doesn't spend his time thinking about you, especially not like that! It's not like he- He doesn't... she couldn't even finish the thought although the warm glow that came at the end of it was enough for her to know the tone of her thoughts even if she'd rather ignore them: hopeful.

Could he hear her heartbeat? Could he see the way her chest moved as she tried to keep her breathing normal but found herself hyperventilating a bit? Niamh was excitable, excited and almost painfully hopeful that her feelings might be reciprocated, even a little. He was a faculty member, of course he wouldn't - he couldn't - entertain such a notion. And why would he anyway? She was just a schoolgirl (As if no professor has ever fallen for a schoolgirl...) and she obviously wasn't something he'd consider. The eldest Madden wasn't sure that he was even aware of others in that way. Unless they were an equation or a fascinating bit of research or maybe an actual research subject, he wasn't liable to notice and get excited about much.

He certainly wouldn't notice her painfully hopeful response. All the same, it was bloody lucky that there was no external indicator of her heart rate, nothing to announce the rapidity of her pulse, especially when they started gathering cup fragments and he kept inadvertently brushing his hand off her own. It was actually an odd relief when the task was over because it meant that she could stop going mad over the frustration of it all.

And there was plenty of frustration, the young woman feeling distinctly warmer than she had when she came in. It was being alone with him like this when he was so distracted and yet unbelievably attractive, dropping compliments about her and just being so... so...

Circle save her, why had she done this to herself?

Did she regret it? Not entirely because how could she? The student might be nervous and embarrassed but she was also happy, pleased with herself for surprising him, guiltily pleased with how much she'd flustered him and eager to spend more time with him. If she could just calm down a little, soothe that inner fluttering so that she could get some cake down without feeling like she might throw it up from nervousness.

Niamh just had to get over the initial hurdles, the first nervous moments except that they seemed to be stretching out, the professor inadvertently extending the period of awkwardness between them as each proved shy and uncertain of themselves around the other. It'd pass, she was sure of it. Actually, it had to pass as the young woman didn't think she could cope if it continued. And it was bloody difficult to cope when you were seeing chemistry and hopeful signs everywhere because it was all well and good telling yourself that you were just seeing what you wanted to see but there was always the matter of... what if it wasn't just in your head? What if you really were seeing something reciprocal?

Did the fact that she knew him well enough to know about the chocolate cake saying anything about their chances? Did the fact that he'd acknowledged how well she knew him, especially so soon after he'd complimented her academic abilities?

When he went off to wash up, it gave her a chance to collect herself, finding reassurance and relaxation in familiar tasks. The repetition of it, something she'd done so many times before, was incredibly soothing and centring and so by the time Harper came back from his scrubbing, she had quite forgotten her worries. In fact, she didn't even notice his return until he spoke, startling her while she was in the midst of tidying up papers, sorting what she could.

"Oh Harper! I- What trouble?" the redhead questioned, gazing at him with a quizzical tilt of the head, the crimson returning as she so unthinkingly used his name. She returned his smile, her own equally shy, brushing her hair back with her fingers, moving to tie it up out of habit. Too late she realised that she had nothing to tie it with and while others could artfully twist their hair so that the strands themselves could be used for such a purpose, it wasn't an art that Niamh had mastered. Instead, she let the locks tumble down again, hand inadvertently tugging them over one shoulder.

"A young galdor woman. Well observed, sir," she remarked saucily before biting her lip. Insolent, disobedient tongue! She shouldn't have said it, not at all! But it didn't stop the young woman from smirking around the bite. It was an easy matter to tease him and she found it surprisingly enjoyable. Before she moved to sit, she wet the tea leaves, leaving things to brew before she settled herself, skirt smoothed behind so it wouldn't crumple.

"To birthdays and theories that are far from ridiculous, especially when there's a very sensible and intelligent man behind them," she retorted, taking the offered plate with a sly smile.
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