Lodestone: A Wynston/Ruth Alternate Universe
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04.02.2013 , 02:02 PM |
L+23 months: The Flatterer
"Wynston, have you ever stopped to wonder how much time you spend just lavishing praise on me?"
Wynston eyed her from where he stood by the dormant fireplace. "No," he said. "It's a perfectly good use of what time we do have. I like praising you."
"You do it with everyone else, too. At least Vette and Jaesa for sure. It's been described as over the top."
"But not unwelcome, I hope? I don't make it sexual. Jaesa never seems to object, and I do like ribbing Vette but I'll stop if it bothers her."
"Not unwelcome. We just wonder sometimes why you put so much time into it."
"Why shouldn't I, darling? I may be gone tomorrow. You may be gone tomorrow, though I hope with all my heart you're not. Less morbidly, it's possible that no one else thinks to say these things to you, such that you're not even aware, or you don't really believe, that you're as wonderful as you are. Why would I take part in a conspiracy of silence about something you so richly deserve to know?" He leaned on the mantelpiece and kept smiling at her. "That goes for your friends, too. All three of you are highly praiseworthy people, it's not like I'm fabricating anything. Just pointing out what's there."
She cocked an eyebrow. "At least you keep it rational with the other two. So you're just that enthusiastic about me in every conversation we've ever had?"
"Stars, yes. I thought that was clear by now. If it makes you uncomfortable…well, first, I wish you'd told me a long time ago, and second, I can tone down the expression. If not the feeling behind it."
"Could you really?" she said archly. "I don't think you've ever gone five minutes in my presence without saying something extravagant about me."
"Darling, there are times I have trouble going thirty seconds without informing you that I've noticed something wonderful about you. But I can stop if that's what you want."
"You could? Starting, say, right now?"
"All right." She grinned and settled in one of the big armchairs. "Do it."
He shrugged with a small suffering sigh. "As you wish, darling. – Is 'darling' acceptable?"
"For purposes of the experiment, no."
"Really? That's very harsh, my lord."
"Don't do that!"
"You told me I couldn't call you the other thing," he drawled.
"No 'my lord'ing, either."
"These restrictions are adding up rapidly."
"You're an experienced social creature, you'll figure it out."
"If I have to play this like I'm dealing with someone new, which I practically do if I have to pretend I don't know…" his lip twitched briefly…"you – no praiseworthy details – generally I have a motive directing the conversation, some topic it's safe and necessary to stay on. It's nothing like just being around here with you, where we can talk about anything or nothing, which I'm not saying is in any way special or that I enjoy."
She relaxed further into the armchair, her smile widening. "You're pushing it."
His smile faded a little. "I'm not saying I enjoy your company," he said seriously. "As a matter of fact if I clear away a number of subtleties that I'm not going to enumerate or dwell on, I could really choose to be anywhere right now. I happened to end up here, I may as well make the best of it. How's the weather been?"
"Fine," she said blandly, suppressing the urge to laugh at the indifference they were both faking. "Just about the level of pouring you hate most, steady for the last week or so."
"Dromund Kaas in a nutshell. Frankly, not to insult your homeland, but the only thing I really like about this planet is the Citadel and its city, and I would skip even those most of the time if I didn't have business there." He raised an eyebrow and offered a tiny, fleeting smile. "Anyway, I suppose we've already been over the highlights of work. Obviously, I'll repeat, if you need any support following up on the tasks you mentioned, feel free to call. Believe it or not, I can be useful quite apart from moral support if necessary."
The self-deprecation wasn't needed. "Of course I believe that, Wynston," she said warmly. "…I still get to say nice things about you."
He inclined his head. "Thank you. Anyway, what are your plans for the evening?"
"I was going to spend some time with Cole. He's been sitting still long enough for me to read to him lately. Whether he'll do that when you're in the room I don't know."
His expression warmed again as he chuckled. "He can climb me and listen both at once. I hope I'm not really that much trouble, you know I very much enjoy being near him." He caught her look and smiled even more. "Don't ask me not to say nice things about him, too. My self-control has limits."
"You may praise Cole," she said graciously.
"Good. He's very good company. I could look after him this evening if you like, give you and the staff a break. Failing that if I can sit in on your reading, I'd like to; if not, I'll catch up on correspondence."
"You can stay with him."
That smile was brilliant. "Thank you. I can head over now, I don't want to take up your time."
"I like our chances to talk, though."
"Ah." His expression abruptly damped down. "I'm flattered. I'll stay, then."
His coolness was a little unnerving. She smiled a little for reassurance. He returned the smile politely, but it was missing something.
"You can still be friendly," she said. "It's possible to be warm and still not start reciting my praises."
"You're detailing an extremely specific implementation, Ruth. Set the parameters and I'll do it, but you should know you're changing terms a little faster than I tolerate from most of my associates."
Usually an expression of that kind of discomfort was wrapped up in the assurance that he would be glad to do it for her. Not now. "Is that really what you're thinking most of the time?" she asked nervously.
"No. Usually I'm focused on you to the exclusion of all non-dangerous worries. It's just that it's difficult for me to separate thinking of you with giving my opinion; with most people I could act away the difference, but my feelings for you, the nature of which is not itself relevant right now, make it extraordinarily difficult to refrain from saying some things unless I completely redirect my attention elsewhere. Hence I take note of things I usually ignore. But, you're right. There's no need to make this unpleasant." His smile was a little warmer. A little. "I haven't had the chance to tour the gardens since I got back. I trust they're not unduly suffering from the weather lately?"
"That may be the most screamingly insincere question you've ever asked, Wynston."
"You told me not to be sincere. My options are insincerity or silence, and the small talk is generally considered more polite."
"Don't be mad," she said uneasily.
"I am never mad at you, Ruth."
Easy chance to redirect the conversation? "There are times I wonder whether you actually do get mad, ever."
"I do. Rarely. There are levels of wanton cruelty, from people who should know better, that do in fact anger me. Never for long. I don't like to stay around people like that; I prefer to deal with them and then return to more pleasant company." That last was spoken in a very noncommittal tone while he looked away from her.
She didn't like this manner at all, she decided. "I think your five minutes are up."
"One minute forty-five seconds to go by my count. I leave the question of whether to call it early to your discretion." Coolly and smoothly he went on. "If it doesn't violate the rules I'd like to submit a preference for ending it sooner rather than later."
"Then it's over. You're free to speak."
"Thank you." He straightened and gave her a cordial smile. "If you'll excuse me, Ruth."
"I called it off, Wynston. You can be nice now."
He raised his eyebrows and said briskly, "I don't think I will. I'm going to talk to someone who can appreciate a little kindness." Mischief might have flicked at the corners of his mouth for a second before he headed into the hall and toward the nursery.
"Cole hits you more than he really shows appreciation," called Ruth.
"Yes, but we're both happy about it," he called back. "Go away."
She followed him anyway. Wynston poked his head into the nursery and then leaned back out. "I'm afraid he's asleep," he said. "I suppose I'm stuck with you, then."
She stopped in place. "Is that so bad?"
His eyes glowed in the half light of the hallway. He took several fast steps toward her and kept moving, pushing her bodily back into the wall and pressing his lips to hers with a force bordering on ferocity. "Please don't ask me to pretend I'm not crazy about you," he whispered hoarsely. "I see so much of corruption and falsehoods and things I can't say. You're the one who opened my eyes to better things." He kissed her again. "You want the truth, I'll give it, darling, and if what I say sounds too good to be true it's because you are. I never want to pretend otherwise."
She touched his face, arched a little away from the wall to press into him. "You're wonderful," she said softly.
"And you are, as I've said before, as I'll say again, everything I admire." He slipped his hand around to her back and ran down her spine, using the hard slide to pull her even closer. "I'll elaborate in any language you desire, just don't ask me to stop."
Reading this in the M!IA's voice is awesome. This is a fact.
I did read aloud to get the time duration of their conversation.
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