Prompted by an anon on Tumblr - it's far longer than I'd intended, but I hope it will suffice. (: Enjoy!

This is the first time she thinks about it:

He's just taken his place across from her at some weathered little cafe, earning himself a few of the same sideways glances and snags of unsettled murmuring that manage to follow him wherever he goes. In Dublin, it would've been his demeanor, his age, his manner of dress; here, it's his very species, combined, perhaps, with his ability to speak Gnommish as though he took his first steps here in Haven. And, of course, his reputation is perpetually liable to draw attention, whether above ground of below it.

Never one to waste time, particularly when there's business to be discussed, he's already talking before he's fully sitting down; all the same, there's a brief instant of silent acknowledgment between the two of them beforehand, when he's leaning down to take his seat and pressing her coffee cup into her extended palm. A glance and a shallow, quick nod, and it's over. Textbook.

...or rather, it would be, but in that split second her fingers brushed his, long and slim and coffee-warmed. "It's simple," he starts, though the smirk tugging at the corners of his mouth guarantees that it isn't. Whatever words constitute the following lecture begin to fade into background noise, which is likely just as well, as his first attempts at explanation are seldom comprehensible to those not hideously well-versed in every subject not involving social prowess, but she feels herself shift uncomfortably nonetheless. Because now she's thinking about his hands, and about the way his tongue darts out from behind his lips to catch a rogue drop of coffee, and in no way is she possibly thinking about this right now.

Perhaps thirty seconds into his tangent, he cuts himself off abruptly, cocking his head to the side in what's likely half curiosity, half concern. "Problem?"

In an odd utilization of her LEP training, she refrains from wincing; instead, she rolls her eyes and thrums her fingers impatiently on the table. "Not at all," she says, and as her voice returns to the normal teasing banter she feels the world snap back into normality. "Just waiting for you to cut the techno-babble and get on with it."

He pauses for perhaps half a second longer than necessary, giving her a look she's sure she's never seen before – amused and thoughtful and maybe just a little perplexed.

When he smiles and begins again (though not without a playful roll of his eyes), she's able to properly concentrate, but there's something there at the base of her stomach, and she just knows it's not going to be easily expelled.


This is the hundredth time he thinks about it:

She's knocking on his window at approximately 2:17 AM, and while he normally wouldn't deign to be awake at this hour lest he was preoccupied with something grave, he's been expecting her arrival since five o'clock, when she was first scheduled to visit the manor. According to her static-laden updates (he'd be sure to point that out to Foaly in the most ingratiating manner possible, later), the shuttles were delayed for even the most decorated LEP officers, an upcropping that proved effectively detrimental to their (quite pointedly friendly) dinner plans. Something about an unfortunate dwarf and gnome encounter. He didn't ask.

No sooner than he's opened the window is she shooting through it, bringing a miniature deluge of rainwater to soak into the carpet of his bedroom floor. He arches a brow as he clicks the latch back into place. "There was an issue with the front door, I take it?"

He turns around just in time to see her roll her eyes, though in truth he isn't sparing much thought to that at this moment in time. Rather, he's more intrigued by the dark form her LEP suit is cutting against the backdrop of his bedroom, rain-slicked and sleek and skin-tight. The weather seems to have thrown her hair into a wet, tousled mess about her face, and her coffee-colored cheeks are stained an interesting tint of russet, undoubtedly due to the exhilaration of flying. To be frank, she looks thoroughly debauched.

"I was thinking about your parents, mud boy," she replies, though the insult's original sting has long since faded into fondness. "Or are they used to you having women over at all hours of the night?"

She's teasing – of course she's teasing – but the fault line between the implication and her less than put-together appearance blurs in his mind, for the first time in memory his brain effectively short-circuits, leaving him to stand stock-still by the window until for approximately four-and-a-half seconds too long to be considered anything but awkward.

"Hey," she says, reaching up to put a comforting hand on his shoulder. "You okay? I didn't wake you up, did I?"

It occurs to him how blindingly obvious it is that he's been awake all night – he's still dressed entirely in his regular clothes, for heaven's sake – at which point he finds himself shifting back into his usual persona, rolling his eyes and giving the barest traces of a wry smile. "Obviously not," he replies. "Now, were you going to dry off and tell me about your flight, or would you prefer to continue ruining the carpet?"

A hint of perplexed concern lingers in her eyes, but nevertheless she grins and carries on the conversation, and on the whole the evening continues on as originally planned. All the same, it's there, and he knows it's there – that feeling that's been wreaking havoc on his system for months, now, tapping away at the final reserves of his dignity. In spite of his (many) efforts, it's only grown stronger; after all, you can't kill an idea.