Floo Network

Summer of 69
[ Belgravia ] we were built to fall apart, then fall back together

Started by Farren Abercrombie, March 03, 2021, 05:05:14 am

Farren Abercrombie

Since parting in Dublin Farren had been mildly obsessed with whatever was unfolding in her life regarding Declan. She'd never dated someone but her second date was scheduled before the first was technically over. Seeing as he'd purchased her a bush at the flower market and he'd made it very clear he wanted to spend time alone with her she had invited him to her house to help her plant the bush. It was a good enough excuse to give them both a reason to spend time together in private without over analyzing it.

Despite advertising the afternoon as a casual, cozy affair she had been preparing the house and gardens all day for the event. Not only was this the first ever date she had planned it was the first time Declan would be coming to her home. It had occurred to her that inviting a man who had very plainly said he wanted a relationship to the house purchased for her by her dead husband was a risky move. However, alternatives were more complicated. Her family's homes were all occupied by relations and even if those estates were sprawling and everyone busy it would be easier to deal with the thoughts of a dead man than a brush with her very alive mother.

The house sat in the middle of one of Belgravia's most elegant crescents. All of the rooms on the ground floor, presumably the only place he might venture, had been tidied and polished. The mid-1800s mansion retained all of its original architectural details but reflected Farren's keen elegant style with meticulously curated classic furnishings. She expected he would pass right by the elegant formal rooms though. The only displays that might interest him were on display in the foyer. Notably absent from the entrance to the home were any signs of the Rosier family that had purchased her this house. Instead the elegant white staircase was lined with portraits of Abercrombie women including her mother, grandmother, great-great grandmother in Wizengamot robes, and an ancestor who had been Headmistress in the 1600s. Opposite the stairs was a handsome marble fireplace for the Floo. Above it was a large portrait of Farren looking regal in a jade gown, her massive Rosie family diamond ring, and the Abercrombie family tiara. The painting had been a wedding gift to Clive from her Grandfather. When Clive had died she'd removed their wedding portrait from the foyer and dragged this one out from Clive's study to ensure anyone who crossed the threshold wouldn't be confused about just whom this house belonged to.

Declan wasn't coming here for the house though. He was coming over to plant a bush - at least in theory. So it was the elegant glass and white washed steel frame conservatory on the back of the house that would be the focus. It was just as opulent as the rest of the house with elegant furnishings nestled amongst large exotic plants. The two sets of glass double doors into the garden were open so the fresh summer air could fill the space and the crups could come and go as they pleased. Her garden was quite the magical feat and clearly the product of some excellent magical skil. From the conservatory you'd have no idea her house was surrounded by other terraced homes. Lined with old trees, a hedge wall, the garden was easily three lots wide. A meandering gravel path lined with overgrown flowers and a large grassy patch in the center.

Earlier in the day her elf had hand delivered a note to Declan so that when he came looking for the house he might find it amongst the other 19th century homes despite it's protective charms. On a heavy vellum card embossed with her initials she'd scrawled the location out to him:

Number 6 Wilton Crescent, Belgravia
P.S. You can't miss it. The crups will be screaming bloody murder when you arrive

She'd put on her favorite casual summer dress. A pale blue tiered cotton dress with a low square neckline. Apart from her silver family locket her only accessory was an silver art deco hair comb pushed into her hair. With wavy lengths effortlessly piled on top of her head she'd let the summer heat give her victorian styled updo a lived in romantic look not bothering to fix the strands that had fallen loose to graze her neck. In order to distract herself as his arrival approached she'd had a small bundle of mail sent over from work. She received dozens of letters a week from readers and made a point to go through one's her staff deemed interesting. Sitting on the sofa in the conservatory she worked her way through the bundle. Letters of merit set on the table before her in a pile on the left the rubbish tossed in a pile on the right.

From the back of the garden the crups came running. He was here. Of course the crups knew first, they could always tell when someone was walking up to the threshold of the doorway. Barking they ran through the conservatory past her sofa into the house. By the time they got to the front door the butler will have opened the door for Declan. She had given up fighting with the old man about greeting her guests herself long ago. Seeing as Declan was an O'Dwyer he would be familiar with the protocol in such houses - ladies didn't answer their own doors. It was a familiar pattern. The crups barked harmlessly at the guest in the foyer. The butler hushed them and shooed them. They would take off, their little nails clicking on the marble floor, heading towards wherever in the house she was. Rushing back to their mistress to sit guard at her feet and protect her.

Inhaling deeply she closed her eyes for a moment. She'd hosted people in this house a million times. She never got butterflies in her own house. This time though was different. Yapping as they bound over the threshold back towards her the crups signaled that her butler and Declan were just a few paces behind. Turning to look to the door she sighed heavily trying to relax, it was no use, her heart was pounding.

Declan O'Dwyer

Once the date and time for a second meeting had been agreed, Declan felt like time was passing more slowly than usual. His workdays at Viridian took forever. Potions that normally more or less brewed themselves, suddenly were quite an effort. Meetings with suppliers and key customers seemed to drag on and on and on. All he wanted was for it to be time to see Farren again, but his mind insisted that he should calm himself. Being too keen was never a flattering look.

As if he wasn't nervous enough, there was also the matter of picking a piece of writing to share with her. He'd promised her while they had been dancing and, no matter how terrifying, he didn't want to go back on his promise to let her read something. Rationally, he knew that he had nothing to worry about, but that didn't stop his stomach from somersaulting at the mere thought. Her opinion mattered to him. He wanted her to like his work. He wanted to believe her when she told him that she liked his work. This latter part was especially tricky as the voice of his inner saboteur grew ever louder.

In the end, he selected a recent short story from his collection. Declan wasn't convinced it was any good, but it did bear the unusual distinction of him not hating it himself. As his writing went, that was usually about as good as things could get. Meeting his own artistic standards was hard, maybe even impossible.

Declan dithered back and forth between Viridian Dublin, Viridian Belgravia and his Glenbally lab several times. His vanishing cabinets were working overtime to make up for his inner feeling of restlessness. Should be bring a bottle of perfume as a gift? No, maybe some chocolates. That didn't seem right either. Farren probably didn't eat any to fit into the elegant gowns she liked to wear. Flowers? Well, they were cliché. Some fancy bath products? Maybe, she'd misinterpret those in some bad way? Oh, why did this have to be difficult.

Despite his struggle, he was ready early and had to pad out the time as he walked from his London shop to her home. He took the scenic route, walking through a couple of muggle streets. He didn't stand out in London in his fancy suit and expensive shirt. Dark green was hardly an outrageous colour.

Wilton Crescent was a pretty area of Georgian townhouses arranged around a central garden. It was pretty and reminded Declan of Bath and time he had spent there a couple of years ago. Maybe, he should take Farren sometime. Sure, there were a lot of muggles in the area, but the hot springs were quite enjoyable. What had he thinking? A date involving swimming was probably unfathomable in pureblood society. The world would end, the printing presses would run out of ink. Still, the notion amused him.

As Farren had promised, her crups were quite enthusiastic in greeting him as he arrived. He could hear them long before Farren's butler reached the door. He wouldn't have minded getting down on his knees and giving the dogs a good belly rub, but of course Mr StuffyStuffs sent them away before he had the chance. Instead, he gave the butler a polite nod and waiting to be shown to whatever drawing room had been deemed appropriate.

Declan nervously shifted his weight from one foot to the other. He was holding the wrapped gift he had brought for her a little to firmly. For now, he thought, he was keeping it together rather admirably.

Farren Abercrombie

Her butler entered the conservatory. She sat the letter in her hand down as she turned towards him, already looking past him for Declan. "A Mr. O'Dwyer for you Miss," her butler said in his typical, almost bored manner. When her eyes landed on Declan she felt her chest tighten. He looked so cute in his green suit, clutching a little box, he looked particularly thin next to her butler. As nervous as she was she felt overjoyed to see him. It was a bit surreal though and it took her a moment to react, just staring across the conservatory at him for a moment.

It was the crup who jolted her back to reality when Jupiter whimpered and started digging at her shoe, clearly annoyed that she seemed non-reactive to the new intruder. "Hello Declan," she said softly, staring across the wide space at Declan, her smile sparkling just for him. Standing she started to move towards him, the dogs trotting along at the hem of her skirt.

"Thank you Mullins, can you please send Fanby up in a few minutes with the drinks tray?" The butler nodded before giving Declan a sideways glance and turning on heel out of the room as directed by the lady of the house.

Once he was out of the room she wasted no time closing the gap between them. She'd been debating all day how to greet him. On their last meeting he'd seemed comfortable with a more European greeting and they'd spent a few songs holding the other close since then. Of course a kiss of any kind was out of the question but very friendly was certainly acceptable. "Hi," she said in a nervous whisper as she stepped up to him and immediately opened her arms wrapping him up in a tight hug. "I'm so glad you're here," she said looking up at him before leaning in to press her cheek to his as he had greeted her on their first meeting. It was reassuring that holding onto him now felt just as nice, maybe better than it had in the pub. She held onto him tightly, longer than a typical greeting, it felt nice. She'd dabbed the perfume he'd given her in Dublin on and she wondered if he'd realize.

At their feet the dogs were growing agitated. Jupiter barked loudly at them and Neptune jumped up putting his front paws on Declan's leg. She laughed a little pulling away enough to bump the dog with her knee. "Down," she directed and the crup sat at Declan's feet making a little 'awoo' sound of annoyance.

Looking up at Declan she offered an apologetic grimace. "I warned you, they were a lot. They are just excited someone new is here." she looked down at the pups who were now sitting at their feet, both their forked tails moving so quickly it seemed like they'd be knocked over by the force. "Neptune, Jupiter," she pointed at each crup as she named them, "But I hate these names, they sound ridiculously grand for such silly little creatures.  So most of the time I call this one Ned and this one Jeff. You can call them whichever you prefer they respond to either - usually."

She reached out and offered him her hand.  "I hope you found us easily enough, it is quite close to your shop isn't it?" Taking his hand in hers she led him a few paces towards the sofa. "I was just going through some work mail to pass the time until you arrived," she waved her hand and the papers went flying into the air, landing in three neat piles on an empty side table out of the way. "Please sit with me," gesturing to the sofa as she gracefully sank into her seat leaving plenty of space for him to join her. "I've prepared a little menu of summer cocktails for us, the elf will bring them shortly," she smiled, her nerves flaring again now that he was actually here on her sofa. She glanced at the box he had with him, "Is it dog treats? They might start crying if it's not."

Declan O'Dwyer

As was often the case, the formalities of pureblood life felt suffocating. Though Farren's butler seemed like a perfectly pleasant man, Declan couldn't wait for him to be gone. The prospect of having to greet her in front of the man felt very awkward. He hesitated to make a move for a couple of seconds, which gave Farren enough time to step in and send the man, Mullins, on his way. The butler probably disapproved of the lady of the house receiving him as a visitor, at least if the sideways glance Declan had received was anything to go by.

He paid it no mind. As long as the man was loyal to Farren, it didn't matter if her approved or disapproved of their actions. The idea of Mullings reporting back to Victoria Abercrombie or the Rosier family briefly crossed his mind, but he couldn't bring himself to care about that either. An old friend visiting Farren was hardly exciting news. On top of that, they would have to get used to it. He had every intention of visiting more frequently and more often, regardless of what anyone would have to say on the subject.

Declan was positively surprised to be greeted with a hug. He gently held her in his arms, just enjoying the moment. "Well, hi to you to." He felt a little nervous still, but with each moment the feeling was easing a little bit. She smelled rather heavenly today and he smiled a little when he realised that she was wearing one of his creations. It would probably be weird if he complimented her own it; after all he had picked the fragrance for her. Still, it was nice, she'd worn it for him. "Oh, you're wearing Báisteach today. I am honoured."

Her crups seemed decidedly less pleased with the way they seemed to be focused only on each other. Declan laughed as one of the little rascals tried to jump up on him, but Farren was quick to intercede. "I don't mind," Declan said truthfully. "they seem very good-natured and playful."

She reached out and lead him over towards the sofa, but Declan had slightly different ideas. He set the present down where he was supposed to sit.

"Oh, I found the place easily," he confirmed to her. "And I may have had to circle round the block because I was running a little bit early. But I suppose this is nice, to be in within such an easy distance. That'll hopefully mean well see each other often." He grinned. "Just, let me have a moment to say hello to the gentlemen of the household."

Declan eased himself down into a deep squat and held his hands out to the crups to let them catch his scent. "Ned and Jeff," Declan repeated their names with some mild amusement. She was right, they seemed too goofy to be called anything else. "I'm afraid the present is for her, rather than the two of you, but I'll find a way of making it up to you." He grinned and petted both dogs at the same time, trying to keep his attentions even as to not cause a jealous commotion between them.

"They like treats?" he asked as if there really was the possibility that they didn't. "Hm, I'll have to see what I can do about that." He seemed to concentrate for a moment and then seemingly produced a treat by touching Jeff's ear. There was no magic here, just the careful application of sleight of hand. Naturally, he'd immediately captured Ned and Jeff's attention with the move. "Sit," he commanded both dogs moving the treat from his left hand to his right hand. He now had their undivided attention. He passed the treat between his fingers, moving from one hand to the other, being raptly watched by his audience of two, very silly crups. Just from one moment to the next the treat vanished, and Ned and Jeff could no longer hold their position, but started sniffing his hands and the floor searching for where the treat had gone.

"I think it just popped into Ned's ear." He reached for said ear gently and made the treat reappear, before letting Ned have the treat. A second one was produced for Jeff a moment later. Before he really knew what was happening, he was being tackled by the two crups who were eagerly searching for more treats. He laughed, carefully lifting them off him. "That's all for now," he said. He couldn't resist the temptation to pet them again. They really were rather adorable.

"You should unpack your gift," he said playfully. "I promise it's not a dog treat." What he had chosen in the end was probably just a touch underwhelming. He'd picked up an empty music journal in a Dublin shop bound in dark blue leather. The detail that had made him decide for it were the cute little treble clef and note charms features on the leather wraparound tie. Well, that and the fact that it had been easy to sneak the pages of his short story somewhere into the middle where she could find them eventually.

Farren Abercrombie

The crups were a delicate relationship in her life. When Clive had died she had tried to get her mother-in-law to pick up the crups that she had never much cared for. They were horrible city dogs and Clive had devoted so much attention to them to make up for leaving his hunting dogs at his family's estate. It wasn't that Farren was jealous of her husband's affection for the dogs, it was that she was jealous of his obsession with them in the face of them slowly ruining her house ever since he'd brought them home. As it would turn out Mrs. Rosier hated them more than she did and informed Farren that if she were to pawn them off on her they would be destroyed. So the crups had come with the house. Farren was many things but a dog murderer she was not. Over the last year and half they had grown on her some but she still found living with them in such close proximity to muggles nearly intolerable at times. It helped that after Clive died they had become deeply attached to her. It was nice to wake up and find them sleeping on the floor beside the bed ready to jump to her protection.

Declan had told her he liked dogs or crups or both when they'd run into each other at first but she'd not expected him to be quite this interested. It was cute. He was kind and sweet to the noisy little buggers. Even Farren wasn't immune to the bizarre adoration one develops when seeing a man dote on some little creature be it a dog or a small child. She was aware society had conditioned her to take such simple gestures from men as some kind of great feat of their humanity and good nature, but it was still working on her. It was endearing how he played with them. Laughing as they leapt on him for more treats she reached for the gift as he'd directed her to do.

"Now they will be after your pockets all day for more snacks," she said as she gently pulled the wrapping paper off. Sliding the lid off the box she found a pretty little leather notebook inside. From the design she assumed it was a staff paper notebook. It was very thoughtful. Smiling she pulled it from the box running her fingers over the smooth leather before unwinding the tie round it. "Thank you, this is lovely," she said opening it to confirm her suspicion that it was indeed staff paper. She turned the book holding it along the spine so she could flip through some of the pages. It seemed to want to fall open to the center, flipping to the section it favored she found tucked in the pages something else. Her brow furrowed for a moment. Had Declan put a letter in the center? Glancing up at him seeing he was still largely focused on the dogs she began to realize what he'd done.

Smiling a tight lipped smile she closed the book and set it back in the box, gently returning the lid to it's place. "You'd be shocked how much staff paper I go through, I'm sure I'll have it full of ideas in no time," she let her words trail along slowly, she was preparing him that she'd get to his pages soon enough, "When I fill it up you'll have to let me play it for you, whatever comes out of the pages, it's only fair to exchange." He'd made such a fuss about sharing his writing she wanted to offer her drafts to him as well. Granted she wasn't overly shy about sharing her drafts and she was formally trained to the highest level but nonetheless she hoped he got her meaning, if he was willing to share his projects with her she was willing to share hers also if it was some kind of interest of comfort to him to share a little creative vulnerability. "If you keep this up I'll be spoiled in no time, but I won't protest." she teased as she leaned forward to set the box on the table in front of the sofa where the bush also sat.

Out of thin air in the middle of the room appeared a small elf with a tray. Farren said as if she'd forgotten she'd ordered him here moments ago. For a moment she wondered if she should introduce Declan to the elf. Were the O'Dwyers so liberal that they would do such a thing? Would he think her a monster if she didn't introduce the thing to him. "Ah, Fanby," she settled on addressing the creature as if she'd forgotten she'd just summoned him here that way at least Declan would know his name. "Just on the bar cabinet if you please," she said rising from the sofa.

"Fanby here was able to whip up a couple of nice summer cocktails for us at my request." The elf had pre-mixed the drinks and poured them into two carafes enchanted to stay the perfect temperature. The creature pulled the silver ice bucket from the bar cabinet and snapped his fingers making ice appear before setting out ice tongs and glasses for them. "He's also preparing us some snacks for later," she added unsure how generous she should be to the elf. Already she felt uncomfortable as was so she just waited for the elf to finish his little set up and pop back to the kitchen.

She rose from the sofa and walked past Declan, stepping over the crups delicately, smirking she placed her fingers on top of his head as if balancing as she tip toed around the dogs that were now vying for a seat on his lap. She let her fingers slide along his hair gently as she stepped around them. What was the point of inviting him over if she couldn't play?  "I think we should try the sangria first." she said casually taking two wine glasses out of the bar cabinet. Pouring them each a heavy pour of the sweet fruit full wine she continued, "What would you prefer? Shall we sit here? We could take a turn around the garden? I assumed you'd be not very interested but I'm happy to give you a tour of the house too if you'd like." Returning to him she held out the drink for him. Ned, the mama's boy of the pair, ran up to her immediately and stood happily at her feet shaking his tail. "I think you'd enjoy the garden, if we save the house tour for when I've had three drinks you might get a concert in the parlor if you ask nicely."

Declan O'Dwyer

Farren warned him that the dogs would after him all day looking for more snacks. He grinned.

"Maybe that's part of the master plan. Get them to like me just as much as I like you."

Yes, a silly comment to make, but he felt at ease now that he met the crups and was getting a small glimpse of her everyday life. It was nice to meet for a casual afternoon together. Hopefully, there would be many more such occasions. He could easily picture them getting into a routine and seeing each other regularly and he liked the idea. It felt exciting and yet like a comfortable prospect.
Declan watched every now and then as she unwrapped his present, while trying to keep the crups entertained. Though his gift wasn't grand, it had still been chosen with care and he hoped she would like it. It seemed that luck was on his side. Farren was pleased enough and from what he could tell hadn't spotted the pages he had hidden in journal right away. Great. The idea of her reading his story while he wasn't there to watch her do it seemed somewhat easier in his head. Less danger, less pressure.

He found himself surprised when she offered to share some of her work some time. Maybe she had spotted his story after all and was giving him some time as well as a fair counteroffer? Declan was unsure how to react. She seemed less troubled by the notion of sharing her work than he was, but he also reckoned that Farren was the better actress out of the two of them. Did she faaind it easy to show a vulnerable side of herself? If so, he was definitely jealous.

"Well, I look forward to hearing what you come up with," he said carefully, still searching for the right tone, still trying to get a good read on how she felt about sharing her work. It was so complicated for him he struggled to think that any artist would feel differently about it.

Thankfully, Farren's elf Fanby appeared with their drinks making for a convenient interruption. He felt a little mortified, being caught off guard playing with the dogs and rubbing their backs, but at the same time he didn't care. It wasn't Fanby he had to impress if he was trying to have a closer relationship with Farren. Still, he would have like to have stood to greet the elf, but it was too late for that.

"Thank you, Fanby. I'm looking forward to your drinks and snacks." He gave a weak smile and wondered if that was the wrong thing to say. Back home his family was quite friendly and casual with the elves, but he was aware that not every household treated their elves the same way. He was fairly sure that he'd never discussed the matter with Farren. It just hadn't come up.
Having sufficiently disentangled himself from the dogs he was about to get back up only to find Farren standing next to him, gently placing her fingers on his head. As she stroked her hand through his hair he felt as though she had started a wildfire. Suddenly, his face felt hot and red and his heart was racing at an impossible speed. Having her tower over him, looking poised and elegant did things to him.

Had she said something? Was he supposed to have a coherent response?

Declan took a moment to regain his bearings, before getting up and casting a quick cleaning charm over his hands.

"I'd very much like to see the garden. It's such a nice day we should enjoy it. We can always take a tour later. I don't have any other plans." 

Farren Abercrombie

It wasn't lost on her that he was being rather suggestive. Get the dogs to like him as much as he liked her? It was silly but the point was taken. Just like how he gave attention to the dogs it was cute. Perhaps it was a gimmick but at least she didn't mind falling for it a little bit at this point. Men always liked her, it was just a bonus that Declan was a person she also liked. Again it started to open the pandora's box of what this was or would be, a box she'd been unpacking all week in her mind. But she'd forbidden herself from falling into that hole with him here or else she might ruin the whole afternoon.

She wasn't sure why he wasn't taking the drink she was offering from her hand though. Had he been so transfixed on the dogs he'd not realized she was holding out a glass of sangria for him? Smiling she thrust it towards him again, "Here you are," she said cheerily and at last handed the glass off to him. "We can work our way from the outside in then and if you grace me with your presence long enough we can head in when it gets dark," she offered. It was nice to know he'd cleared his calendar for the evening for her. Though he'd suggested that he wasn't much of a social butterfly somehow she still assumed he was being modest to some degree. He was a man and men could do whatever they wanted. Additionally he was from a liberal family and was not subject to as many of the strict society rules as she was. It only made sense in her mind that he would take advantage of those opportunities, despite him claiming he rarely did.

"Let us walk," she said and waited for him to join her side before starting a slow casual walking out into the garden. "When we purchased the house of course it just had the one garden the width of the lot. However, I refused to live here with such a small garden, I didn't want live in the city at all. So we hired a wizard who specialized in outdoor architecture and space concealment. All of this is now basically three lots wide and all the work of some very grand efforts with undetectable spells and extension spells. Truly a wonder considering the muggles on either side of us also have gardens." She offered the explanation for the massive space in the center of London so coolly. Granted she realized there was a lot for him to chew on in what she left unsaid. The 'we' being she and Clive. The fact that she'd never wanted to live here. The fact that they bought the house rather than inheriting it as was expected. That was all a later discussion though.

The garden was a traditional English garden in the center, geometrically aligned box hedges bordering the small paths leading from the back of the house into the gardens. Flower beds were planted around the fountain in the center, grassy patches filling in the spaces between hedge patterns and the flower beds. Realizing they were all going out into the garden the crups ran ahead of them out of the conservatory and into the middle of the garden running circles around the central fountain chasing each other.

"Considering the house it seemed only appropriate to have a traditional garden in the center original lot, but past these box hedges on either side are the English country gardens modeled after the gardens at Dalemain and Hutton." She realized he probably didn't care about the details of her garden planning. No, he was much more likely to care about the plants within them rather than the design and concept. Which was rather unfortunate seeing as she had no idea other than things that were very obvious what was in the garden.

She walked slowly along the path from the stone patio outside the conservatory towards the fountain. At first she wasn't sure what she was supposed to say. Sipping her sangria she listened to their steps crunch on the pebbles under foot. "Do you like the drink?" she cautioned glancing over at him. "Fanby is quite the barman. He's always coming up with drinks for me. Though I suppose there's not much clever about sangria, it's just one of my summer favorites."  Smiling she took a long drink from her glass. Perhaps this was going to require more assistance than she'd realized. It felt like everything she had to say, in this place, had some hidden layers to it. Fanby was Clive's elf. They'd each brought an elf to the house, Fanby was his, now hers, just like the house itself. Fanby had been left to her in the Will just like the house and his millions of personal earnings. Clive drank heavily during the off season and so his elf had learned to make drinks to please his master and in the process become something of an expert.

"What about in Dublin? Do you have a house or a flat? Pyxis lives in a flat nearby. When he moved into that place it was the first time I'd ever been in a flat. I'm sure you think that's absurd," she smiled a little self conscious but took another sip of her drink and gave a little shrug. "The first time I went round I didn't realize I had to go upstairs to get to his flat and was just waiting for the butler at the door off the street like a fool. City life has been....an adjustment." She was getting nervous again, him at her house was odd in a good way. Apart from Clive and her affair with Philip she'd never had a man here, alone, that wasn't a relation. It made her nervous being this close to him, in her private, very personal space. What if he judged her harshly? What if he hated her home and somehow by extension her? What if the dead husband looming over all of this made things awkward?

'The one silver lining about behing home to a pack of insane crups is that we had to entirely sound seal the garden in. You can't hear any of the muggle noises. Listen," she reached out and put her hand around the upper part of his arm pulling him to a stand still beside her. Indeed, for the location it was eerily quiet. Wind in the trees, the fountain trickling, song birds, the rustling of the bushes the crups were playing in but no other sounds. No cars on the street in front of the house, no muggle kids playing in adjoining gardens, no whirr of electrical things, nothing at all. "Isn't it nice? At night it's dead silent and peaceful with the exception of our two owls and crickets and such, almost like you're not in London at all."

Declan O'Dwyer

Declan took the glass of sangria from Farren and took a careful little sip to make sure he didn't spill his drink everywhere. The glass was rather full after all. The drink was sweet and refreshing, and though such fruity concoctions didn't usually rank among his favourites he found this one enjoyable enough.

He followed her into the garden, listening intently as she explained the history of the place. It was interesting to hear about and at least to him it seemed somewhat surprising that between two families as rich and ancient as the Abercrombies and the Rosiers there hadn't been a free family property for the two newlyweds to settle into. Wasn't that usually the done thing?

Lucky for Farren they'd found this beautiful place in the middle of muggle London. It wasn't a choice Declan would ever have made but having his own town house in Dublin he could sympathise with Clive Rosier. It was nice to be within an easy distance to social events and live somewhere that felt alive and busy. The country could feel remote and isolating.

"It's a well-constructed garden for sure," he commented cheerfully, "and I bet at the boundaries of what you can push via an extension charm. It's beautifully done. You must be immensely proud of it. And I wouldn't mind taking a look what it is you have planted." Predictable as it was, he always enjoyed looking at plants as a potions master.

"It's quite refreshing," he said about the drink. "Not too sweet either." He probably wasn't nearly as picky or judgemental as Farren imagined him to be. Just spending time in her company and enjoying the sun and the garden had him completely content. Very few of his thoughts were concerned with her former husband. He seemed to have been a decent man while alive, though Declan got the distinct impression that he hadn't consulted his wife a lot when making decisions. As Farren kept pointing out to him, some of what surrounded them hadn't been her call.

When prompted to do so he paused for a moment to listen. It really didn't sound like London at all. He couldn't hear the cars or any of the other muggle sounds in the area.

"That's impressive. You must spend a lot of time here in the garden. Such a hidden gem. I think your designer did an excellent job with this. You must give me a contact sometime. I'm still in the process.." He cut himself off, realising he was about to just carelessly plough ahead into talking about his own living situation. Sure, she'd asked but he wanted to take a moment to figure out how to word his reply.

He supposed it was a fair question, but what should have been a relatively simple to talk about, had actually a quite complicated answer. It was a topic he normally avoided discussing in any depth, because his family hated each other, and nothing quite made that point as emphatically as their current living arrangements and the political manoeuvring that went along with it. The home he'd grown up in Dún Laoghaire had belonged to his mother Eithne before marrying into the O'Dwyer family. It was located just a few miles away from beautiful Erindale Estate where his grandparents lived, but the two households were entirely separate.

Upon returning to Ireland, he hadn't felt welcome in either place. As a result, he had settled into a Dublin town house, except that neither his parents not his grandparents had approved of that choice either.

"I do have a townhouse in the centre of Dublin, not very far from the shop, but it's more of a temporary arrangement than a proper home," Declan said diplomatically. "It is rather loud, but it's clean and near work. I sleep there some days a week and likely will continue to, at least until such times as I finish refurbishing the Estate at Glenbally. There's a tragic tale of our family history to be had there. Once one of our main Estates it got abandoned at the turn of the century. The rooms are in various states of disrepair save the smaller of the two ballrooms, which you've actually seen. I just changed the function of the space a little bit." 

Farren Abercrombie

"Yes, I spend a lot of time out here," she confirmed with a small smile. "It's difficult to get home to Dalemain, so it's nice to have a place I can pretend at least." She glanced across the garden, satisfied enough with the place. It wasn't home. She couldn't understand why despite her refined tastes and interests she never felt truly at home here but so far it hadn't happened. Chuckling she nodded, "You can look at and fuss with any plants you like, surely you must know I don't mind." It was cute that it was exactly as she'd expected, he was such a nerd about his potions. "Though I suspect you know far more than me about what's on this land. Once we get beyond the basics I'm lost. I have all the classic florals of course, hollyhocks, foxgloves, wisteria, peonies, roses, cosmos....all that such is about as much as I know." It was a beautiful place. The massive house was perfect. The garden was beyond perfection and utterly defied the physics of space. She knew she was lucky to have this and she was proud of it, this had been her vision, this garden.

As he began to talk about his living situation she could sense that there was something significant in the spaces left unsaid. She knew his family was a sensitive topic, to put it mildly, but just how that played out in his day to day life she wasn't sure. Something about him talking about where he slept caused a brief resurgence of the butterflies in her stomach. For a moment she wondered what he looked like sleeping. She imagined his townhouse in Dublin being grey and sparsely furnished but what was there was old and elaborate. It was too early for the Sangria to be going to her head but she would blame it anyways for imagining him sprawled out under a duvet, an arm sticking out, bare shoulders, his hair tousled across the pillow. Taking a sip of her drink she forced herself to clear her mind.

"Aha," she commented, "So that's where we were. You are developing a bit of a habit of taking me places and not telling me where we actually are," she wasn't upset but it was the truth. He'd not actually explained where in relation to Dublin that pub was. "I think it sounds exciting. I love a design project and I love antiques and old castles. If you make it sound much more appealing I'm going to invite myself over to inspect the old art and silver collection," she was teasing and yet so very serious.

Smiling at him she reached for his arm again taking the hand that wasn't clutching his glass in hers and pulling him gently to the left of the fountain. "The best blooms are in this portion of the garden this week, my peonies, I do adore them. I think they're so elegant." He'd said he wanted to explore a relationship so she wasn't going to let nerves and pureblood society rules prevent her from doing things her way. She had been alone in this house for a long time. When Clive had been alive they'd filled it with friends and guests to fill the silence and physical space their incompatibility left between them. He'd rarely come out here with her despite spending thousands of galleons to make it happen. He certainly didn't care about her peonies, and he certainly didn't care about holding her hand. Declan however seemed, at least from her initial reading of him the last two meetings, was that he cared about both and she saw no harm in enjoying that.

As they turned down the path the crups realized they'd changed trajectory and came running up behind them. Jeff zoomed in a wide arc around their feet before dropping a small red ball in front of Declan a few feet down the path. "Oh dear...." she said with a small giggle, "I think you are now obligated to toss the ball until he tires himself out." Ned was trotting along happily at the hem of her skirt but Jeff was barking at the ball. "I am incredibly lazy about this game," she said and pulled her hand from his raising it and as she did so the ball lifted into the air, flicking her wrist the ball propelled down the garden path, the nutty crup zooming after it. "Can't imagine how muggles bear the tedium of dogs without magic," she added lightly even though she was smirking at how silly the crup looked sprinting after the ball.

Grinning a crooked little grin she reached back and took his hand again, letting her finger tips brush along his palm as she did. "Tell me more about Glenbally while you politely, very politely, judge my peonies. Remember I'm an casual appreciator not a flower breeder like yourself." An entire row of pink and white peonies before them she nodded towards them. "I kept the Rosier's gardener on since he is less occupied than the gardener at Dalemain but I'm sure there's room for improvement. I read the soil composition has much to do with their bloom saturation."

Jeff was back, little red ball in his mouth, he ran up to them and when see Farren hardly looked at him dropped the ball at Declan's feet pawing at it to make sure the man saw it. Farren laughed shaking her head. "You're going to regret that trick with the treat forever I'm worried."

Declan O'Dwyer

He chuckled softly at her reprimand for taking her places without explaining himself. She wasn't the first person in his life to have commented on that particular trait.

"Well, yes, umm... caught me red handed. I'm usually too nervous to discuss my crazier ideas. So I just go with the flow and do. You practically don't know me until I've dragged you halfway around the globe and back again on a silly whim. And I miss having friends like that over here. I'd always be travelling with Galina and Maksim, before they got married anyway. Now they're both terminally boring."

He sounded wistful for a moment, clearly longing for his friends and life in Russia. He loved living there, and the amount of freedom he'd enjoyed. He'd just blended in. St Petersburg had made him a nobody and it had been an amazing experience to make. The friends he had there liked him for who he was, rather than for his family name. It had helped his confidence not to suspect and ulterior motive behind every interaction he was part of.

Being with Farren was the closest he'd come to that feeling in a while. She didn't need him to advance her position in society. She had nothing to gain by being nice to him and yet she still was. Unlike with his Russian friends though there was more to it. Her opinion mattered to him in a way few other things did.

Declan thought his heart was about to stop when she took his hand. Maybe, he should have grown used to it by now, but it still felt very exciting. He gave her hand a light squeeze, quite content with their situation and spending time in this beautiful garden.

"Oh, I don't mind at all. If Jeff needs some exercise I'm happy to tire him out. You should bring him and Ned over to Glenbally some time. There is a rather pretty hiking trails past some old Druid sites. It's just miles and miles of untouched landscape with an occasional waterfall, rune carved stone or magical shrub."

As asked, he took a closer look at the peonies. They were very healthy and fragrant specimen with strong stems and heavy flowers. Obviously these were cultivars bread for an aesthetic purpose, rather than the shrivelled up and miserable looking ones he usually had in his lab for production of essential oils.

"The whites are my favourites," he said. "Very elegant, very classy. I especially love them when they're not quite fully blooming yet. And they just look like very pretty snowballs. I should do winter decorations at Viridian that way. See, you must be doing things right here. Your garden is very inspiring."

Declan grinned as Jeff returned with the red ball. He briefly let go of her hand to throw it for the dog the old-fashioned way. "Don't worry about it. I was actually thinking about getting a dog at Glenbally, though I think I'd rather have something a bit larger. Not that Jeff isn't utterly adorable. Alas it's in no state. The house was abandoned, as I said, some years ago and it really shows. My great-grandfather and his wife used to live there. She was a potion maker and plant breeder as well. But something went wrong with her greenhouse charms and fertiliser potions when the whole estate was taken over by an explosion of verdant life. Suddenly, everything started growing pretty much everywhere. My folks were forced out of the house, as their bedroom kept being colonised by plants. The charms have eased since, but there are some places where it's still a bit wild. It is actually quite funny. In one of the old sitting rooms her orchids keep sprouting from the carpet. Doesn't matter how often I remove them or how much plant poison I spray, they keep coming back. Other people have issues growing orchids, I can't get rid of them quickly enough."

Farren Abercrombie

"Halfway round the globe? Well I don't think you've dragged me quite that far yet so I suppose I don't know you all that well, afterall." Smirking she gave him a sideways glance, "And here I thought I was starting to make some small measure of progress on that front."

It was one of those things, one of the many things, that made her think that despite perhaps knowing each other so well deep down, the way only those who grew up together can, that in fact she barely knew him at all now. If they were tapestries she was very sure she understood and knew the warp, running through him all along, providing the core of his person. It was the bits filled in around the warp, woven in over time, up to chance and choice that she was unfamiliar with. What design had he made of his weft with his choices since they'd parted paths? How had those choices shaped the design of his life? It was more interesting than intimidating to consider and ask about. It was her own weft that worried her. He seemed rather impressed and attached to who she had been when they were children, he was confident in her warp as well. But she was pretty sure that her weft was considerably messier than she'd hoped. She was concerned that as they unpacked who they had become if the mess she'd created would scare him away. It was considerably more shocking than bouncing around the planet on a whim.

She managed a small smile when he said he was inspired by her garden. Even if he was just being chatty it was kind. "Thank god they pass muster. I'll have to let the gardener know white is the preferred strain. Though personally I like lavender ones but they look even more striking paired with the whites. But you're right, they're best before they bloom, soft bulbs of petals." He was good natured about the dog, tossing the ball for him happily. Did he seem entirely at ease here or was she projecting her hopes onto him?

The plight of his home was odd certainly. An entire estate home lost to something like that wasn't exactly common. She wondered if he'd tried a curse breaker but wasn't his mum a curse breaker or something similar? It must be quite severe if even the O'Dwyers couldn't manage to fix it. "Huh....." she said as she considered what he described. "Must be quite severe if your mum can't sort it out. Bit of a shame really. I assume it was a very grand place indeed. Though, I'd be curious to see it....overgrown or what not. Could be interesting from an artistic perspective. That ballroom at least is stunning, I can only imagine how the rest of the place looks, greenery and all."

Jeff returned with his ball which he dropped at their feet. This time Ned decided he felt left out and ran from her side out to snap up the ball in his mouth. Jeff looked from where he'd dropped the ball up to she and Declan expectantly as if they were holding it from him. Farren sniggered shaking her head. "Oy, Ned's taken it off you loon," she laughed at Jeff. "I think these two would love a trail hike. Maybe we can use those druid stones to somehow turn them into higher functioning life forms. No one advertises how small a crup's brain is for good reason." Shaking her head at the crup she sighed, "We don't have it. Your brother stole it, go bark at him." She gestured in the direction Ned had run off in. After a moment of puzzlement Jeff ran off to pursue his brother.

"You have to pick a place for that bush you gifted me," she reminded him resuming her slow stroll deeper into the garden. "Is the long term plan to make Glenbally home?" Her mind wandered to her own home which seemed so terribly far from here. "I miss Dalemain. If I had my choice I'd be living there for the rest of my days. Unfortunately mum's politics make it difficult to share the estate with her. I keep hoping with all that's going on mum will want to move into our London house. You know, be close to the action. But the library is at Dalemain so I'm not holding my breath. It's far too valuable to them....her....." Her happy expression faltered as 'them' came up. It wouldn't take much for Declan to start putting the dots together about her mum. Perhaps it was better he learned now, perhaps it would make him change his mind about liking her. It would be better to know now if that was an issue than to actually risk developing feelings. "So I don't expect to be living in Dalemain again anytime soon unfortunately. I prefer not to be pressured over politics and harassed over some fanatical ideas over every meal." When did she tell him that these radicals her mother paraded around with had also killed the man who'd bought her this house? It would all have to come out eventually. She was aware her mood had shifted and rolled over her like a grey cloud rolling through a clear blue sky. It would pass soon but she felt the skeletons in her closet would start banging on the door soon if she didn't find a good time to come clean about all of it.

Declan O'Dwyer

Declan frowned. "Oh, but you forget that we are talking O'Dwyer here. We're not like normal pureblood families. It's always more complicated and never forget that we all hate each other." He rolled his eyes, knowing full well that he sounded absolutely ridiculous. However, no matter how strange it sounded it was the truth about his family. The internal politics were grim.

"I don't know too much about what really happened in Glenbally, but it's not as benign as I made it sound. It may look quaint, even pretty - but I think it was a curse intentionally created, maybe to destroy the house. I have some theories as to what and why, but nothing I can prove." He wondered if he should tell her. It was a bit like the Gothic novels they had read as children, but he suspected that he had probably enjoyed those rather more than she had.

He grinned at the crups as they were playing. "Of course, they're silly. All dogs are," he replied to her comment about them not being the brightest of creatures. "Not sure the druid stones would improve them, but have you tried a professional trainer?"

"Anyway, Glenbally - my mum wouldn't touch it. She might be sympathetic, but she wouldn't go against my father's wishes. And my father is upset I have this house. He wanted it for Lorcan. I suppose if I joined ... you know... he'd be impressed with me and maybe that would change things. Not a price I am prepared to pay." He shook his head. Putting all his family insanity into simple words was surprisingly hard. So many years of bad blood, hurt and intrigue. It was hard to sum it up into something easily digestible.

It seemed they both had their troubles with 'them'. Declan took the view that their politics were short-sighted, brutal, and intellectually bankrupt. Of course, his father felt the exact opposite. Leave it to Fintan O'Dwyer to fall for the rhetoric of a lunatic. For all the progressiveness in the O'Dwyer family, his own father felt like he was always taking steps backwards. Even his mother struggled to temper him with reason. And as much as Declan admired his mother, her politics weren't preferable over what his father said and believed.

He shrugged. "Let's not think about that." He didn't want to ruin the afternoon with getting into the subject of politics. Nothing good ever came of it.

"If you want to make an afternoon of it sometime, I can show you the strangeness that is Glenbally. The estate, the village nearby, the hiking trails, all the old historic druid stuff. The pub you've already seen, but they cook a pretty decent dinner if you want to see it twice."

Farren Abercrombie

"Your family is made to sound so dramatic and dark, I'm ever so curious" she commented. It seemed like he was none to eager to talk about it, still, she was curious. Dysfunction, strife, a cursed house, battle lines drawn, it was all quite a lot. Her family were awful in their own ways but she'd never classify any of her feelings as hatred or anything close to it.

She laughed a little when he asked if she'd considered a professional trainer. He had no way of knowing what a row she and Clive had had about these dogs moving into the house at all. "Do you think I'd let a pair of untrained beasts move into my house?" she teased him, "Of course they're trained. We are surrounded by muggles, training was non-negotiable. Sadly training does not solve for an utter lack of brain cells. I'm afraid this is their highest level of being without some kind of divine intervention."

But the story of the O'Dwyers and their house got more bizarre. His mum, who might have some capability to fix things, wouldn't try. Because his father, who hated him for reasons largely unknown, would rather have the family's property destroyed than do something that might benefit his least favorite son? It was extremely odd and short sighted it seemed. Even more bizarre was that he thought his dad might be impressed if he joined....was he about to say what she thought? She'd thought his family liberals. It was shocking to hear the suggestion that his father, like her mum, was all in on Voldemort. But he shrugged it off. He was not very good at talking about his family. Perhaps he thought it was all so mad she'd be repulsed? Perhaps she would but it all seemed so dramatic and curious like a novel or one of those drama series played over the Wireless.

"Obviously I have to see this place," she responded with a somber nod. "It sounds insane, I have to make my own choice if it's insane in an intriguing way or a scary way. I shall bring my camera." She smiled a little at the mention of the pub. Aha, it made sense now. "Well I had a very good time at that pub. I'd be happy to go back. I don't think I've had a pub meal since we had our last lunch at The Three Broomsticks in Hogsmeade. So I reckon I am overdue as it is. Though if I do visit you have to give me the full story. Theories and hated relatives and all."

The garden path turned, they'd walked the length of that side of the garden and were trailing along the back of the lot now. It seemed stupid to start talking more about the garden she actually knew very little about but she wasn't sure what to bring up next. He seemed opposed to family or politics chat. Her grandmother had trained her that understanding these things as early as possible were mandatory to any kind of potential courtship. All other topics of conversation had to be entirely dull, like her garden or her dogs. Once again she realized she'd been sent into the world utterly unprepared for how to interact with men in a constructive manner. Everything she'd learned about dealing with them was political. Flirting was an emergency strategy in that play book and open and frank discussion was best saved for after baby number two. Unsure of herself she took a long sip of her sangria which was very nearly finished off. It was frustrating how her confidence, which was usually boundless, fluctuated so severely around him.

"I am afraid my family is far less exciting. We all generally like each other and I am spared the worry of a preferred sibling. Though I do think my mum is a bit too fond of Pyxis seeing as she never had her own son. We certainly have some of these political rifts but nothing too grim. Most of the fights in our family are about me being independent, so, at least that is utterly predictable and dull."

Ned returned without Jeff or the ball. Clearly he'd lost the battle and had run back to mummy in defeat as Jeff barked across the garden. He trailed along at the hem of her dress trotting along so close to her that he was constantly being brushed in the face by the hem of her skirt as she walked which appeared to not bother him in the least. Farren looked down at him smirking. "I promise you, I don't like them that much," she said mocking her obviously close relationship with the dog willing to be smacked with her skirts just to be four inches closer to her.

"I know this is rather off topic but you said something that night we met that has been teasing me. I asked you if you thought of me every time you hear Hoyer. You said sometimes but actually another piece reminded you of me more. It's vain but.....well.....of course I'm curious what that is. Are you willing to share or is this also a secret?"

Declan O'Dwyer

"That's pretty much us, three parts drama, one part sense." He supposed there was little point in trying to portray things in a more positive light. If she really was to be a part of his life there was no hiding this from her. She'd find out about it sooner or later.

"And it's always about the money. My parents don't have the best track record there. A lot of frivolous spending on quite unnecessary things and my grandfather was not too keen on it. Being an internationally renowned duellist doesn't net my father a lot of money. He doesn't even break even with his expenses most of the time. If we'd relied on my father to feed the family while I was growing up, I think we'd have been starving most months. Not that the family can't afford it, but an O'Dwyer who can't make money is just a strangely absurd occurrence in our family. Caused a lot of strife."

Declan was conflicted on this. He didn't agree with his grandfather either that the money was the be all and end all of everything, but there was no denying that he had more in common with the older man than with his father.

"I think if my father had turned out a little bit more talented with running the books it might have been a different story. Alas, there's not much point in speculating there. He isn't and will never be. It honestly pains me how somebody as simple as my father is such a masterful spellcaster. You'd think excelling at duels would be down to study and intellectual superiority, but I am afraid I have to confess that he is all tireless practise, lightning-fast reflexes and I suppose some natural talent. I'm not even kidding when I say he wouldn't know how what mark-up we need to put on products sold in our shops to make a profit."

There was a lot more detail he could have gone into, but he didn't want to bore Farren. As a woman she was probably kept blissfully oblivious by her family. Most purebloods Declan knew kept the business affairs firmly in the hands of the male family members. Not that it made much sense, but pureblood traditions were better left unquestioned before they revealed some ugly truth.

"But yes, if you want you can have all the theories when you come visit - though I suspect one visit won't do in that case. You'll have to agree to at least five to cover everything that's wrong with my family. And I better not read that stuff in the Prophet the next day."

He wasn't really worried about her using his stories, but a bit of light teasing was always fun.

Farren's next question surprised him. She was coming back to a comment he'd made a little while back. In fact, Declan was surprised she remembered.

"Almost anything Darya Volkonskaya if you are familiar. Russian composer, though a lot of the words were written in French. Anyway, it's "Princesse Clarice" that reminds me of you. I used to see that opera in St Petersburg when I missed home and missed you."

Farren Abercrombie

The details he provided were a little shocking to her. From the exterior she'd assumed this was all some weird personality conflict gone awry. It had never occurred to her that his father was in some sense so simple minded he made a mockery of the family's finances and long term financial planning. Nor had she ever put thought to the profits one would make as a dueler. Clive had made plenty of money. His contract with the Appleby Arrows plus his contract with England National plus his many, many commercial contracts that landed his name on all manner of quidditch gear and knick knacks. She hated sports of all types so she had no way to know professional dueling was less profitable. Indeed the revelations about his family were all adding up to something quite extreme where one person, his father, seems to have thrown the whole family into irreparable chaos and possibly financial danger were he to be given the reins.

"I'm a little surprised," she said softly, "I had no idea your father was such an extreme agent of chaos. I thought it was a matter of difficult personality and mild ineptitude at personal relationship management but I think it all makes a bit more sense now."

"It seems a shame really. What with so few like our kind left, one bad captain at the helm of such a ship and the whole O'Dwyer ship could run aground. It's lucky your grandfather still has a handle on things...." she trailed off not sure how sensitive he was about the prospect of his future inheritance. Everything for her was rather simple. All the money and properties and such were managed by accountants and lawyers. Her Grandfather had once been involved with the running of their family company but never had full control - that rest with the board. Sure, the company could lose a lot of money if they messed everything up but her assets were already in place and it would take an extreme tanking of the business to impact them. Grandfather had assured her that minus the total collapse of society she would live well for all of her days and her children's. Since she had no reason to doubt him and was already eligible for monthly benefits from the portfolio in her name there was not a single worry from her. Besides, Clive had left her more than she'd expected and even if the Abercrombie money and houses disappeared she had this house and Clive's money to get her through. It seemed rather tedious to have to worry about all of this as it appeared Declan did.

"Well, you don't have to worry about me," she said trying to interject a bit of light into the deep discussion, "I am still making profits off the Cleansweep 5 which Clive helped design and was the spokesman for. I have the best accountants should you ever need a referral." She was mostly teasing but also the tens of thousands of galleons she'd collected from the Cleansweep Broom Company each fiscal quarter were very much not a joke.

"Wow, five visits just to get through all the theories?" she arched her eyebrow looking over at him, "If you wanted to ask me on a week long vacation to Glenbally you could have just asked, no reason to turn it into a magical mystery series." Smirking she giggled, it was almost suggestive. "If the theories are so extensive a week long trip to the property is required I can assure you we don't have that many inches of print to spare. So your secrets are safe with me -- in the immediate. All that broom money, not worth pissing you off for a Prophet pay out." She was grinning, it was fun to have someone to joke with. Somehow she was sure constantly promising not to sell each other out to the media was their first running joke in many years and as bleak as it might be it was nice to have a friend where it really was a joke and she didn't have to think twice about the safety of her privacy.

 Volkonskaya was an obscure choice. Even she had only limited knowledge about him and she was supposedly highly educated in all of this. She would have to feverishly research this "Princesse Clarice" later.  But she was unable to ignore the truly surprising portion of his statement. "You missed me?" she asked quickly. Her cheeks felt warm as a meek smile crossed her lips. It was an awkward follow up question but she had no idea he'd so much as thought about her during that time.

"We should go get the second drink Fanby mixed for us. I suspect he'll want to start feeding us soon. I told him we'd like snacks and I assume he took that to mean a light three course meal served on small plates." Smiling over at him she nodded towards the house. "We can always come back out here to walk off the snacks if you'd like. Or....." an idea came to mind. Why was being with him making her prone to spontaneous addendums to their agenda. "well, we can decide as we go along."