The Awkward Dinner Party

June 22, 2018:

Harley and Owen invite Emery Papsworth to his own penthouse apartment to cook them dinner. It's absolutely as awkward as it sounds.

Emery Papsworth's Last Penthouse

A swanky affair that neither Owen nor Harley could ever hope to afford, shy of holding someone hostage and… well, Owen's not okay with that, so they didn't do that. Instead, Emery's just loaning it out for the week.

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions:

Plot:

Mood Music: None.


Fade In…

The changes in Harley haven’t been exactly subtle. Her tolerance for the natural lulls in conversation has diminished to nearly non-existent. Her voice still cracks and creaks in unregulated crescendos as she chatters, following every tangent she can find like a hound after a fox. She crunches her way through cherry throat lozenges like candy. When it's not those, she’s chomping on whatever ice she gets her hands on. She often chews with her mouth open.

It’s probably pretty obnoxious, and she seems completely oblivious to it.

Her sleep is utterly inconsistent. She has trouble gearing down to sleep in the first place; she has trouble sleeping staying down for more than three or four hours at a time. She wears down easily during the day after frenetic bursts, and the catnaps she indulges in while sitting up provide some of the only real silences. Even the three days since they’ve escaped to Emery’s luxurious penthouse apartment for a break, even Owen’s presence in it, doesn't really make an impact on the pattern.

Except for a few things. It’s added new weapons to her verbal arsenal. Things that will strike in the middle of unrelated conversations, like:

“Are your friends all ungodly rich? Because, that’s two of your friends who are ungodly rich. I don’t have any friends like that. Well. Except the one ungodly rich friend I stole from you. What? I steal things! Don’t judge me. I can’t help it.”

“Do you have another super power to get free stuff? Do you know if you steal everything, it’s all free? That’s why we now have the same super power. We have the power of ‘free’. …Like ‘free squared’, except more free. What? I can make math jokes! Don’t judge me. I’m a free spirit. HAHAHA.”

“Really, ya never even threatened to murder him once to get the keys? Not once? C’mon. You can tell me. I won’t tell no one. Fine! …Did ya threaten to hang him by his toenails from a pier while he wears a party hat? Because that’s not murder, but it’s still really threatening when you do it, trust me.

“If I touch something, is it mine? Because I can touch a lot, and then it all would be mine. …Come here so I can touch you. Then I’ll totally own you, too. COME HERE.”

And so on. And so forth.

But she smells better. So, that’s a plus. She actually peeled herself out of the shorts. The sweatshirt should probably be disposed as a biohazard.

There have been other parts of the conversation, too. Namely, an unrelenting harassment to get Emery over to make her dinner. Because he promised. And she’s not about to just let that go.

And she didn’t. She harassed Owen until he agreed to call. And then she kept trying to hover right over his shoulder like a squirrel on methamphetamines.

She’s freshly out of the bathroom, smelling like whatever soap was in there. Fingerless gloves that creep up to the elbow—one red and one black—more tastefully hide the goo and clean gauze she’s still using to help her hands heal, but she’s ditched the rest at least despite the patchiness of her pale skin. Her thigh high stockings, one red and one black, have been hitched up to a garter belt under a black skirt, although shoes don’t seem to have made the cut for tonight's ensemble. Her corset-style shirt is pinstriped in red and black, and her blonde hair is left to hang down around her shoulders as she works on putting a fresh coat of lacquer on her nails on one of the couches, and now her little corner of the world reeks of nail polish.

“This is gonna be great.

Owen never realized he was claustrophobic before. But now, alone in a luxurious penthouse suite that neither of them could dream of actually affording legally without benefactors, he finds himself dreadfully, terrifyingly closed in with the air about him being sucked away.

He tries to remind himself that Harley has been through something awful. He tries to remind himself that he left her and she could really use a friend. He tries to remind himself that he’s not the jerk he used to be that would just drop a girl if she were even mildly inconvenient in any way. But to say that Harley’s maniac clinginess compiled with hole-ing themselves up in the penthouse has proved to be a mistake in Owen’s estimation would be an understatement.

“No. Not all of them. Just a really weirdly high percentage of them.” Owen has often found himself wondering this when Emery produces a black card and buys out a bar, or Stark offers resources that Owen can barely imagine or Danny agrees to pay sums that he was half joking about. The world of money is completely foreign to Owen and he’s just as confused by it as Harley.

“And I don’t think you stole Emery. You charmed your way into his foul mouthed angry dad heart… same way I did.” Here Owen offers an encouraging smile. It’s telling that the fact that the friends in his new life readily accepted Harley, at least the ones he’s talked about it with. It helps calm his rising panic and mitigate the growing need to run far, far away for some peace and quiet. Or heroin. Or both.

But when Harley brings up stealing, Owen winces slightly.

“Yea, that’s the thing Harley. I …” He looks at her expecting this to not go over well, but like ripping off a bandaid he adds, “I ain’t stealing from people no more. I’ve been working in New York as a bartender, and doing some side gigs buildin’ shit for people. LIke I built you ‘Zook. Except as like paid gigs.” The horror!

If Owen minded anything about the smell or hygiene, he never showed it. And really, he’s hardly one to talk about such things. A good bender for him means very little in the way of cleaning up.

It took only three, okay maybe five times of being asked before Owen decided that giving Harley someone else to talk at was worth the risk of further exposing Harley to his new life. Because while people may know about her, that’s a little different than knowing her. And especially with the state she is currently in, Owen is hesitant to spend a ton of time with folks. That and maybe, just maybe he’s still not ready to think of himself as a part of a couple. Even when extreme conditions are present, some of the more mundane ones exist as well.

But call he does.

And when Harley comes out of the bathroom, all dressed and ready Owen reacts like the perfect gentleman.

“Are we robbing a bank or having dinner?” Oh, Owen. You moron.

Okay, so that call was met with two responses. The first was a soft chuckle and roll of his eyes from his side of the phone where Emery thinks Owen is just winding him up.

But then he’s serious and Emery takes a moment to consider all his life choices and flashes back to that day. Oh that day…blood, burnt rice, thighs…

The universe folds its arms and glares at him and whispers softly in his ear ‘Tapdancing’. Which makes him sighs softly and agree to make dinner for the happy couple. He works on prepping something special for them too, and packs it all away. He’s dressed simply in a pair of fitted dark jeans, dark blue doc martins, and a fitted light grey Henley, worn with a dark blue leather jacket, his hair pulled back and tucked in a light grey beanie.

Emery knows where his Penthouse is, and he knows what he left in there. Which is why he shows up with a cooler/cart filled with food being dragged behind him and he holds in one hand a bouquet of bright pink, blue, and white carnations and is knocking firmly with his other hand.

Are they robbing a bank? The question draws Harley’s head to a tilt, and she vapidly blinks in Owen’s direction. “…uhhh, dinner?” she answers tentatively. “I mean, you just said that you ain’t stealin’ no more.” Despite her ‘but, but why?’ and her looks as though he were an alien having fun at her expense only a brief little bit ago. “But,” the woman continues helpfully. Brightly, even. “If you wanna go out and do that, I can change…”

That’s about when her brain seems to catch up with her mouth.

The clown stops short, and then narrows her smoke-framed eyes as she begins again, legs crossing as she bends in on herself, suddenly insecure. “Is there something wrong with what I’m wearing, B? I thought it looked ni—”

And now there’s a knock at the front door. Quinn’s head turns sharply in its direction with startled pale gaze wide. Surely, she hasn’t possibly already forgotten that they were expecting company? …except that it absolutely looks that way. Or maybe she’s just surprised that their guest is knocking on the front door of his own penthouse.

She peers past the blonde waves that have fallen in her face and towards the door, utterly suspicious. That is until she looks down and sees the streak of red messily crossing the backs of her fingertips on one side from where her nail polish brush jumped in her startlement.

Her horror wholly affixes upon the miserable state of her manicure, forgetting momentarily the rightful occupant, left to knock on the door he paid to lease outside in the hall. Her cry is one of dismay and mourning. “Aah!”

Owen is likewise confused when Harley brings up the fact that he is not in fact in the bank robbing game when he had meant it as more of a rhetorical question. But really, how is he confused that she isn’t following. He head tilts and is about to answer when she finally catches on to his original meaning.

He frowns and shakes his head, “No.. yer fine. Ya look good. Just a … little dressed up is all.”

Does she always dress so … themed? Wait. Did he just commit the cardinal sin of questioning the gimmick? At least he didn’t do it outloud.

Saved by a knock at the door, Owen is on his way to open it when Harley apparently has a crisis about … something? With his hand on the knob he half turns back and says “You… okay?” And with that little bit of unnerving turn he actually uses the peephole to confirm that it’s their expected guest slash host.

Opening the door Owen makes a big sweeping gesture and says “Welcome to our, well, your lovely suite.”

“Mm, thank ye kindly Master Mercer.” Emery drawls softly in reply, glancing around the man to quickly glance at Harley and her predicament. He jerks a head towards the young woman. “Go see to your woman boyo, I’ll get supper situated.”

The Irishman moves further into the penthouse, pulling the cooler after him and pausing to hand lovely bouquet to the mad woman’s better half. “Flowers of course for the lady of the house.”

On the way to the kitchen area he’s raising his voice to greet Harley. “Hello Miss Harley, dun ye look absolutely smashin’ this evening.” Comes the purred and reassuring compliment even as he starts unpacking containers and lining them up on the counter. Moving smoothly to turn the oven on and roll his shoulders as he shrugs out of the jacket. That’s draped over a flat surface and he’s tying his black apron around his waist as he starts doing what he does best.

The Butler Bustle.

“No, Mercer,” comes the forlorn answer to his question, a crease starting to creep into the landscape of a porcelain brow. “I just ruined my—”

Oh, look! A distraction! One can hardly blame her if she’s helpless to pursue it, can they? Well, they can. But it doesn’t really matter, because pursue away she does.

Harley is, in a word, delighted for the person at the door and the crease immediately evaporates back into the ether from whence it came. “Bailey’s!”

Then, in a sudden recollection as he walks by, she looks to her hand and she growls and starts furiously rubbing at the errant mark with the inside of her skirt. No one cares about that. She’ll be able to quickly get herself back to rights, and then get to start harassing the new arrival. Except that while she’s working on fixing the errant nail polish, she smashes the coat of one of the other fingers. “NOOoooooo!” she wails, loudly.

Well, fine, that’s easy enough to fix. The nail polish is still very damp, and so—utilizing old makeover tricks—she quickly lifts the finger to use her tongue to tamp down the wrinkled lacquer.

….Except that it’s too wet. And it smears across her tongue. So now she’s got smudged nail polish on one hand, a ruined nail on the other, and nail polish on her tongue. She sticks her tongue out, unsure of what to do now that it tastes bitter and nasty. She obviously can’t put it back in her mouth.

So Quinn just looks pathetically in the direction of the two men with her red-smeared tongue hanging out and her hands up with fingers splayed. And then she whimpers. Pathetically.

This evening could be off to a better start.

Owen’s not terribly familiar with nail polish and so it takes him some time to figure out exactly what Harley is doing with her nails and the rubbing and the fretting and the licking? But then it dawns on him that she’s in distress over the nail polish now adorning her tongue. He like a good doting boyfriend offers to wipe it off with his thumb. A good boyfriend if not a terribly hygienic one.

“Baileys?” Yea, it takes Owen a minute and then he nods approvingly at Harley, “Ah. Baileys. Yup.”

He looks at Emery and says “I’m pretty sure this is the opposite of how you’re supposed to host people… including the bit where you paid to put us up here in the first place.” Owen may not be able to recite Emily Post’s rules but he is at least passingly aware of social norms that this odd arrangement is currently going against.

“But can I at least pour you a glass of wine or something while you prep?”

And then he turns back to Harley to give her a small smile, trying to convince himself that this can work. It’s not normal, but it’s fine. This can be fine. Right?

There’s a quick glance tossed over to where Harley is going through her X-Treme sports edition of nail care while Emery is uncovering a covered dish to expose the white and dark chocolate dipped strawberries and his eyebrow raises a fraction. “Mercer…are ye using your - please do not put your fingers in her mouth where I can see ye. Just.” He points a finger. “That’s…”

Then he’s just turning quickly and shaking his head as he pulls down a whiskey tumbler from a cabinet and kneels beside his cart/cooler thingie to pull out a bottle of Irish Whiskey. He’s quickly mixing whiskey with a bit of honey and holding it out for Owen to take.

“This’ll help get the taste out her mouth and then ye can play a good host and offer me a cigarette if ye please. The Shepherd’s pie just needs to warm up a bit so you two can start on the strawberries if ye like.”

“‘Ank oo.” Never let it be said that Harley Quinn is entirely without manners. Owen’s sacrificial swipe gets him a waggle of eyebrows, but then Emery’s back to talking and she remembers that there is company.

Company that she ostensibly should be behaving for. When her uncomfortable beau offers her that encouraging smile, however, she takes it and reflects it back to him with an expression of pride. Look! Look, everything’s going so well. Emery’s been in his apartment for five whole minutes and nothing has exploded, there have been no death threats, and everything — save her sense of taste — is very much intact.

It’s going so well.

As soon as Owen’s not looking, she turns her head and works her mouth and tongue because… ugh, nail polish tastes so gross.

That is, however, until Emery says words akin to magic. Her eyes are wide as they turn back in the direction of the kitchen. “eh’ oo ay ocola?” That would be ‘I don’t want to put my tongue back in my mouth’-ese for ‘Did you say chocolate?’ for those in the audience who aren’t particularly well versed in calamity.

Owen is sure to make eye contact with Emery while wiping Harley’s tongue with his thumb as if to reinforce that yes, this is happening. And when asked to Owen looks confused and a little grossed out, “Well I would have used somethin’ else but we have company and I told you I ain’t into that stuff like you are.” Whether he’s being serious or just falling into his comfortably bawdy banter with Emery is difficult for most to tell.

Owen does however accept the drink and hand it to Harley. The honey being the hint that it is not in fact for him. Well that and the whole taste in the mouth line.

He slips out a pack of cigarettes and merely pops one up to offer to Emery. “I’d place it in your mouth since your hands aren’t free, but apparently you’re suddenly squeamish?” No, there is no world in which it would be normal for Owen to actually put the cigarette in Emery’s mouth for him, but it’s hilarious to reference it as if it were totally normal.

Owen is sure to speed blur to the other side of the strawberries to at least get one. Somewhere along the way he also apparently poured himself a glass of whiskey which he also takes large gulp of. This is fine. It’ll be fine. At least it’s Emery.

“Oi! Dun begin anything ye can’t finish lad.” Emery drawls softly as Owen, almost as a light warning. “And if ye enjoy the feelin’ of nail varnish on your dick, I tink that n longer counts as being ‘into stuff like I am’. I’m a dirty bastard, Mercer, but c’mon.”

Then he winks to Harley and nods towards the strawberries. “Take a sip of your drink and swish it around a bit or the chocolate will taste off.” He instructs her before eyes Owen for a moment.

Yes, the cigarette is popped up, but Emery hasn’t taken it yet because he just arches an eyebrow and parts his lips.”I’m not squeamish you unsufferable little tease, get your arse back over here and put the smoke in me mouth so I can finish butterin’ the rolls.”

At the banter between the two, Harley smiles and laughs. It’s a good change. The mood. The not having to fill all the silences herself. The being spoiled.

When Owen gives her the drink, she takes it with an amused crinkle of her nose. She likes the energy of the room; it brings a bit of her mischief back to view.

And the being spoiled again is certainly is a good change by her estimation, and she basks in the glow of it. There’s a drink that’s sweet to wash out the dreadful taste of nail polish, with the promise of more to come.

From her place still on the couch, she lifts that glass high. “Yer the best, Bailey’s!” And she sends a couple of airsmooches across the distance to seal in the sentiment.

Why did she have to wait so long to whine at Owen about inviting him over?

This could have changed the mood days ago.

Maybe.

“I’d offer t’help, but… ya really don’t want that.” And, if she were being honest, neither does she.

Holding the pack with the cigarette close enough to Emery’s mouth that he can lean in and get it himself is the closest that Owen actually gets, despite his chatter. He concedes “Fine. Yer far filthier than I am. I hope yer proud. Few people can claim that.”

Owen then turns the pack towards Harley and offers it towards her with a tilted head. He is pretty sure she doesn’t smoke but he’s also pretty sure he’s never offered. He flicks the pack and pops up a cigarette, which flips up in the air and he snags it with his mouth. He lights his first and then turns to light Emery’s.

The atmosphere does feel palpably relaxed. Even Owen is wondering why he didn’t do this sooner.

At Harley’s exclamation of Emery being the best, Owen readily agrees. Perhaps with a bit more heartfelt tenderness than either of the two are used to hearing from him he says to Harley, “He is. He really fuckin’ is.”

Multitasking SkillZ On Point. Emery leans forward slightly to use his lips and mouth to pull his own cigarette when its offered and then he leans forward again to allow it to be lit.

Shepards Pie is warming up in the oven, warm rolls are freshly buttered and being wrapped in a cloth napkin and placed in a large serving bowl. Emery gets a moment to pluck the cigarette from between his lips and moving away from the kitchen to exhales a cloud of smoke.

At the exclamations and declarations and such about him being the best, he just smirks a bit and takes another drag off of his cigarette. “I’m probably far filthier than most people that ye know boyo and don’t ye forget it.” And on to the next point. “So…how are you both doin? Enjoying the penthouse?”

The offer of the cigarette is declined with a wave of Harley’s begloved hand and a shake of her head. Even if she were normally inclined, she’s definitely inhaled more than enough smoke for awhile. The consideration, though, does earn Owen an extra iteration of her smile.

Rising at last, Quinn rolls up onto stocking-footed tiptoe and begins making her way towards the flowers wherever they ended up. Carnations. There’s a small, barely perceptible hiccup in her movements as her eyes close and the smile fades, but then she’s right back to herself in order to begin the very important task of running her fingers over the blooms’ delicately fringed edges.

It devours her attention while the two men are in the kitchen and then she pulls up the bouquet to bury her face in it. But these are beautiful blooms, bred to last. They sacrifice their wild, spicy scent for their long life. The metaphor realized brings a strange curl to her darkly painted lips and coaxes out a low chuckle.

If she’s lucky, it will just fall in time with the sound of two friends ribbing each other. Or, probably more accurately, if Owen’s lucky. She doesn’t really care, lapsing in her external awareness for a moment.

She carries them and her drink, regardless, with her as she ballet walks back towards the kitchen cabinets in search of a vase. Or, in a pinch, a pot or take out cup that failed somehow to make it to the wastebin because—wild or tame—water is needed. She can inspect stems then, and see if she’ll need the knife to trim them down.

There’s a question in the air, and Harley answers swiftly. “We’re good.” And then she repeats, just to be sure it's understood, “We’re good.” Hopefully missed is the brief questioning glance in Owen’s direction. They are, aren’t they? She decides that she doesn’t want really the answer that may come back despite earlier reassurances, so she quickly drops her eyes and goes back to her work. “I mean, how can you not be in here?” she continues, barreling on. “You ain’t some kinda sexy, dirty, fairy Godfather or somethin’, are ya? Because I would believe that over some giant blue puffball with wings and a wand and a bippity boppity boo. Miss Puffydress wouldn’t make it through Day 1 of the assignment, fairy godmother powers aside. Or some hobo would just nab her wand, and then—next thing ya know—we are left ta wonder why there’s a giant McDouble in Central Park.”

She looks in Emery’s direction, expression nothing but solemnity. “It would be a dark day. Because then Gotham would inevitably have ta answer the challenge and send over the Hamburglar. Granted, I always thought that the guy had a bad rap. If people had just been better about sharin’, it could have spared the people in the commercials so much trouble.

You might think she would stop there. You would be wrong.

“But I mean, I guess ya really needed him. I mean, where would the dramatic tension be if there wasn't someone ta hate on, right? Everyone would have just been sittin’ there, eatin’ their French fries and milkshakes, bored outta their gourds, and borin’ everyone else, too, between episodes of Thundarr the Barbarian or She-Ra. It woulda been tragic.”

The extra guest does seem to be working wonders for Harley and even more so for Owen. He’s much more relaxed now than he was even an hour or so ago. The drink in his hand and a smoke certainly help. Emery will find an ashtray balanced precariously on a window sill near the kitchen.

At the question Owen hesitates, plenty long enough for Harley to answer. And when she glances at him he can’t help but smile a little bit. Are they? They are. Apparently. Though Owen is slowly coming to the realization of how much work and effort an actual relationship might entail, particularly one that that has to this point avoided anything more difficult than choosing what booze to drink, what adventure to go on or what horribly unhealthy food to feast on.

“We are. Thanks for this little break..” Owen knows that Harley needed it. Even if it’s been taxing in some ways and not exactly what he had envisioned.

And then Harley is off and Owen can only barely keep up with the stream of thoughts. He does his best though to nod seriously at the points made about the necessity of an antagonist in burger commercials.

“Actually dirty, sexy Fairy Godfather is his codename. He has a sparkly wand and everything.”

“Well Miss Harley. I do ‘ave a pair of wings. So who knows.” Emery drawls softly in response to the question of his Godfather status. Even as he bats his eyelashes and gasps at Owen, taking another drag off his cigarette and pretending to fan himself. “Awww, I knew ye thought I was sexy, but I had no idea you were peekin’ at me wand too Master Mercer.”

He rolls his eyes a bit but is smiling with a hint of dimples even as he holds out the bowl of bread and another bowl/serving dish that has baked and buttered carrots and parsnips all chopped up in it to Owen and nods towards the dining table. Nodding slowly at the deep and meaningful lecture on the merits of the Hamburglar.

And he simply replies. “There must always be a balance, and sometimes ye be lucky enough to sit on that fulcrum and really appreciate how hard both sides are workin’.” The cigarette is put out somewhere in between this comment and him finding oven mitts to take the shepherds pie out of the oven.

“And it was my pleasure to give you both somewhere to escape in for a bit. Sometimes people take advantage of having someone they can wake up beside.”

When Owen smiles back, Quinn misses it. She’s too busy being very handy with a small knife and the carnations, all so she can shove them into a pitcher she found. With gaze down at her work, she interjects, “If it’s actually sparkly, Bailey’s, I want proof. For research. It’s like hunting sasquatch or ghosts. Except for sexy, dirty, Godfathers.” And never you mind when she covertly steals one of the strawberries like she’s not supposed to have it and shoves the whole thing in her mouth as though she never had it.

It’s not really at all sneaky, especially with her mouth being super full for a few moments as she squashes the confection into a more reasonable mass. And there’s also a brief and altogether euphoric melting against the counter as she registers its sweet glory a beat later. …She’ll deal with the hull also in her mouth when no one is looking.

The clown princess appreciates and fluffs the flowers in front of her far more than she needs to before deciding to snip down one of the pink blooms and shove it behind her ear.

And then? Then there’s that line about waking up next to people and taking advantage and… and she’s immediately uncomfortable. There’s an uncertain glance to Owen, to put him back on point for addressing Emery. If he even sees it, because her eyes are back to the counter.

It’s his friend, that she stole, so he should be able to do that easily, right?

…She shoves another strawberry in her mouth to give herself an extra excuse not to talk, without taking out the hull from the first one, and… and now she’s got a full-on case of chipmunk. Don’t mind her.

She abruptly turns after that to pick up the carnations and set them by one of the lavishly dressed and large windows overlooking the street. She stands there a long while after that's done, actively considering the scene outside and trying to take it all in again—she’s done this often, too—with her wide eyes as she tries to chew.

Owen is quick to correct Emery with a “Nuh-uh! None of that Master Mercer shit here, boy-o, it’s Owen. Or fuck-sticks or anything else. You’re off the clock and you know it makes me uncomfortable as hell.” It’s telling that he would rather be insulted than have an honorific applied to his name.

Any talk of Emery’s wand is just ignored as par for the course for these two. There’s an insane amount of ho-yay involved most of their interactions and Owen has just learned to roll with that.

But then Emery goes full on sage mode with the life advice dispensing and Owen looks down abashed. He casts a furtive glance at Harley, but misses hers as she’s also looking down. In that moment they are very much the kids to Emery’s elder statesman. But each is hearing the speech with a slightly different twist to it.

Owen feels guilty for having taken something actually good in his life for granted and almost walking away from it. Harley might be focusing on the advantage part but Owen didn’t even catch that. But now he’s watching her as she looks out over the city. He addresses Emery without looking at him.

“Yer right. Thanks. I don’t.. I didn’t realize how much we needed this.” And for once Owen isn’t actually thinking of himself. And what he wanted. Or what’s convenient for him. But actually considering someone else for a change. It’s a weird feeling. He’s trying to get used to it.

“Fine, me apologies ye gimmicky fuckwit.” Emery replies with an exasperated that has tinges of fondness in the tones as he carries the buttered rolls to the dining table, letting the shepherd’s pie cool for a bit. Then he’s bringing the other side dishes to the table, arranging them carefully for easy access.

He does look up from time to time to note their reactions, taking a deep breath and offering a soft dimpled smile and giving Owen a quick chin-up. “No need to thank me, that’s what family does. Now come act as though ye weren’t raised in a feckin’ barn and pull out a chair for your flexible and darlin’ princess.”

By the time he is finished setting the table, there’s the Shepherds Pie, the roasted/baked vegetables, the buttered rolls and the chocolate dipped strawberries are left where they are for the time being. It's a reflex really how he’s put out place settings and plates and what not, and glasses for whiskey. For show though, there’s a bottle of wine placed on the table within reach.

The Irish man stands near a chair and looks from the table, to the couple and back to the table before announcing. “Ye dun get the chocolate cake until after ye finish all your veggies, and I’ve a delicious spiked vanilla cream latte waiting for that course.” A look to Harley. “And just for you, luv, I’ve added rainbow sprinkles to the chocolate frosting.”

Because this is what he does best. Take care of his people.

There’s someone who cares enough to try, and someone who makes a life of service.

And it’s strange. And it’s alien. And Harley does precisely what she has learned to preserve herself in these situations.

She disengages from it for a little break, staring out that window and absorbing the alien terrain of an expensive Manhattan view and losing herself in it. Except that it can’t really be considered a break, when she loses herself in the overthinking so completely that she’s loses track of the conversation.

Her smile fades at some point, and a little look of concern starts to creep in around the edges. It creases her brow as she lifts a gloved hand to the glass, smudging it for certain, although her reflection is lost when she presses so near to the glass that she almost smudges it with her porcelain-pale nose.

But then there’s the natural gap in conversation that comes when someone expects an answer, and the subconscious mind informs the conscious mind of what transpired before. The vague impression that one’s been addressed.

Startled, the blonde looks over her shoulder and stares in the direction of the table. “Huh?”

“That’s better.” Owen confirms his preference for being sworn at as opposed to treated like some sort of royalty. He tries not to roll his eyes at Emery calling him family, that type of genuine sentiment is still really hard for him to process.

He shakes his head at all the food, still impressed that Emery is capable of creating a spread like this without a team of people or ordering it from a restaurant. Home cooking is still a magical thing to Owen that he still struggles to believe in.

Obediently Owen pulls out a chair for Harley and turns to see her. His face clouds a bit in concern that she’s been so ‘off’ since his return. He says softly, “Yea, uhh we’re gonna .. “ here he indicates the food with a sideways head nod “..eat?”

He wants to help her get through this. Whatever it is. It just doesn’t help that his own coping mechanisms are kind of terrible. But it’s the thought that counts…? Right?

Ever the patient man, Emery uses the same willpower and resolve it takes to wait on people of varying ages and mental states and the resolve to stay the course learned from parenting a child. He just smiles kindly when Harley rejoins them on planet earth.

“There are rainbow sprinkles on the chocolate cake, just for you darlin’. But first we must get through the rest of this food, aye?”

There is a glance and a nod of approval over to Owen, before he turns back to Harley as they wait for her to join them. “And, just because I dun ‘ave desert plates stored here I figured we could just go at the cake with forks and throw back the rest of the whiskey when the time comes.” He flashes a dimpled grin and bows his head.

This is what family does.

__

The sound of laughter explodes from painted lips immediately afterwards, Harley’s head lolling backwards over her shoulder as she grins sheepishly. Of course! The food! Don’t mind her.

A hand waves lazily in front of her as she turns in place and leans in theatrically at the waist - pivoting her feet and leaving her legs to cross - in a ‘pshaw, I knew that’ sort of way as she sways in place and she tries to make it look like she hadn’t lost her place, her head ducking as she looks to Owen. “Right!” Another laugh. “Right,” she repeats emphatically.

But the jig is up, and she knows it. And they probably know that she knows it.

And so she moves past it as quickly as possible without acknowledging it, shoeless feet criss-crossing as she walks her way to the table with the same sort of sway that she might walking a balance beam and leaving the carnations on display at the window for whoever might look up and actually be able to see them.

Her laughter continues, low and hoarse, as she gingerly alights on the chair pulled out for her and smooths her skirt with daintily arranged fingers. Her shoulders scrunch up gleefully at the special treatment, and her gaze is an adoring one as she looks up at the man who pulled it out for her.

“I didn’t know you were psychic,” she tells Emery with a very precise focus on the delivery of the syllables as she turns her attention back to him, and she crosses her legs after she helps with the whole pushing in process that will see her put in place. “But that sounds absolutely perfect!”

There’s a pause, and then a quirk of her head. “…It’s not gonna explode, right? Or suddenly splat a layer into someone’s face? Because if it’s gonna get icing everywhere - while that would be hilarious - Man, am I in the wrong outfit! Ha!”

Another stilted pause, another laugh where she doesn’t give room for anyone else to talk. “I mean, I don’t really expect you to ruin the joke by telling me that you—.” A sudden horror seizes her as she clasps her collarbone where - had she all the right props for the line - a string of pearls would lie. “I didn’t ruin the punchline, did I? OH MY GAWD, if I ruined it, I’m SO SORRY. I’ve got the worst habit of talkin’ too much, and then next thing ya know, I’m running all over somebody’s jokes, and then…”

She suddenly clamps her mouth shut with a snap of her jaw, and her lips purse up to one side. She waits a beat, and then quietly ducks her head, picks the hulls out of her cheek, and hides them in a napkin that she promptly balls up in her lap. And then she shoves a bright grin — one that she intends to be apologetic — onto her face. “Right! We were eatin’. Right.” Then, more quietly, through her teeth in a theatrical aside to Owen that at least tries to strike an abashed note as she leans in his direction: “Sorry.”

She’s ruining this. It’s awkward, and she doesn’t know how to fix it. Except, maybe she does? The societal rules that she so often ignores are called to mind, and for Owen’s sake she tries to pull herself back into them.

She straightens up promptly, as though Emery couldn’t see or hear what she just did and her head tilts sharply to one side with that cocker spaniel quality. “It smells fabulous, and thank you so much for all of this.” There’s more she’d add on, likely, if she weren’t behaving. But she is behaving, or trying to, and her lost appended thoughts are not likely to be missed by either of her dining companions. She chokes them down. The next part, at least, rings sincerely as she comes down to a nearly normal volume and pitch. “Really.”

Of the many peculiarities inherent in the relationship between Owen and Harley perhaps the oddest is that they resolutely avoid talking about their issues that have so much overlap. The fact that it is likely one of the driving factors in their being together at all would seem to indicate that they would then discuss those things. And yet, it seems like they are much more likely to talk about anything other than that, from which member of the Scooby gang was most likely a secret murderer (Fred, all the way) to how many hot dogs is too many in one sitting (seven) they cover a lot, well Harley covers a lot but Owen is gamely along for the ride usually.

But in these quieter moments, where they try to do something as normal as having dinner with a friend and a quiet night in the lack of manic energy and shared wackiness leaves some other things vividly exposed.

So while the pendulum has swung from the overly intense clingy feeling, Owen is left feeling like now it’s swung too far into perilously serious territory.

“You’re fine. You didn’t ruin nothin. And if that cake explodes, which I agree would be hilarious, you only get bonus points for callin’ it ahead of time.”

Owen realizes that Harley is trying super hard to be on her best behavior and it sends a pang of regret through him. She doesn’t want to be normal. He doesn’t want to try to make her fit into a normal life. At the same time, he can’t pretend like a certain amount of stability would be good for him and is appealing. But thankfully this is almost like a test run. It’s just Emery. They could start shooting off guns and then jump out the window on hang gliders and he wouldn’t be phased.

“It’s just dinner. Relax, you can chat all you want and you aren’t gonna ruin a thing.” Owen stage whispers it to Harley, trying to let her know there is no reason to hold back or act a certain way.

The Irish Butler just watches the two quiet for a moment, filling his own glass with whiskey as he takes a long sip and smiles kindly at Harley and nods slowly along to Owen’s ‘whispering’.

“The great ting about family and friends, is that you can always be who you want to be around them. At least around me.” He winks and flashes a dimpled grin. “I never grow tired of hearin’ those sultry and alluring tones.”

An aside to Owen. “You go out and meet a feckin’ Siren in the flesh.” He takes softly. “Some people get all the luck.”

Then to them both. “Now eat before the shite gets cold.”

It said with care, or something. He takes care of his people.

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