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November 9th - 18th: Little Talks

 
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Ben Sullivan
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 27, 2012 1:39 am    Post subject: November 9th - 18th: Little Talks Reply with quote

Friday, November 9th, 2012 -- late evening

As much as Ben had probably hoped that Jackie would lose some of her spark through the car ride home, that wasn't the case at all. When they dropped Chey off she had ran inside to get a backpack full of clothes for their sleepover. She had promised to bring her comfiest pajamas and she was sticking with this. Once they arrived to Ben's apartment there was still that bounce in her step that carried her inside with her bag sagging off her shoulder. Boots were being slid off at the door and she was turning her attention to Ben, barely letting him get in the door before she's asking. "Yer not really plannin' on goin' to bed, are you?" She was squinting at him, unsure if he had been serious about that comment at Harper's or not.

He really had hoped she would, even if he knew it was really unlikely. Shutting the door behind them, he's pulling his boots off there in the entryway as well, hanging up his coat in the closet, too. "Kind of? Thought we were gonna have that talk, remember? Or..." A little quirk of a smile. "Well, I never heard back from you, so I figured you weren't into the idea of being too occupied to talk." Lifting to palm her cheek, but just for a second, before he's moving into the kitchen to get a glass of water. "Why," back over his shoulder, "what'd you want to do?"

"I wanna have that talk but y' made it sound like y' were lookin' forward t' passin' out straight away." She was smirking at his assumption. His very wrong assumption. "I'm fine with the idea, but considerin' y' seemed like y' had somethin' important t' tell me I was tryin' to swing my attention towards the cold shower." His hand on her cheek brought her a little peace, though just as quickly it was gone when he was walking off. She trailed along, lifting her bag. "I'm goin' in the bathroom so I can change into my pajamas. Then yer gonna tell me where y' want me an' we're gonna talk." Leaning against the doorway of the bathroom. "How's that sound?"

He can't help it; he's smiling crookedly when she corrects his assumption. Under different circumstances, he would've taken that and run with it. Tonight? He's just bringing his glass of water with him to the bedroom, stopping on the way to intercept Jackie in the bathroom doorway. Again, he's cupping her cheek, but this time he leans in to kiss her. It's soft, tender, and only lasts a few seconds before he pulls back. "Tell you where I want you? In bed with me. As soon as you can." Barely catches his bottom lip between his teeth before he's stopping that nervous habit, giving her a still slightly crooked smile instead before dropping his hand from her face and heading into the bedroom. Leaving the glass on his nightstand, he's changing into a black tee and a pair of sweats before pulling an extra blanket out of the closet. After he spreads it out on top of the comforter and quilt he's already been using, he crawls into bed, half-curled on his side, facing the half of the bed Jackie usually took -- and even though half an hour ago -- five minutes ago -- he would've thought for sure he'd be asleep as soon as his head hit the pillow, he's wide awake now.

He wasn't the only one. Thoughts of x, y, and z had steadily been running through her head majority of the day and night, but with so much emphasis that this talk between them fell in line with staying honest it became vital to not let it slide by. Her head is tipping into his hand and she's smiling beneath the kiss. "In bed fast. I think I can manage that." There's a thickness to her voice, but she's clearing her throat and shaking her head when his hand falls away. No, it's too easy to fall into that. She had to stay focused.

Once he's in the bedroom it doesn't take long for her to join him. Jackie kept promising comfortable pajamas, but it seemed her prized set wasn't much different than what she usually wore. She was slipping into the bedroom, letting her bag of clothes sink down onto the floor. Grey cashmere boy shorts were paired with a pale cream colored lace camisole. She was always going on about using more blankets and using Ben as her personal heater, yet it seemed she was set on surviving the winter without wearing much more than this for sleep. She crawled into her side of bed beneath the blankets and was automatically sliding towards Ben to meet him in the middle. "Now this..." The words were soft. It seemed more natural to whisper in the dark, to not break the quiet. "This is what I been lookin' forward to all day."

Part of him was amused by that -- every night since it had gotten cold, not just tonight -- that she insisted on sleeping in so little when it was cold, but then again, if it got her to curl up close with him, he wasn't likely to complain. When she comes in close, he's catching her around the waist with one arm, his other hand finding its usual home in her blonde waves. He's leaving a little bit of space between them though, enough so he can still see her face, make eye contact. "Me too," just as low-voiced as she was. "Ever since I got out of bed in the morning." Pressing one more kiss to her mouth, a soft one, before pulling back to create that tiny bit of distance again. "Really hate to ruin it with this." It wasn't very fair of him to try to get out of it that way, and he knows it -- that much is obvious when he sighs a little. "Sleeping in tomorrow to make up for this talk. Deal? And are you ready?"

It's so natural the way they move once they're close to each other. Legs are twined with his and her hands find their home settled against his chest, curled into the fabric of his shirt. The bubbly air around her had deflated over the worry of what exactly she was stepping into by agreeing to this. What else was she going to do though? Say no? It wasn't even an option if they were going to make this work. And she was set on making it work. She's leaning into the kiss, following him shortly when he pulls back. Oh, how she wanted to hold onto that for a little longer. When he speaks of ruining it a clear cut frown settles at her lips. "Deal." The word was weak, practically croaked out. One hand lifted from his chest so she could cup his jaw, the pad of her thumb brushing along his lips and cheek before fingers combed through his hair at his temple. A snap shot of this, of peace before dread captured her again. "No, but now is as gooda time as ever." It was more of that honesty.

Ben's trying to find a little bit of comfort in that -- the ease with which they seem to fit together, the tiny bit of calm he feels when she's touching his face, putting her fingers back through his hair. He's been dreading this conversation himself for days -- weeks -- and by now, it had mostly dulled. Mostly. Enough that he can huff out a near-silent laugh at what she says, almost amused. "Right." More of the honesty.

He takes a deep breath, bites his lip for a second, lets out the sigh. "So... You know I'm not working right now. I'm not making any money. I was starting to get worried about making rent, buying groceries ... you know. Everything." Slowly, he's started to comb his fingers through her hair. "A couple of weeks ago, after one of those long blackouts, I found money in my coat pocket. A lot of it." He hadn't been making direct eye contact with her through all that, though he isn't really looking away, either, just keeping his focus on her face -- but he is looking her in the eye then. "I found a note too. Girl's handwriting. Thanking me, saying she couldn't pay me enough. I don't know what any of it means." A little more quietly.

"I know y' ain't. I know men an' their pride, but... I wasn't gonna let anythin' happen t' you. You losin' yer apartment or nothin'." As flighty as Jackie could come off at times she was very aware when it came to Ben, or at least she would like to think. His lack of funds hadn't escaped her, but it was always a balancing for men between need and pride that she didn't want to tread on. She's still combing her fingers through his hair as well, a little nod to urge him to go on. Brows automatically knit at the mention of the money. Her touch is still gentle, still there through her confusion. She wasn't sure what sort of conclusion she was supposed to be drawing from this admission. But it was the last part, a note. A girl, thanking him, paying him. The stroke of her hand comes to a halt. She's trying to stay still because she's worried any movement is going to make her stomach lurch, she already feels sick. "A lot of money with a girl thankin' y'." Maybe if she said it outloud it could be taken some other way? But no, her mind was jumping to one and only conclusion. "D'you think... Harry?" Her frown deepened and she was pulling her hand back from his hair.

Somewhere, deep down, he's touched by that, that she'd been aware, but that she hadn't said anything about it. He really does appreciate it. It's just too bad that he can't mention it right then.

He'd really hoped that there was some obvious conclusion he wasn't seeing, that right after telling her, Jackie would just laugh and explain what it all really meant, and that it wouldn't be-- But she's coming to the same unwanted conclusion he tentatively had. When she pulls her hand back, there's a movement of his own hand in her hair, like he's going to pull away too -- and he almost does, but it just would've been to catch her hand in his -- but he stops the motion, ends up just curling his fingers into her hair lightly, the idle finger-combing coming to a halt. "I don't know." That really is honest -- it's the truth -- though he's avoiding eye contact altogether, dropping his gaze. "Maybe."

There possibly could have been some hope to grasp onto if he had left it at that. A simple 'I don't know'. Then they both could have sat in confusion together. But he's confirming her worries. Obviously he's been thinking about them, too. "An' it's been weeks since this happened?" Why she wants to confirm that, she doesn't even know. Her hands are pulling back from him to fold and rest against her own chest. She's not running away, she's not unwrapping her legs from his. But even with his hand clasped into her hair it feels like there's a bit more distance between them than before. "I toldja I didn't wanna know 'bout this sorta stuff, Ben. We said honest, but there was gonna be a line." Her voice was quiet, thick. With so many of these situations she could sound levelheaded, maybe angry when dealing with Sam. But right now it was the same tone she constantly had when talking about Harry's late night dalliances. She sounded hurt, she looked the part as well.

"A few weeks, yeah." Nothing in his voice is defensive, or even very animated -- mostly, he just sounds tired, maybe a little hurt himself. "I didn't say anything about it then because I thought that maybe it'd just ... you know, it'd just be the one time, and..." And what, that made it okay to ignore? He doesn't finish that thought. "But I found more just a couple days ago. No note this time." He doesn't do anything to stop her from pulling back from him, even if it's only partly -- in fact, he untangles his hand from her hair after one last absent little curl of his fingers into it, pulls it away from her, though he just lets his hand rest in the little bit of space between them. "I know you told me that, and if I knew for sure that that's what this is, I wouldn't be telling you. But I don't know for sure, Jackie. It could be something else. I mean, I woke up here, I didn't wake up drunk or anything... So it probably isn't him." He's not sure how convincing that is, and he's not looking at her face to find out. "I just want you to know," even more quietly, maybe a touch more hurt -- because it does hurt, to hear her voice thick like that, to know he's hurting her by making this choice to tell her, "that I thought about this for a long time, and I thought about what you said about not wanting to know, and that I still thought I should tell you. I don't want you to think I didn't consider that. I just thought this didn't fall under that, because it's not a sure thing." He feels like the explanation is a lame one before he even finishes it, and it shows some, in his expression, mildly upset -- with himself.

Her expression was just as flat as his and she was trying to do the same to her voice, to work the emotion out of it when she spoke. "More? So two times findin' large amounts of cash on y' after a long black out? Once with a note in a girl's handwritin' sayin'... she couldn't pay y' enough." She's doing nothing to stop his hand when he pulls away, hers still staying firmly clasped near her chest. "If it ain't him then what else could it be, Ben? I'm more than willin' to hear any ideas, but from I know I'm comin' up dry is all." She knows he's hurting just as much as she is. That he would never intentionally want to hurt her or want something like this to happen. One hand eases out to simply lay on top of his. Her fingers aren't curling to grasp him or lace within his, just a little contact."I'm sure y' thought about it, sweetheart. I'm sure it ain't a decision y' would rush into an' if it coulda been avoided then I'm sure y' woulda tried that route. I jus'.." She was frowning softly, brows knit with thought. "It's the hardest part. Without a doubt. An' the idea of... if he's tryin' to make this into some sorta... profession?" She felt sick after saying the word, her head turning to press her face into the pillow. It actually took a short while for her to lift her face again, probably when she needed an unobstructed gulp of air. "Have y' tried... askin' anyone?" She was sure it was a stupid question, but it was worth a shot.

He can't even respond verbally when she's repeating what happened; the only confirmation that she has it right is the bare hint of a nod. "I really don't know, Jackie. I don't. Drug dealing?" It's not exactly a laugh, the quiet noise he makes -- there's no humor in it, the tone all wrong. But when she puts her hand over his, he turns his over without hesitation, curls his fingers around her hand, though it's a light grasp, easy for her to break out of if she wants or needs.

He's feeling ill himself, and he stays still, though he doesn't take the opportunity to try to calm himself when she hides her face into her pillow. Instead, "I know it is, Jackie. Don't you think this is hard for me too?" So quiet, and it's only through a lot of effort that he's able to keep his voice steady, though he's still obviously distraught. "What, asking who what?"

There was a brief, sharp bark of dry laughter when he mentioned drug dealing. If it was unclear why this was so funny, she voiced it outloud. "It's a sad an' weird sorta night when drug dealin' sounds like a much better option than anythin' else." When her hand is lightly captured she's curling her fingers in return around his. It was too difficult to pull her hand back from him. It would be too cruel to him and it would hurt her just as much. He was where she found her comfort, even in situations concerning him.

She's frowning at his question of it being hard for him as well. "I know, Ben. I'm sorry. I'm sure it's worse fer you, really. Not knowin' where y' been or what happened. I'm sorry." Her voice is quiet, guilty. A frown is still playing on her lips when she makes her previous statement more clear. "Y' talk t' them boys sometimes, the notebook or however. Have y' asked Harry or any of them what's goin' on with alla it?"

Ben understands why she's laughing, even before she explains it -- that almost-laugh of his had been for the exact same reason. When she curls her fingers around his in return, he's actually feeling some measure of relief. She's where he finds comfort too, even in situations like this, the ones that hurt her -- the ones he tells himself not to feel guilt for, because they aren't his fault, and he knows she understands that, no matter how badly they hurt.

He sighs when she apologizes, and he does let go of her hand then, but only to lay his hand along her cheek lightly; he's seeking out eye contact if she'll meet his gaze. "No, don't. I didn't mean it like that, sweetheart. It's really hard for me to deal with it, the thought of..." He doesn't say it, but he pauses, swallows thickly before going on. "But if there's one thing I've gotten good at after all this time, it's ignoring things that don't make sense or that I don't want to think about when things like this happen. I'm sure you..." Trailing off again, and his thumb strokes against her cheek. "I'm sorry that you worry. That you'll be thinking about this." He's just as quiet, and maybe a little bit sad, but there's no guilt there, unlike in her voice. There's no way there could be any guilt, when he hasn't done anything to produce it.

His thumb is still brushing against her skin, slow and idle, when she clarifies her statement; there's a brief look of realization on his face and he's nodding, just barely -- really, he feels a little foolish that he didn't understand her when she first asked. But quickly, the look shifts into something else -- it's an odd mix, frustration and avoidance. "No, they don't ... they don't write back anymore. But that was the other thing I wanted to talk to you about. You remember how I told you I ... you know, kind of went inside?" It's a phrase he's sort of been using in his own thoughts to describe it, and it was only reinforced earlier in the day during his session with Harper. "And I saw the house I used to live in? I found it again. And I went in, and ... found Sam. Talked to him. Not about this but... Next time. If I can."
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Ben Sullivan
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 27, 2012 1:41 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

He didn't have to search long. Her gaze was more than willing to find his. She had withdrawn from him earlier out of her initial shock and hurt, but she quickly realized cutting herself off from him wasn't the way to handle it. Running wasn't the way, it wasn't an option any longer. If they were going to get through this, they had to do it together. That was what they had said, what they decided. "I'll be thinkin' 'bout it, I don't think that's unusual. But I... I try t' jus' put more focus on us. What we got goin' on 'tween us an' our time t'gether rather than the things that might happen while we're apart." Apparently Jackie had already established some framework for a system when it came to dealing with Ben and his boys. An absolute work in progress, just as she always said she was.

She wants so badly to get lulled to sleep by the stroke of his thumb to her cheek. The conversation has already been draining and she wants nothing more than to curl up with him and allow herself to drift off. But it's his look, the way he sounds which pulls her back from any sort of calm. She's nodding when he speaks of going inside. An interesting term, but it described it well enough for her to understand. She's patiently watching him while he explains, but it's his final statement, the declaration of progress that makes her brows rise. "Y' found him an' talked to him. What..." She had to stop for a moment. There were too many questions too quickly fighting to get out. "Does he look like you?" Why was that the first question to come out? Because she was most curious about it. "What did y' talk to him 'bout? What did he say?"

More and more, that little bit of fear that she'd run again, reconsider, back out -- it shrank, dulled. It wasn't gone completely yet, but moments like this, as bad as they were, helped to crush out that doubt that still remained. Ben didn't trust easy, and while he trusted Jackie more than he did most people in his life -- more than anyone, maybe; certainly more than any adults he knew -- it had cut him deeply when she left. Slowly but surely though, just by being strong for him -- with him, alongside him -- it's working at building something even stronger than what they'd had before.

There's something about the explanation of the way she deals with things like this that is touching, gives him even more hope, and he comes in a little closer to her, briefly, just to press a lingering kiss to her forehead before settling down next to her with that little bit of comfortable distance between them again, just enough to keep eye contact easy. He doesn't thank her for it, doesn't encourage it or say it's the right way to go about it, but it's clear from his reaction, the kiss and the ghost of a smile at one corner of his mouth, that he's happy about her answer -- hopeful that it works for her, that it keeps the pain of this away as much as possible.

When she asks that first question, a bare hint of a wry laugh escapes him -- just the corner of his mouth lifting a little more, an audible huff of an exhale. It had actually been something that Ben had been surprised to discover himself. "No, he doesn't. Younger. Dark hair. Taller, broader." A little purse of his lips, quirk of his mouth to one side, just for a second, sort of thoughtful. "Same eyes, though." He shakes off that pensive fade to his expression, though while he seems more present then, more engaged, his focus has dropped, somewhere around her throat. "Um..." A sigh, while he thinks over what to say, how to say it. "He wanted to know what I was doing there -- if I was there to try to convince everybody that I didn't need them anymore." He's finally pulling his hand away from her cheek; if her empty hand is still between them, he's taking it, but if not, he's just letting it come to rest between them again. "And after I convinced him enough that that wasn't why I was there, he, um..." His brows knit, and he's biting his lower lip for a second; there's an odd sort of tightness in his chest then, in his throat. "We talked about my-- my stepfather, my mother."

Her eyes had closed at the kiss, enjoying the warmth of the gesture in the middle of such a difficult conversation. She doesn't need him to tell her she's doing good, that he's proud, that he approves. It's all in that gesture, the way he looks at her afterward, and he own confidence in how she's handling things. It doesn't mean that it's always perfect or easy, but it's a start and she'll take it.

His laugh gets a somewhat wider smile out of her. It wasn't meant to be funny, but she'll take any sort of humor she can get in all of this. "Same eyes." Repeating it with a knit of her brows. She's trying to imagine Ben with all of those features. Darker hair, broader, younger. No, she doesn't like it. She's too fond of her Ben in front of her and considering how well she knows that it's easy to lose him from time to time it's a waste to even attempt imagining him any other way. Her hand is still sitting between them at the ready and fingers automatically curl around his. She needed that touch, that assurance of him being there with her, even if their legs were still entwined.

His answer makes her visibly tilt her head back, surprised. "Yer mother an' step father." She's wracking her brain in an attempt to come up with anything about them, any previous conversations. That's when she reaches a realization that makes her a little sick. "I don't think I've much asked y' 'bout yer Mama an' all that." It's apologetic. He knows so much about her family, he's often in the thick of them, and yet she barely knew anything about his. Not that he ever seemed all that inclined to talk about them. Should she press harder? Was he mad she didn't?

Even though Jackie's not hesitating to take his hand, he's fidgeting a little with her fingers, only stilling when they're laced between hers. It's the only outward show of the anxious energy he's feeling; other than that, he's still. There's a pause after she speaks, because he's not sure what to say. It isn't anything he ever speaks about, his childhood. "It's okay," addressing the apology in her tone first. "I don't know if I would've had much to say. I lived with them until I was ten, I ... you know, I went missing for that year. And then I was in foster care." Even then, he has a hard time keeping the conversation there, automatically moving it forward to after he was out of that house. "What, uh... What would you ask, if you wanted to know?" Doesn't even know how to have a conversation about it without being questioned, it seems.

She can feel that fidget in his hand. It's causing her to grasp his hand a little tighter, to bring it to her lips to press a kiss to the back of it. She's even keeping it close, tucking it just beneath her own cheek. "I guess I jus' get worried 'cause I don't wanna make y' upset. I mean... I've been able t' put enough together. Yer boys, what 'causes stuff like that, what brings 'em 'round sorta." The sound of a strap. She's frowning lightly, obviously unsure how to tread. "Y'don't have t' answer anythin' y' don't wanna. Y' don't have t' tell me a thing. I don't wanna force y' back that way." It's a warning, trying to make herself clear before she's delving in, still tentative. "I guess... what was yer Mama like? What was her name?" They seemed like easy enough questions to her, but their upbringings couldn't be more opposite. Jackie was surrounded by family constantly, sometimes to the point of suffocating but always out of love. What had Ben been surrounded by?

It helps, all of it -- the way she tightens her hold on him, her lips against his skin, keeping his hand against her cheek. Quietly listening through her explanation, through the warnings. He knows she knows enough to know that this is ground to tread lightly on. "Mhm." More acknowledgment than really agreeing with anything. Understanding that she's not pushing, not pressing.

They do seem like easy enough questions, but his answer addresses that unspoken difference between them, how different their lives had been. "Alice. She ... was a young mother. She always told me that my father died before I was born, but I don't think that's true." Catching his lower lip between his teeth again, his gaze lifts enough so that she'd be able to see his eyes, but he's still not looking her in the eye -- seems like he's focused somewhere behind her, over her shoulder. "She was fine," though as he says it, his brows draw together again, and there's something almost pained to his expression. "I don't remember her very well." But before she mistakes that pain for some kind of sadness, for missing his mother, he goes on almost immediately, "I used to think that was because it all happened such a long time ago and I'd forgotten her, forgotten growing up, but I think I just ... wasn't there." There's an obvious tightness in his jaw then, and he doesn't press on any further.

"Alice." She's saying the name softly in return, considering it briefly before he went on. She listened carefully to everything he had to say, taking it in and processing it while watching the lines of his face. The shifts in his expression and what he spoke of at the moment to cause those changes. When he stops speaking she's tipping her head aside to press more kisses against the back of his hand, the pad of her thumb working against his skin as well. She doesn't want to let the conversation stop there, but she's choosing her next words wisely. "Why d'you think she wasn't bein' honest about yer Father passin'? What makes y'think he's 'round?" Her brows creased softly, the next question coming out probably more quickly than it should have. Before he even had a chance to answer the first, like it was tumbling from her lips before she could stop it. "You figure you were away that much back then? T'where y'barely remember it?"

He's holding onto her hand a little more tightly when she presses her mouth to the back of his; his other hand had been splayed across her back, between her shoulderblades, and those fingers are curling lightly into the delicate fabric of her top right then. Her first questions aren't exactly easy to answer, so he doesn't even show any signs of being about to respond before she's posing her second set. Maybe he should've been expecting a followup like that, but even if he had been, those questions have an effect on him anyway -- even if the effect is just for him to quiet a moment, go still again, as if he hadn't even heard her. Not mad, not upset, and it's not exactly blank, either -- just neutral, everything internalized, other than that remaining tightness in his jaw.

Eventually he moves, shifts fractionally closer to her. "She never showed me pictures of him. Never talked about him. I don't think she was ever married to him -- I don't think she even knew him very well." He could have checked into this easily, looked up marriage licenses, but he never had. Maybe he'd always known and didn't want it confirmed -- maybe he didn't need it to be confirmed.

There's another pause while he considers how to answer the second set of questions; some of his inner anxiety finally bleeds into his actions, an idle play of his fingers in the lace top she's wearing, following the pattern of it with a fingertip. When he does speak, his voice is quieter than it had been even before, a little slower, but it's from being deliberate, not because of any uncertainty. "I'm not saying this because I'm trying to be dramatic, or because I want you to ... to feel bad for me or pity me. I don't want that." One last curl of his fingers against her back, and then that movement is still. "Yeah, Jackie, I do think that. There's a lot missing. Enough where I don't usually think of myself as having had a bad childhood. I just don't know what that means at all, being a child." It's not bitter, it's not sad; it's only soft, quiet, like an admission he doesn't want to make, only because he knows it must be hard for her to hear. "That was when I knew that they must have been around for longer than I thought, and a lot more than I thought -- when I realized that I have so little of that time that it doesn't even mean anything to me."

He knows it's a lot for her to take in -- especially Jackie, of all people, who has story after story of growing up in her huge family, who is bonded so closely with some of her family members over shared experiences growing up together -- but he goes on anyway. "Sam wanted to know if I hated them. My stepfather... That was one thing I always knew, even when I wasn't sure of anything else -- if those bits and pieces were memories or just something I dreamed. But the hate I have for him is real. That much I know. But my mother..." This time when he trails off, his expression grows absent. It only lasts a few seconds, his staring off at nothing, but when he comes back from it, that short moment of stupor, it takes him another few seconds to reboot, to seem fully back to himself, blinking a little more quickly, shaking off whatever that was that had taken him away so briefly. "I don't, but he says I should." Maybe that answered her question of what his mother had been like much better than his actual response had.
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Ben Sullivan
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 27, 2012 1:41 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

She's just as still and quiet as he is, but for completely different reasons. It's all worry. Worry over him, over what he had experienced, what he was thinking now, whether she pushed him too hard too fast. Maybe it was better to leave these questions unanswered? But when he takes that little shift towards her she's instantly countering it, taking it as a sign that she didn't do something wrong. Especially when he goes on to explain.

"That makes sense, I suppose." She speaks softly when he talks of his Father. Her gaze is searching his face, taking in his features in the muted moonlight streaming in from the curtained windows. She wondered if he had his Mother's eyes or his Father's nose. What he had said made sense logically, but this is where they differed. From Jackie, who had more family than she knew what to do with to Ben, who didn't even know his real Father.

Jackie has to clench her teeth to keep herself from talking right away when he assures her he isn't looking for her to feel bad. She's listening patiently, taking it all in, but when he finishes there's barely a pause before she's lifting a hand to cup his jaw. Steadying him in an attempt to look him in the eye. "I never pity y', Ben. Y' ain't the sorta man t' want pity an' I'm rarely the sorta girl to pass it out. It all jus', puts me more in awe over y'. There are so many people back home who take poor circumstances an' use 'em as an excuse. Y' don't do that. No matter what hand y' were dealt y' grew up t' be a good man. A man I'm proud t' know. There ain't no pity there." The words are soft and determined all at once. Her grasp on his softens when she finishes, the pad of her thumb brushing beneath his cheekbone.

After she's made her point clear she's sorting through everything else. His lack of childhood, of not being around. It's still soaking in when he continues. She can barely stomach the idea of Ben's Step-Father. The idea of a man who could do so much wrong to someone so young. She had so few details but from the pieces she had? It was enough. It was Sam's opinion of Ben's Mother that left Jackie frowning deeply. Her hand was still against his cheek, brushing it softly while she slid just a little closer to him still. Her voice dropped. Just a little unsure, but obviously trying. "Hate fer a Mama is a big thing, Ben. I jus'... I know what Sam said, but it ain't somethin' y' gotta rush into bein' determined 'bout. That much is fer sure. Maybe more will come back. Maybe you'll remember a lil' somethin', but..." She took a deep breath before releasing it in a slow exhale. "Like I said, y' focus on the man y' are now. A good man. An' y' try t' not let hate of the past change that none. I know it's easy fer me t' say. I don't fully understand an' I might never, but... I just think yer too good t' focus on hate. Fer anyone."

There's a second of delay after her hand is on his jaw, but he does lift his gaze to hers after that second. Doing his best to keep emotion out of his eyes, and other than just a little anxiety -- or maybe discomfort is a better way to put it, how it takes effort to continue to hold her gaze -- there isn't much there. A little tick of a half-smile, there and gone, when she tells him she doesn't pity him -- tells him he's a good man. Over the past couple of years, that's something he's started to wonder about.

It's the last statements that she makes that really strike him. Was he really too good for that, too good to hate, to let it define him, or at least define part of him? It's a question he's been turning over in days past, and it's one he still doesn't have an answer to -- but it's one that he's not about to admit to Jackie, his doubts of who he really is, what his missing childhood -- and what happened during it -- made him. "I know it's a big thing. That's why I... I know I said I didn't want to remember things that happened, but maybe I need to. Maybe I need to understand what he means." An absent curl of his fingers into the thin fabric between her shoulderblades, and then his hand moves to tangle his fingers in her hair instead, though that movement is just as absent.

Dropping his gaze for a few seconds, he's biting his bottom lip and nodding faintly, not really even enough to disturb her hand on his cheek, but then his eyes are on hers again. "I do my best, not to dwell on it. If I could, I'd forget any of it ever happened." Hadn't he, in a way, at least for most of it? "But before I believe what he tells me about her ... I'll try to find it out for myself. And I'll remember where I am now -- who I am now." A little pause, a quick glance away before meeting brown eyes again. "Are you okay talking about these kinds of things with me? I don't want to upset you, or..." Idly, he's sifting his fingers through her hair. "Or put too much on you." Scare her off.

She's giving him all the time he needs, trying to balance her gaze between being supportive without being too prying. Her head bobs in a flicker of a nod when he does speak. "I know the idea of rememberin' don't sound appealin'. Y'know the idea worried me from the git. But... if yer gonna be left with some sorta question like that. 'Bout how y'feel 'bout yer Mama, then... maybe it's best t' remember them bits an' pieces? Or else yer gonna be left wonderin' an' that's the sorta thing that gnaws at a man."

Her hand stays in place even through the nod, that bit of touch a comfort for both of them. "It ain't so much dwellin' t'jus' want t'know the truth. T'want t' form yer own opinions, have yer own say. I know them boys were protectin' you all them years an' considerin' how y'turned out I won't say it was all bad, but... y'gotta be able t'form yer own opinions on it. I think they owe y'that at least." She's rolling what she had said over in her head, wondering if she had said too much.

His question catches her off guard and she's returning brown eyes to blue behind a rapid blink. "I'm fine." The answer is so automatic, barely thought out. She realizes it needs more thought, a longer pause. After a few quiet moments of hesitation she's nodding. "I'm alright talkin' 'bout these things with you. I'm more worried 'bout upsettin' you. I'm alright." Her brows knit together thoughtfully. "When we were first t'gether I had this idea that maybe if I seperated m'self from all the bad, I could be some good fer you. I could be a safe spot fer all that. But... there jus' ain't no seperatin' it, Ben. With everyone y'take the good with the bad. Y'do the same fer me. I want to talk 'bout these things with you. I want to know them. 'Cause I don't wanna just ignore 'em or make you ignore 'em. I wanna help y' talk through 'em. Work things out, heal a lil', or if that ain't possible? Well, at least y'ain't bearin' 'em alone no more." She stopped too late, realizing he had never really beared them alone. Her had four others to help. It caused her to finish lamely, quietly. "Y'know what I mean."

Maybe someday he'd get used to this, having somebody give him this kind of support, but right now? It's still new, and mostly, he's just feeling relief when she agrees with him, helps him along in what he'd been thinking. Understands that the others inside weren't all bad. That's something he's never had before. It certainly doesn't seem like Ben thinks she's said too much; he pulls his hand out from where it had been under her cheek, brushes the fall of her bangs off of her forehead, focus there momentarily. "You're right, you know. They do owe me that much. It's something I need to decide on my own."

His brows knit a little for her automatic answer -- he knows there isn't really any thought behind it -- but his expression relaxes when she goes on after a moment of obvious thinking it over. He's listening quietly to her explanation, and while there's a tiny, almost silent huff of wry almost-laughter at the last thing she says -- laughing at himself, his own situation, rather than at her -- after that he's giving up on there continuing to be distance between them, the hand in her hair cradling the back of her head, his other hand pressed to the small of her back so he can, a little bit carefully, pull her in close, press a kiss to her forehead. "I'm really glad you said all that, Jackie. It helps, a lot, to know that you're in this with me." Whether he's ever truly alone or not -- doesn't matter to Ben. "Try not to worry about upsetting me. I know that's probably easier said than done," considering what can happen when he gets upset about things like this, his past, lost time, "but that's the best way to get better, isn't it? Learning how to be upset about all that and be okay with it. I don't know any other way to do it than to just confront it -- and if I'm going to do that, I want you with me. To work things out with me." To be that safe place she said she'd wanted to be, even if it was in a different way.

Even though the conversation at hand is so serious, his hint of wry laughter and the way he drags her in towards him causes a smile to blossom at her lips. She's more than happy to curl herself against him, to twist the fingers of her free hand into the fabric of his shirt while the other still rests at his neck. She wants him close, right there, and she's happy to fall in line if that's what he wants, too. Her smile softened at his kiss and his words. "It's easier said than done, but I jus' gotta remember yer far from delicate. I jus' don't wanna 'cause y'no ache. Y'know that. But it don't mean I can coddle y'none. That ain't fair an' it aint right. I wouldn't want y'to do that fer me."

The words bring a downward curl to the edge of her lips. That's how this whole conversation came about, wasn't it? Now it was coming full circle. The idea that she didn't want to be coddled, that she wanted them to be honest with each other, and that in turn led to Ben with a pocket full of money and a note from some unknown woman. The idea crammed itself back into her mind so forcefully it practically made her head spin, but she attempted to still herself by holding onto him that much tighter. That clingy, desperate sort of hold when Jackie was faced with something just a little too unsettling and she needed him to act as her anchor. Maybe it was a little unfair considering everything he just talked about, so she tried to not be so transparent about what was bothering her. But, he was a detective afterall. "We jus' gotta keep bein' honest an'... workin' things out." Her tone wasn't as empowered as it had been a moment ago, but neither was her posture with the way she curled her head in to settle against his chest.

The question had been on the tip of his tongue, really, but he'd refrained from asking it. What were they going to do about that uncertainty? She didn't sound as confident as she had before, and she didn't feel that way either -- not the way she clung to him, not the way she seems. He is a detective, after all.

Maybe it wasn't fair for her to lean on him like this, considering everything he's just said to her, but it didn't seem to bother him. Really, he just responds the way she might have wanted him to: holding her a little tighter, keeping his hand on the back of her head to encourage her to stay tucked in against his chest. "It'll all work out, sweetheart." Kissing her hair before he's hiding his face in it, leaving his voice a little bit muffled. "We'll keep being honest. It's important." Even if it hurts. Telling her that just makes him more resolved to stop avoiding his past -- he needs to be honest with himself, too. "I... I care so much about you, Jackie. I promise, I'm doing everything I can to make this better. I don't want this to keep hurting you."

"I know." The words are muffled against his chest in response to him saying it'll work out. They kept getting knocked down time after time and somehow they would find a way to bounce back. It had to eventually work out, didn't it? She's listening to him quietly, allowing his grasp to soothe some of that discourse that had risen so quickly in her. When he finished she was tipping her head aside. Not enough to shake away how he was nestled in her hair, but just enough so she could speak clearly in return. "It ain't jus' 'bout me gettin' hurt, Ben. I worry 'bout you, too, with everythin' goin' on. I care 'bout you, too." Her fingers tightened with the words. "I jus' don't want you t'stop bein' honest. I wanna be able t'help you how I can, even if it's jus' listenin' like this. Like y'said... it's important."

Even though she didn't mean to disturb him, he still lifted his cheek from her hair when she moved. That concept, that she's worried about him, too -- it isn't anything he expected. It's enough that there's a pause before he reacts, but there's something more possessive in the way he holds her then, even in the way his cheek presses to her hair again. If it wasn't so suddenly fierce, it might almost seem that same sort of desperate that her own embrace had been. "I'll keep being honest. Promise that too."

Closing his eyes, he's willing himself to dial the emotion down some, loosen his hold on her just a touch, only to try to keep it from being so obviously possessive. "Probably enough talking for one night, right, sweetheart?"

If the way he was suddenly holding her so much more tightly bothered her, it didn't some across in her body language at all. In fact it seemed the the tighter he held her, the more relaxed she seemed to get. The more the knots in her shoulders and tension in her back loosened. "Thank you." The words are soft, tired. It all had hit her at once and now that it was being alleviated it left her in a slumped pile against him. Her eyes are closed as well, her response coming out in a hum and hushed whisper. "Mhmm, please? I think we both need sleep."

Tempted to tell her not to thank him, the same way she's done for him so many times, but he lets it go. Maybe that was important, too -- to acknowledge that he's doing something difficult, worth something. "Mhm, I think so too. Goodnight, Jackie." Sleep wouldn't find Ben for a long, long time, but being able to have her there in his arms, to put his fingers lazily through her hair (at first to lull her to sleep, but then to soothe himself, too), at least kept the time left awake close to peaceful.
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Ben Sullivan
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 27, 2012 1:43 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sunday, November 18th, 2012 -- evening

It had been one of those relaxed yet busy Sundays that were so common back home. Although following church Jackie spent majority of the time around her parents' house, it was filled with cleaning and menu planning with her Mother to prep for Thanksgiving on Thursday. Once Jackie was satisfied that her daughterly duties had been fulfilled she was on her way home to RhyDin when she got the text message from Ben to tell her when she was in the city.

It was a few hours later when she dropped Ben that line and he replied in turn with an address to meet him at. Nothing more than that. Just an address she had never been to. Maybe she should have asked for more details, but this was Ben after all. He would have given her all the information she needed to know and if this was it for now then so be it.

It took her a little longer than she expected since she always felt RhyDin was set up so awkwardly, but eventually she was pulling up at what she assumed was the correct building. The truck was turned off and Jackie was sliding from the cab, using her hip to bump the door shut behind her. There was just a little hesitation as she stayed where she stood, her cellphone being worked between her hands while she took in the unfamiliar surroundings.

It wasn't a great part of the city, but not a terrible neighborhood, either -- older brick buildings, mostly mom and pop owned stores with apartments or office space on the second and third floors above. The address Ben gave to Jackie was for a flower shop, but there's an unlocked door right next to the locked entrance to the shop; behind it is a stairwell up to the second and third floor of that building, and right outside that door, in case she's uncertain, are buzzers to those two floors -- the name, clearly labeled, next to the button for the second floor's occupant, is Sullivan.

There's not really a hallway or anything at the second floor, just a small landing to the right before the stairs continue on. The door there is locked this time, but she must be further reassured she's in the right place; in black lettering on the frosted glass of the door are the words, "Sullivan & Associates -- Investigations."

It had been a slow and steady yet uncertain trudge that carried Jackie inside, up the stairs and to the buzzer. Sullivan, it gave her a small amount of relief mixed with even more confusion. Then there was the door with Sullivan & Associates scrawled across it. She stood outside the door, staring at it for a long while before she realized she wasn't going to get any answers in the hallway. A hand was lifted, knuckles rapping against the door in a quiet knock. Preparing herself for... she wasn't sure what.

Jackie has to wait a moment before the door opens -- and she didn't have to prepare for much, because it's just Ben there, the Ben she's used to, with the crooked little grin, a hoodie, boots, jeans. "Hey, sweetheart." He seems like he's in a better mood than he's been in lately -- sure, when he's focused on her, or they're doing something together, he's been content, happy, but if she'd caught him in those quiet in between times, lost in thought, there'd been tension living in his shoulders, the muscles of his jaw. All that seems like it's gone now.

He grabs Jackie by the wrist and pulls her in through the door, reaching behind her to shut it once she's inside, aiming a kiss to her cheek at the same time. "Trip home go okay?" Asking the question like that was what either of them really wanted to talk about right then. The office space -- and it was clearly an office -- was smallish, but was fully furnished, in dark woods, deep browns and reds: a desk (scattered with file folders and papers already) with a few filing cabinets and one chair behind it, a couple of chairs in front of it; a couch up against another wall and a low coffee table in front of it and an end table to one side of it; a small table with a few chairs. There's another open door at the far end of the room, and the hardwood turns to tile there, so it's probably a bathroom.

That crooked smile and the way he calls her sweetheart puts her at ease, but now there's still a distinct air of being totally lost lingering around Jackie while she's being tugged inside. The lack of tension around Ben, which she had caught now and then, was noted but she was still so in a fog that she couldn't fully appreciate it. She barely realizes she's kissed because she's so busy taking in the office, but it was a few delayed moments later that she was answering the question aimed her way. "The trip was fine. Nothin' outta the ordinary." Another sweep of her gaze around the room then she was finally looking up at him, brows rising slowly. "What is all this, Ben? Y' never told me y' were workin' on anythin' like this."

"Because I wasn't." No hesitation, and his smile goes a little more lopsided. Shifting his grip from her wrist to her hand, he's leading her over to the couch, and he doesn't let go when he takes a seat. It is sort of dimly lit in there (though the windows are decently sized and probably let in a lot of light when the sun is out and the blinds are pulled up), so he reaches over with his free hand to turn the lamp sitting on the endtable on. "After you left today, I tried to get a little work done -- you know," with a gesture toward himself, toward his head, "but it didn't work out. But," and usually that lost time wouldn't be something that has him as excited as it does now, even inching a little closer to her, taking both her hands, "I woke up in my car with a box of business cards -- my business cards, for this place -- and the key that ended up opening this door."

"Y'weren't?" To so many people it would have made no sense. But for Jackie to have Ben say it to her? Well, it didn't make perfect sense, but it wasn't outright baffling. She follows him to the couch, black boots steadily thumping against hardwood before she's turning to sit beside him on the couch. There's a faint nod when he said he tried to get a little work done, but brows are rising steadily up her forehead at his obvious excitement. She never would have imagined seeing that expression when he spoke of waking up in his car somewhere he didn't remember driving to. It was his final statement that hand her tipping her head. "Yer tellin' me someone set up an office, got y'business cards, an' drove yer ass here t'give y'keys to the buildin'?" There was a blink. "Who in the hell could manage that? An'... y'jus' got it today 'cause it already looks like someone's been at it." Nodding her head at the desk covered in papers.

"Yeah, that's exactly what I'm saying." At least she understood, even if she was still thrown off by it. Ben couldn't really blame her, and her reaction doesn't darken his mood any. "Has to be Ivan." A little bit of a shrug. "Nobody else has the focus for something like this, I think. Not just setting the place up, but working. Jackie..." Squeezing her hands briefly, just for the time it takes to lean in and kiss her cheek again. "Jackie, he's been at this for weeks. Most of that time I've been ending up gone... It must've been him. He's finished cases -- gotten paid for it and everything." Watching for her reaction, a little more closely than he'd been watching her before -- he wants to see it when it clicks for her, the relief, the happiness.

She had laid it all out in black and white, he told her she was right, and it was all still so hard to believe. That came through in her smile and a little wry laughter before he went on. "I... don't know much 'bout Ivan." Was he the best of the worst? A small shining star among Ben's boys? Her gaze is trailing around the office again, taking in the results of Ivan's work. No, she couldn't see Sam caring enough to set up something like this. Harry or Ted never could. The kiss to her cheek pulls her full attention back to Ben, furrowing her brows to concentrate on what he's saying. Jackie's initial reaction is to ask how he knows he's gotten paid and that's when it visibly clicks in her expression. Her eyes go wide and not long after her lips are parting to release an exhale of relief she might just have been holding for weeks now. "The money? That's where the money came from?" She's squeezing Ben's hand in return, obviously trying to restrain her reaction. Trying to not get her hopes up before her confirms it for her.

Something softens in his expression, his smile; it might be even better to see her relief than it was to feel his own. "Yeah, sweetheart. I found a casefile that matched up with it -- the amount, the date. So just..." Letting go of her hands, he's framing her face with his own hands pressed to her cheeks, kissing her before pressing his forehead to hers for a moment. "You can put all the rest of that out of your head. Just detective work."

There's another gasp for air and it's followed by a quiet wave of chiming laughter. If asked why the hell she was laughing, Jackie probably wouldn't be able to give a straight answer. But there is so much weight being lifted off her shoulders and chest right now that she doesn't care. It quiets when he kisses her, when his face is so close to hers. "Jus' detective work." She's repeating him in a hushed tone. "It was all jus' detective work. Yer a good detective." It's like she has to say it again and again just to really fill her mind with this new information to completely wash away the incorrect assumptions of before. "I'm real happy, Ben. I'm real happy fer you." She's tipping her head to remove the distance, to press another kiss to his lips. But when she pulls away she's leaning back even further, it looked as if she were struck with another thought. "Holy hell, Ben. Y'got yerself a job. Yer... a detective. I ain't even quite sure what sorta things yer supposed to detect."

The laughter was fine -- it was better than fine; it was welcomed. It felt so good to hear that kind of joy coming from her. When she leans back, he's taking her hands again -- and then it's his turn to laugh a little. "Yeah, I guess I do have a job now, don't I? Some little things, little thefts and stuff like that, but I've got a couple of missing persons cases too. It'll take some adjusting to figure out the best way to do this -- because it's not like I can arrest somebody once I figure out whodunnit, right? But it's good. I can work on that." It wasn't until Ben had gotten here and realized just what this place was that he really understood just how listless not working was making him feel. Already, he felt better -- had more of a purpose. "But I can make my own hours, so I can make sure it doesn't take up too much of my time. I can keep working on everything else. It's perfect, really."

When he takes her hands her fingers are automatically lacing through his and she's even scooting towards him. "Y'got time t'figure alla that out. Obviously it's a boomin' lil' business already considerin' this office ain't too shabby. Considerin' the money y'found on you." Jackie paused and pressed her lips together, playful irritation. "That ass." With a shake of her head she was quickly focusing on the good, Ben's upbeat attitude. "I really am happy fer y', sweetheart. It's the best thing that coulda happened." She was glancing around again. I'm jus' surprised as hell Ivan worked all this up. Though, I don't understand why it ain't jus' Sullivan Investigations or somethin'. He's got Sullivan an' Associates, but it's only yo-" Her mouth froze in that 'o' shape with no sound coming out for a short pause. Her eyes were moving, lifting and sweeping thoughtfully before she continued. "Oh."

"Part of me wonders if he did it on purpose, let me find the money and that note like that." Shaking his head a little, a mix of thoughtful and trying not to think about it all at once. When she first says she doesn't understand the name, he's already looking faintly amused, and when she cuts herself off and figures it out, it's even more obvious. "Funny, right? He's got an interesting sense of humor, I guess."

"Oh good Lord, that's all I need. One of yer boys considerin' himself a comedian." With the way she was smiling and chuckling it was obviously the least of her worries. Really? Compared to what she had dealt with when Sam was around, or Harry, this was a welcome change. "Well, all things considered it was mighty fine of him. He did real good settin' this up." She leaned in and pressed a kiss to the edge of his lips, squeezing his hands along with the gesture while she lingered in close. "An' yer gonna do really good with this place, I know it. This is the sorta work y'were meant to do, Ben. Helpin' people."

Ben's never really thought about it that way, that it's helping people that he's meant to be doing with his life, but the little twinge he feels inside when she says it -- he knows she's right and he's just never phrased it like that. She's still in close, so he kisses her full on the mouth before letting go of her hands to pull her into a hug, cheek to cheek with her. "Thanks, Peaches. For the encouragement." A couple seconds of pause, where he turns his head just enough to sneak a kiss right in front of her ear. "Maybe now you can worry less, too, when I'm not around in the middle of the day. Maybe it'll just be more of this. That's a little bit better, isn't it?"

Her smile widens beneath the kiss and when he's pulling her in towards him there's no hesitation. She's fully leaning her weight against him and sliding her arms around his torso in return. "It's jus' part of what I do, sweetheart. A lil' o' this, a lil' o' that. Make sure y'know damn well when I'm proud of y', which I am." She's happy to let the quiet linger, to allow herself to relax into this calm state of knowing that the money wasn't earned through less than stellar means. Her eyes closed at the kiss and she offered a light nod in return. "It'll make me breathe a lil' easier. Least I'll know where to track y' down at." A light smile and she was pressing her lips to his cheek in return.

Even though she can't see it since he's cheek to cheek with her, he's still smiling when she says she's proud of him. A month or so ago, he might've brushed something like that off. Now? He'll take it, the victories he gets, whatever they are, however he gets them. "Yeah, chances are good I'll be here if I'm not out looking for somebody." He lets his eyes fall closed too. "I might have some late nights doing this, but I'll let you know if I'm not going to be home until late."

"All I ask is y' be careful. But I know y' will. 'Cause if y' ain't I'll kick yer ass." It was one of those odd Jackie statements that she somehow managed to make sound so sweet while she gave him an extra squeeze. "Y' do what y' gotta do, sweetheart, an' I'll stand by y' with it all. If it's late nights then I'll have a plate of dinner waitin' t' warm up fer y' when y' get home."

"I'll be as careful as I can." This kind of job required risks sometimes -- Jackie had to know that -- but Ben could at least not be unnecessarily risky. These days, he didn't feel the need to be. Something in her last statements get a twinge of something inside of him -- a good something, touched. His own hold on her tightens just a little bit too. "Thanks, sweets. Means a lot." One last kiss brushed against her cheek; he's pulling back at the same time. "Speaking of home, let's get going. You're probably tired from the drive and everything, right?"

"I'll take that." She was well aware this sort of job came with risks and that he couldn't simply work sitting behind a desk. It wasn't the sort of person Ben was. It didn't mean she was free from worry or didn't want that little extra confirmation he would at least try to be safe. Jackie returned the squeeze and smiled beneath the kiss before he was pulling back. She gave a heavy exhale paired with a grin. "Oh Lord, that sounds so good right now. I want pajamas, a blanket fort, an' the most handsome man in RhyDin curled up beside me." She was already rising to her feet. "I can come on by another day fer the full tour." She was glancing around the room and seemed to eye the couch just a little bit longer than the rest of it before smiling down at him.

"That's all? Easy to please." The grin isn't quiet as crooked as usual, more genuine -- he's not immune to compliments. Taking her hand, though he's not really using that grip to pull himself up or anything. Just made it easy to lead her to the door after he switched off the lamp. "Sure. Some other day. Bed sounds too good for all that right now." And besides, there wouldn't be anything more exciting than the news she'd already learned.

"An' yet I feel like I'm gettin' the world in return." There's a satisfied exhale when she follows him out the door.
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