Axel got to work a little earlier and a little more prepared the next evening. He had stopped off at a department store and bought a duffle bag for his uniforms, as well as a collection of novels, newspapers from every available news group, and a book of road maps to study, to get to know the area better. To his pleasure, the temp kid, Pence, was waiting for him when he arrived, lurking around the elevators obviously in the hope of catching him before he went downstairs for his shift. Excellent – this meant he wouldn't have to endure the receptionist and actually ask where to find him.
He approached Pence, who was looking awkward just hanging around like some kind of delinquent in amongst all the suits who came and went via the elevators. Upon spotting him, Pence's expression didn't improve much. With a grimacing twist of his mouth, he lifted a hand as though to catch Axel's attention, despite the fact that the man was making a beeline for him. The second he was within earshot, Axel asked, "Peter, Peter, Pumpkin Eater. Ever heard that one before?"
The kid sighed. "My name is Pence."
"No, it's not." Axel slung his duffel bag onto one shoulder, cocking a hip and smirking down at the kid.
Pence looked back with annoyance and some barely concealed dislike. "So, like, I'm supposed to get you some more uniforms, I guess."
"So, like, I guess you are. Hop to it, Pumpkin Boy, I've got a long night ahead of me."
With a huff and a glare, Pence obediently pressed the elevator call button, the doors sliding apart to admit them with the obligatory ding. The ride up to the fifth floor was made in silence, the kid looking determinedly at the wall of buttons as though trying to pretend that the jackass beside him didn't exist. When they stopped, the number five aglow, Pence was the first one to step out, trying to put some distance between them, but immediately upon turning the corner there came a drawling, self-satisfied voice. "Well, well, well, what's a douchebag little chicken-wuss like you doing up here after curfew? Aren't you meant to be all tucked up in your nice-y warm-y bed-bed, baby Pence?"
"Yeah, baby Pence, y'know?"
Axel took his time stepping out, enjoying the sudden silence that his presence commanded, Seifer's face dropping from its nasty sneer at the sight of him. "Evening, gentlemen," the redhead calmly greeted, tipping a two-fingered salute from his forehead.
"What the hell do you want?" Seifer demanded, a savage note of petulance in his voice. Axel shrugged easily.
"I'm just picking up some clothes. I have this habit of – not quite having enough of them. Oh, well, though." He balled his hand into a fist and popped it into Pence's shoulder to get him moving, the kid stumbling forward a step with a whine. "Continue on, temp kid."
Rubbing his shoulder, Pence did as he was told, passing through the trio of Seifer, Rai, and the quiet Vivi, looking slightly amazed when they parted to let him by. Axel followed after him, feeling cocky, Seifer's little gang left muttering among itself as they resumed their progress down the corridor. After a silent few moments, Pence ventured, with some awe, "How – how did you do that?"
A corner of Axel's mouth curled upward, but he didn't glance down, simply saying, "Eyes forward, Pumpkin. I'm not here for the wit and sparkling conversation."
Frustrated, reminded of why he didn't like Axel, the kid did as he was told, grumpily leading the way to the locker room. He shoved the door open, Axel having to catch it to prevent it from smacking him in the face, while Pence meanwhile had gone to stand by one of the lockers, waiting impatiently for him to catch up. Amused, Axel joined him, Pence holding up a single key on a thin key-ring. "This is your locker now. Ansem got me to get five more uniforms from the storage room, they're in here, you just have to make sure you lock up each time you use it because if you lose any, you have to pay for them. Okay? Okay."
He tossed the key to Axel, and was already almost out of the locker room by the time Axel said, "Okay…" As he was passing through the door, Axel twisted, called out, "Thank you, Peter!"
The door banged shut.
With a grin, feeling rather satisfied with himself for the time being, Axel unlocked his newly appointed storage space, pulling out a plastic-wrapped, dry-cleaned uniform from the slender stack within. He changed out of his street clothes, stuffing them into his duffel, and with his employee ID lanyard around his neck and the hair tugged out of his collar, Axel was ready to roll.
He headed back out to the elevator, Seifer and company nowhere in sight, and caught a ride down to the basement to set himself up for the night to come. His books were stacked neatly in the shelf underneath the desk, on top of the lacklustre porn of the yester-guards, with his newspapers folded and put to one side. He drew out his lunch, packed into a brown paper bag, and set it over at the edge of the desk, out of the way. At least the risk of complete and utter mind-numbing boredom would be held at bay, for the present. He was ready for the long stretches of nothing to do; now it was just a matter of being ready for Roxas.
As with yesterday, the lab team took their time arriving, some looking as though they had just rolled out of bed as they shuffled down the hallway and got Axel to register their ID in the system. This time, Roxas was third to appear on the security monitors, Axel sitting straighter at the sight of him, mouth thinning, jaw set with determination. Things were about to change in his favour – he would make sure of it. As the kid finally turned up outside his window again, Axel put on a smile, poured all his known charm into it, and said, "Hey, there."
Roxas grunted in response, slapping his identification into the metal scoop between them. Axel inhaled, slid the card through to his side of the window, and picked it up. He then held on to it, making no move towards the scanner, instead keeping his eyes on the boy and waiting. Again, like the previous night, Roxas eventually noticed the lack of activity on the other side of the glass and swung around to glare coolly at Axel. "The piece of plastic goes into the little device by your elbow, genius. Do it, then press the pretty orange button. Or is that too difficult for you?"
Axel smiled faintly. "Are you always this pleasant? Or do I just bring out the best in you?"
Roxas made a sardonic noise. "I doubt you bring out the best in anyone. Can you swipe my card? Today, maybe?"
Axel shook his head, placing the card down to one side and folding his hands together. On the other side of the glass, Roxas became frustrated; he knew that he couldn't go and operate the elevator without his ID, even if he felt like doing the sniffy stomp-away thing. If Axel didn't either press the orange button or give back the identification, Roxas was stuck here like it was purgatory – except for, of course, turning and leaving the building. Which Axel really hoped didn't occur to him.
Luckily, however, it seemed more important to the blond to challenge Axel directly. He disappeared briefly to rattle the locked door to the office, reappearing angrily a moment later. "What the hell is wrong with you? You can't just keep me standing here, I'm an em-fucking-ployee, and you're just the new guy. So quit with the power game and swipe my card."
"It's not a power game." It did feel good like one, however. Axel narrowed his eyes, hunching his shoulders and moving closer to the glass, Roxas looking uncertain, distasteful, like he wanted to pull away a little. "I'd like to ask you something."
There was a pause, before the boy shortly demanded, "What?"
Axel tilted his head to one side, a beseeching expression in place as he said, "I feel like we've got off on the wrong foot. I don't know why, exactly, but I get that impression."
"He's a fucking wunderkind," Roxas muttered to himself.
Axel straightened, jabbing a finger at the window, exclaiming, "There, see? What was that? Rudeness for the sake of it?"
Roxas looked at him like he was an idiot. "Why do you care? 'Rudeness for the sake of it'? If I want to treat you like shit, I'll treat you like shit. I don't need a reason. Nobody needs a reason." He looked Axel up and down with open dislike. "You don't need a reason, I'm sure."
"I'm not treating you like shit," Axel pointed out. There was movement out of the corner of his eye, distracting him for a split-second – Ansem was walking through the security monitors, heading into the elevator from the parking lot.
"You don't need to, for me to think you're a jerk-off." Roxas fixed him with a withering scowl. "Although it kind of feels like you are, anyway. Like now, for example. And last night, you did the same thing, just like this – it's all power games."
"This isn't me playing power games," Axel argued – no, wait, not argued, disagreed, he was still very much in control of this conversation. Yes. "If I was playing power games, you'd know all about it, kid, you wouldn't even know what hit you."
Wait, was that what he'd wanted to emphasise?
"So I wouldn't know what hit me…" Roxas slowly repeated, "…but I'd know all about it?"
Axel heard the elevator distantly rumble away from where Roxas had left it, rising to meet Ansem.
"I would ask you if you've taken all your medication tonight," the blond continued, "but I wouldn't want to insult those in the world who do have genuine mental illness – as opposed to your absolute, undiluted stupidity."
Axel squeezed his eyes shut for a moment, pinching the bridge of his nose with one hand and waving the other through the air, as though to try and dissipate the bad feeling between them. "No, wait, look – see, things are degenerating. I wanted for them to not degenerate, I was planning on this being a very adult encounter, during which we talked and reached an accord of some kind."
Roxas smirked, lifting his chin disdainfully. "I don't reach 'accords' during 'adult encounters' with just anyone, you know. Your euphemisms could do with a little tweaking, there, asshole."
Ansem was in the elevator, it was on its way down. "I'm really not an asshole," Axel replied, some desperation tugging at his words. "I'm a nice guy, and I'm – I wasn't using euphemisms – I'd just like to be working somewhere where I'm getting along with everyone, and I feel like that really isn't happening between you and me…"
"You want to get along with everyone? Please." Roxas' scorn knew no bounds. The elevator dinged at their basement level, gleaming doors parting to regurgitate Ansem into the hallway. The boy glanced down towards him, sensing victory close at hand. He leaned towards the window and lowered his voice for the finishing blow. "Try a total personality lobotomy. Maybe then I'd find the time to talk to you without treating you like an idiot. Idiot." Then, relaxing and raising his voice back to normal, he greeted Ansem with, "Hello, sir. I'm just on my way in, the new security was –" he turned to Axel with an icy smile, "- just swiping my identification now."
Oh, sweet Christ. Axel didn't know whether to rip the little office to pieces or burst into gales of laughter.
"Ah. Yes. Very good." Ansem joined them, Axel's fingers twitching, itching to do something rash, a little bubble of wildness welling up inside him – but no, the job, he had to stick to the job plan, and it even came complete with killing the very person causing him all his problems. He bit the inside of his lip, suppressing a grin as he grabbed Roxas' smiling ID card and dragged it quickly through the machine.
"There," he declared, sounding only slightly strangled. "You're free to go." He returned the blond's identification, Roxas calmly taking it, waiting for Ansem to be registered in the system as well before the two of them continued down the corridor together. Axel pressed the orange button, heard the freight elevator buzz, and noticed that yet more employees were appearing on the monitors, who would need his attention.
That night, despite all his preparation, Axel found himself incapable of focusing on any of the reading material he had brought with him. He could hardly even taste his food. He found himself instead running the whole encounter through his mind over and over, remembering every spoken word, every glance, and Roxas' incomparable sneer. This wasn't like dealing with Seifer. This was different, there was more to it than just a confrontation with an idiot – which, he realised gradually, was precisely how Roxas had viewed it, with Axel in the role of Seifer. Incredible. It was enough to make his head spin. And hadn't it spun! He had ended up completely on the back foot, in a minute; Roxas had taken him from his lofty perch of all-seeing, all-knowing and thrust him into a – a vertiginous vortex of sheer reaction.
By the end of the night, Axel was feeling nearly breathless. And when Roxas went by him on the way out, the blond behaved as though he wasn't even there, Axel was invisible to him. How utterly – utterly short-sighted human beings were, particularly those from the bloody past. It was astounding that that petty child had absolutely no clairvoyance whatsoever that he was screwing with the very monster that would ultimately snuff the last breath from his body, every ounce of irrational defiance crushed into dust. Because, see, that would have made sense, Axel could have forgiven that – but this? What was this? It was the not knowing that he couldn't stand, and dealing with Roxas head-on had just made things worse.
At the very end of the night, Ansem managed to finish the whole debacle off by pausing at Axel's station, sending a long, piercing look through the window at Axel, who sat patiently and waited for whatever pearl of wisdom the man felt like imparting. Rather than wisdom, however, Ansem chided, "I noticed that you and Roxas were conversing earlier this evening when I arrived. I'd prefer it if you didn't delay any member of my team during their arrival, or indeed their exit. We must be a well-oiled machine, Mister Drake, if we are to complete our research before others are able to in our stead. Please keep this in mind, and be sure to be as efficient a cog in this company as is possible. That will be all for now. Enjoy the remainder of your night."
He was the last to leave the building, and as he watched the man cross the parking lot to his dormant car, Axel let loose the laughter that had threatened to spin out of him earlier. This job was going to be his undoing; one way or another, all the way down to his bones, he just knew it.
Axel had started working at the Research Committee on a Tuesday; by Saturday night, little had changed in the way of relations with Roxas.
Axel had driven by his bungalow a couple of times, before and after his shift, but short of being able to step up to the door and kick the kid's face in ahead of schedule, there was nothing to be done. At work, there was simply no opportunity to make changes occur, and it frustrated the hell out of him. He tried, Lord knew he tried every single night to get the blond's attention and drum up something a bit more positive between them, but Roxas wasn't budging. He was refusing to get along, or even be civil, and after nearly an entire week of it, Axel was beginning to consider how else he might be able to access the kid's personal space to monitor his progress on the Cornerstone Theory. It was going to probably necessitate listening devices and database hacking, neither of which were the most secure of methods at this point in the game, but if that's what was required, then that was what he'd do. Of course, he would keep the friendship avenue open and continue to chip away at it – but he wasn't exactly going to rely on it. Roxas had graduated from dirty looks to permanently pretending that Axel wasn't there. This really wasn't working.
Recently, he had taken to photographing Black's house during what passed for sleeping hours with the nocturnal crew of the Cornerstone Theory's leading scientific minds. Not knowing Roxas' exact daytime habits – for example if he was a light or irregular sleeper, apt to roam the bungalow and peer through the curtains like some restless, albeit suspicious, characters Axel had been acquainted with during his life as a hunter – the redhead made a point of being cautious. Sometimes he would drive by, taking pictures with one hand as he passed; other times he would go on foot, in myriad disguises that hid his distinctive hair and generally morphed his image. He had been doing this for two days now, and after a week would put them all together on his computer and see what he could correlate in terms of vaguely useful visual information.
After tonight's shift, he had twenty-four hours to himself, which he planned to use wisely – strictly in terms of self-preservation. He was going to drink himself shit-faced in the confines of his cosy basement, and he was going to buy a fucking punching bag. He needed the release, badly. After that, he could go back to being super-spy or whatever the fuck. Taking pictures was about all he was good for at the moment, with the target refusing him even the time of day. Axel had tried, too; he'd asked Roxas the time of goddamn day, and the kid had told him it was time to get a watch. The nerve of some people.
As Saturday's shift drew to a close, nothing extraordinary having happened whatsoever in the guard station – he was beginning to see why previous guys had sold inside information to competitors, it must have lent a little thrill to their otherwise drab and meaningless lives – Axel started wondering if he could taste the tequila already. He found that he was craving the end of the working night, felt a flutter of relief as the first of the scientists started trickling by, not to return until the Monday evening: obviously what passed for a 'weekend' for these people. One by one, the research team took their leave, some of them acknowledging him as they passed, others a little too self-important or exhausted for it. Roxas was, for the first time, the last to leave. Axel wondered with annoyance if the blond was doing it on purpose, trying to drag it out to punish him for God only knew what, to prevent him from getting out of this damnable guard station. He wouldn't put it past him; Axel could picture him now, smirking to himself down in the lab where he knew Axel couldn't even see him, sitting smugly drinking a coffee or taking a nap or something similarly petty and cruel. He now knew why the contract had been put out on the kid: he was infuriating.
However, it was during this silent fuming session that Roxas finally came up, looking weary, dark under the eyes like he'd been nose to the grindstone from dusk til dawn. He darted Axel a short look and kept on walking, evidently not bothering even with the withering barbs he was so adept at tossing the redhead's way. Axel watched him go, letting loose a long sigh, feeling that he had reached an indefinite impasse. He wondered, for an insanity-stricken moment, if he would have had more luck acting like Reno – that overwhelming sleaze worked on a surprising number of people. It might even have been worth a shot, if not for what happened next.
As Axel's green eyes slid from the screen monitoring the elevator, in which Roxas stood stoop-shouldered, to the one for the parking lot, a flicker of motion caught his attention. Gaze sharpening, he zeroed in on the movement, a frown slowly creasing his features. For a long moment, there was nothing… the parking lot appeared deserted… but there, again, a disruption flashed through the stillness, an unmistakeable shape: there was somebody already in the parking lot. There was somebody there… and they were trying hard to not be seen.
It was one person, a large man, crouched behind a car – Roxas' car, the only one left in the lot aside from Axel's rental. He had no idea how long he'd been there. There had been more cars earlier in the night, and more people – Axel hadn't noticed anything with the extra interference. His body tightened, jaw clenching; what did this mean? Why was there someone up there? And what did it mean for Roxas, who was about to enter the damned garage? He would surely come across the intruder, since he would be making straight for him. He couldn't avoid a confrontation even if he tried – but wait. Axel grabbed the desk, standing up sharply, the chair rolling away behind him as he saw a second shape moving through the parking garage, swiftly appearing from the shadowy area by the elevator doors, waiting to one side for them to open. Two intruders now – and they could hear the elevator coming. Whatever the hell this was, Roxas was about to get jumped – Axel had to get up there, now.
His mind started turning cold, even as his body heated up with the excitement of a new hunt. He started analysing the situation, unlocking the door with cool speed and throwing himself out into the hallway, bolting down towards the elevator. He couldn't imagine a scenario in which two intruders were able to enter without him noticing; the screens were all he had to look at, any change in them and he would have surely spotted it. They should not have been able to do it. But they were up there, there was no denying that much, and however they'd done it, they were just short of taking an employee's identification and making their way downstairs. Fucking scientific espionage, just like Dr. Crescent had warned him. How could it happen this quickly, this easily? Maybe the point of it was that he was supposed to stay put, call in the big guns, let the common employee take the beating coming his way and wait for it all to resolve itself. But it wasn't that simple for him; Roxas was his target, and God help anyone who tried to take that away from him.
He reached the elevator, hammered the button in a staccato rhythm. It lit up, the sound of gears and cables rumbling out of sight telling him that the car had already released Roxas into the parking lot and was returning. Shit. He was so accustomed to being able to see everything from the monitors in the guard room, he felt blind not knowing what was going on, vibrating with agitation. Hissing through his teeth, Axel slammed the button several more times, wondering why the hell the elevators moved like lumbering fucking sloths in a building as shiny as this one.
At long last, the doors split apart, Axel one step back and ready in case one of the interloping duo had climbed in and left Roxas for his partner – but it was empty. That didn't bode well for Roxas. He was inside in a flash, the doors closing behind him, the elevator car rising back towards the garage. In the few moments he had before reaching Roxas, Axel readied himself, taking a deep breath, balling his fists, calming himself, everything inside him turning murky and dark as his blood pumped faster with lust for the fight.
The elevator came to a halt, its cheery ding a jarring juxtaposition to the circumstances. As soon as the doors were open enough, Axel was out, spotting Roxas halfway across the lot, held by one hulking man from behind, being attacked by the other from the front. He sprinted for them, the growl that rumbled in his throat tearing into a yell as he reached them, throwing his fist into the side of the attacker's face. The man, long and skinny, had spotted Axel only at the last second; he didn't pull away in time, and ended up with blood on his face, smashed out of his nose by the edges of Axel's knuckles. There was a stunned moment as the three males stared at him. Roxas hung between them, bruised and dishevelled, eyebrows up around his hairline at the sight of Axel standing there radiating viciousness.
Axel, on the other hand, didn't pause to make introductions – while they were on the back foot, he pressed the advantage, ducking and whipping a leg around to slam into the backs of the hulking one's knees. The man buckled, Axel punching him, then returning his attention to the thin one in time to get hit in the face himself. He staggered back, lowered his head, and lunged, wrapping his arms around the attacker's thin waist and dragging him away from Roxas. The man had long, silver hair that flew into Axel's eyes, the redhead reaching up and grabbing a handful of it as a knee jabbed into his stomach. Grunting, he wrenched back on the hair, a slight cry popping from the man's lips, a pale throat exposed, Axel burying an elbow into it.
He dropped the thin intruder to choke on the ground, twisting to target the big one – only to find Roxas neatly holding his own, using their difference in size to his distinct advantage. He moved faster than the big guy, jabbing punches in quick and sharp, shoes dragging audibly over the concrete as he darted one way, then another. He held himself like an experienced fighter, like he'd taken more than his fair share of self-defence classes, which he then proved by grabbing the guy by one arm and literally tossing him over his shoulder. Axel was impressed in spite of himself.
"Not bad," he commented, voice echoing in the enclosed space. Roxas threw him an angry, incredulous look, like 'Not bad' was a pretty stupid thing to be saying under the circumstances. Axel supposed he could see it from the blond's point of view, and adjusted his attitude accordingly, turning and kicking the long-haired guy hard in the face. He heard an expletive being spluttered through yet more blood and coughing, then got shoved hard into a concrete column, knocking his head hard enough to briefly see stars. It took him a few breathless seconds to straighten up and refocus, by which time the skinny guy was no longer where Axel had left him. It took a little longer for him to look around and realise that the big one had swooped in and snatched his partner up, the two of them now limping post-haste towards the exit. Axel hesitated, knowing he could probably make some sort of pursuit… but Roxas was the focus here, not them. Glancing over his shoulder to where the blond stood with his hands on his knees, catching his breath, Axel knew he was making the right decision.
Pushing away from the column, he shuffled over towards Roxas, bending and slipping a hand under the sweat-dampened blond fringe that hung over his face, lifting it to find blue eyes gazing back. "You okay in there?"
Roxas bumped his arm away sharply – not irritably, like he might have done, but more like he just didn't need the Florence Nightingale routine. "I'm fine," he muttered, straightening up, running his fingers through his hair and wincing a little. Touching his middle gingerly, he added, "I will be, anyway." Axel blew out a breath, touching his own bruises carefully, feeling for whatever damage would last the weekend. Roxas glanced over, then looked away, asking, "Is your head okay? You've got a lump. It looks sore."
Axel touched it, flinching a little at the pain. "Well, it isn't bleeding – that's good, at least. I've weathered harder hits than that one." He turned, gazing over towards the garage's exit. The intruders were gone, up at street level now, melting back into the night. "Do you know who those guys were?"
"I don't know. I don't care." His tone surprised Axel, who looked back towards him, Roxas already setting off towards his car again.
"Hey!" Axel hurried to catch up, wondering at the mood. "Are you sure you're all right? Maybe head to the ER, just to make certain…"
"I'm not hurt," Roxas replied shortly, not slowing in his pace, eyes fixed straight ahead. "I know what it feels like, I've been hurt before. This is just some bumps and grazes."
"Well – okay." Uncertainly, he dogged Roxas' steps, unwilling to let it go at this. "Um, should we be filing some kind of report about it, then?"
Impatiently, Roxas snapped, "Look, you know what? That's not my concern – you're the security guy, right? You take care of it. Nice going, by the way, you did a bang up job of keeping the place secure."
Stung by his tone, pissed off now, Axel retorted, "Hey, I got up here as fast as I damn well could, you goddamn brat! How about a thank you, while we're on the subject? It wouldn't kill you to just be a little bit nice to me after I've helped save your ass and all." He stomped to a halt as Roxas reached his car and began to unlock it with his back to the redhead. "You know what? I don't even know what your problem is," Axel continued, angrily. "I've tried so damn hard just to get you to be civil to me, and you won't even bother with that. I haven't done anything bad to you, I haven't been rude to you, I haven't done anything but be completely fucking nice to you!"
Roxas paused, tilted his head slightly towards Axel, opening the driver's door with a soft click. "Yes," he agreed quietly. He turned to face Axel fully, blue eyes tired but full of emphatic meaning as he said pointedly, "…To me."
Leaving Axel to puzzle that one out alone, Roxas climbed into his car, started the engine, got into gear. Winding down his window, he said, "Thanks for the help," and drove away, stopping only to swipe his ID to make the security boom lift. Axel heard the car pick up speed quickly, and wondered if Roxas was afraid that the intruders were still out there, waiting for him.
All too soon, there was silence in the parking garage. It was dim, and lonely, Axel's car the only one left in the entire lot. He stood there for a while, slowly scanning the edges of the lot. Everything seemed to have concluded too rapidly, and without lasting consequence; Roxas hadn't seemed all that perturbed about getting attacked. Surprised, even – there hadn't been a single question on his lips. Putting himself in Roxas' shoes – hell, staying in his own shoes – he was sure he'd have a couple dozen things to ask right off the bat, if only to find out "Who were those jerks?" and "What the hell is going on?"
Strange. But then, Axel was kind of getting used to that.
He needed to return to his office, lock up for the night, and on Monday he would make his report to Ansem. Dr. Crescent hadn't exactly briefed him on what to do when the employees started getting beaten up near their cars. He supposed that as long as they hadn't got inside, and Roxas hadn't been too badly hurt…
God, that kid was an enigma. At the end of the day, even after getting half-mugged in the parking lot, he'd still had the presence of mind to treat Axel like a dick. And for what?
"'...To me'?" Axel muttered it under his breath a few times, then sighed. There would be time enough to figure it out once he was out of this place. It was looking like the Sunday boozing was out of the question, though, now that he'd need all his brain cells in working order.
But who knew – Roxas had spoken to him semi-rationally, right? Even given him a clue of sorts to figuring out the workings of his bewildering little mind. At the very least, they had some conversation material to flesh out the next time they saw each other.
Perhaps something good could come of all this yet.