Log Title: Fine Food and Fantasies
Summary: In the aftermath of the event at Club Charon, Mary and Royal touch base and talk.
IC Date: Sat Mar 02 19:49, 2381
OOC Date: Sat Mar 02 19:49, 2019
Related Logs: None
royalmary

 

 

"Careful, you might be surprised at what you find."

"Would you join me for dinner? On the clock of course. I wouldn't want to get you in any trouble. I wanted to say thank you for the other night."

That was the message Royal sent Mary over ONI. After she agreed, a time and a place was also forwarded, along with a scheduled aircar to take her from wherever she is at the time to the restaurant.

The restaurant is a mid-upper place, one of the others that skims the border between the middle and the ground. It's run by an up-and-coming chef earning her stripes, who doesn't have the money for more expensive real estate higher up. A fine place without being pretentious or conspicuously posh.

The entrance is through a neon tunnel into a room with a high domed ceiling that projects the night sky. It's apt since the name of the restaurant is Constellation. Royal is seted at a booth inset into one of the walls, with a sweeping view of Bay City outside the high windows. He's wearing a soft gray three piece suit with a deep blue shirt beneath, and a salmon coloured pocket square that, as per usual, matches the soles of his oxfords. He's got a cocktail in front of him, his ONI eye reflecting as he amuses himself while waiting for her to appear.

* * *

Mary has only ever heard of Constellation tangentially; a reason to go hadn't yet landed in her lap. It's likely one half of the coin that many of the assignations that she attends to outside of her house tend toward higher end places being that higher end comes with higher profile. It's probably true that a good portion of the reason why so many avail the services of her house is that they want to make other's in society are performatively aware that they can afford to do it and thus places known for obnoxious small platings and insufferable names are often the destination when someone wants to show their wealth via her off.

The lower societal elevation when it comes to being conspicuous carries the ability for Mary to dress down, a bit. Here, she doesn't have to be a meticulously packaged in betrayal of all personal comfort while still attempting to match Royal's efforts at fashion. She appears at the front of the restaurant - slim jeans, a silk sweater that wraps and ties around her as though it's the casual rehearsal wrap of a dancer, and black, healed booties. Casual expensive, is the description. Her red hair has been left long but styled to look unfussy, no curls or complicated braids or updos. All of these details becoming more apparent as a member of the restaurant staff guides her to Royal's table, her own ONI reflecting the backwards periwinkle scroll of it identifying nearby patrons every time their ONIs link and handshake. Despite this information scrolling by, she's solely focused on Royal's presence - smiling brightly at him as she approaches the table. "Hello," she says warmly.

* * *

Royal notices her heading his way. He sets his drink down and steps down out of the booth, ready to take her hand, and do the very old-world thing of kissing the back of it. "Ms. Mary. Lovely to see you. Thank you for coming." He motions to the other side of the booth. "I hope you like the choice of venue. It's something of a hidden gem, and I have no doubt that Chef Paulette has a bright future ahead of her, so it's best to eat here before she's whisked away to the higher echelons."

The table seems to be made of some kind of geode, or at least an approximation of one, with layers resembling galaxy colours. The booth itself is in matte velvet - comfortable without causing one to sink uncomfortably into the cushions.

"Can I start you with a drink, madam?" asks the waiter, dressed all in black.

* * *

Mary goes new school, reacting to the kiss of the back of his hand by leaning into Royal offering a staid kiss of hello to one cheek. Her perfume in small, secret notes as she brushes against him is expensive. Settling into her side of the shared booth, her eyes drawn to the expansive view as she sits. "It feels almost like you're getting to a secret before anyone else even knows about it," she agrees, her reply to Royal slightly distracted by the way the view demands her attention for a moment before she's taking in the details of the table top and the booth itself.

"Vodka soda." The unfussy, unfrilled drink request stated in response to the waiter's request for her order. She smiles with a polite sincerity at their waiter, waiting until the individual drifts off before she speaks further at Royal, her gaze settled on him. "The pocket square suits you," she offers in compliment of it before settling back against the booth slightly, further signs of settling in. "Did you and Kagami get home safely?," she continues, touching upon the other night in question by her inquiry.

* * *

"It's a hobby of mine. This city is full of hidden gems that the meths haven't discovered yet," says the man who has been eating in fine establishments his whole life. Royal takes up his glass and sips from it. "Something of a signature. I believe every man should have one. But then, I am something of a clothes horse, I'm not ashamed to say. Another area where I seek out hidden talent. Did you know Bay City has a number of small fashion schools? Some brilliant pieces being turned out of tiny workshops close to the ground."

The menu is actually in the table itself. When one taps the surface, the dishes appear in white above the polished geode. It consists of many inventive dishes with a reasonable price point. Most of the ingredients are from the west coast, but there are a few gems such as sea urchin cloned from a species native to Harlan's World, and bison from the renewed herd in Alberta.

"Ah, yes we did. My young friend was not drunk like he appeared to be. It was just a clever bit of misdirection." He leans against the table, the pair of hands folded together not activating the menu. "Thank you for your assistance. It was invaluable. I'm happy to share any findings with you if you're curious."

* * *

"When I was younger, I think I probably frequented some of those places-" she admits, head canting slightly in a note of self-consciousness for the younger version of her self. "Trying to affect a certain Grounder-adjacent look? A fair amount of money going into looking like you don't have any." She pauses, her fingers gently taping against the table to zoom in and out of a few possible options to inspect them more fully.

"God bless fools and babies, I guess," she concludes with a note of amusement.

"I had no idea that Kagami could be so sly," she admits, looking up at Royal again. Her gaze direct, attempting to capture his own. "When he came into the House, he refused an offered drink and was a bit brusque with any sort of attention afforded to him and stared at the ceilings almost exclusively. None of which I cared about so much but it made him too conspicuous and he'll be likely be closely monitored if he ever comes back." Her grin, despite the possibly future consequences, amused more than anything else and casting doubt that he'd ever /want/ to come back on purpose anyway. "I'd like to know more since I assume we're possibly at the beginning of a groundswell that isn't particularly patient with the status quo…" Her eyes track off into the environs of the restaurant for a moment, monitoring who is close by and being purposefully obtuse about what she's saying - even here.

* * *

That's the other reason for choosing Constellation versus a higher-end restaurant that might have very obvious Meth and upper-class hooks into it. It's less likely that the direct lieutenants of theirs would be lurking about this place. It's actually a rather wise choice - spies on the ground, and spies in their own back yard, but there's a swathe in between they don't pay that much attention to.

The waiter brings back Mary's drink, and lingers to ask for appetizer choices. Royal goes for steak tartare and says, "And whatever your sommelier suggests for a wine pairing."

After the waiter has taken Mary's order, he turns back to the subject at hand. "Kagami is a very surprising individual. When I first met him, he seemed to want to crawl out of his own skin. But slowly, he's starting to accept his sleeve. And yes, the slyness was surprising to me as well." He sips his drink, swallows, inclines his head. "Good to be aware of the ground that is swelling under one's feet, yes."

* * *

Mary opts into a seared duck appetizer option, heavily featuring the concepts of 'gathered from woodland' and 'locally sourced' even if neither of these concepts are strictly possible in the traditional sense of there being parts of a woodland locally that isn't sealed in a dome or sullied by pollution closer to the ground. She's otherwise easy going about the pairings and the food, the 'real' Mary not in possession of a lot of things that cause her to fuss in any particular way. Atleast, not about food.

She smiles thoughtfully at the added color to Kagami as an individual. "I hadn't considered he's a resleeve, to be honest. He looks so young. But I think it's one of those visual tricks that our minds play on ourselves in terms of equate youth with a lack of ever having to be respun." She admits, pausing to sip her drink. "Are you currently in your original sleeve?"

* * *

"Ah, yes, a cross-sleeve, in fact. And I don't consider this a betrayal of personal information as he's been rather open about it." Royal sips his drink again. "He's closer to my age in actuality, though I continually forget myself."

He sets his glass down, then flashes a broad smile. "Naturally. I wouldn't be able to hold title if I wasn't. The way the monarchy was allowed to survive in the age of meths is that we cycle out of public life when we resleeve. Losing title, losing claim to the throne. But also no longer expected to fulfill certain duties." He doesn't ask the question in return, perhaps realizing that as a House employee, any answer he gets would be suspect.

* * *

"Oh, yes- I'm sorry, you had said those were the rules of your title. I had forgotten," Her smile fades, her expression turning apologetic- softening into a sheepish air. "If it helps any, I tend to largely forget about your title?" This offered up with a tentative air, unsure if it will help or hurt - the dance of getting to know the real of each other still in its early waltz. A request made that Mary seems intent on honoring, thus far.

Mary fails to volunteer is she's a re-sleeve to pair with Royal's lack of asking, whatever his curiosity may be. "My older siblings were young when my father re-sleeved. My youngest brother talked to me once about the adjustment that it took them all. I imagine cross-sleeving would have been a much more stressful thing to adjust to for everyone involved," she observes, touching on Kagami's circumstances in a roundabout way. "I only ever knew him in his final sleeve."

* * *

"Ah, not at all, not at all. I'm actually rather glad you forgot. My title does tend to dominante things a bit when I first meet people, so it's refreshing that it wasn't so in your case." Royal lifts his glass in a salute, then drains the rest and nudges it aside.

He listens attentively to Mary's story. "My father recently resleeved as he was suffering from debilitating arthritis. That's when the Dukedom passed to me. His new sleeve is older than me, but not by much - so I do admit it's quite odd. Especially since he's technically no longer royalty. I think my mum is quite happy to have a young stud for a husband now though," he chuckles. "But yes. I can't imagine being cross-sleeved, or even resleeving, if I'm being honest. I rather like myself as I am."

Just then, their appetizers are delivered with a wine pairing. The portions are larger than they would be in a more pretentious place, but still arranged artfully.

* * *

Another pause follows, dishes served and wine poured and Mary waiting until the first coursed is settled and the waiter is gone before she continues. "My brother re-sleeved when he was 16. Sword accident." The states, the details neutral and abstract despite the absurdity of the circumstances that led to his re-sleeving. "He came through it fairly well, my family got lucky in being able to find something approximate to his age and gender. But for me?"

"Re-sleeving terrifies me," she admits quietly, leaning in to commiserate with Royal. "I only know this body," she continues, perhaps answering the question as to whether or not this iteration of Mary is the first iteration. "For all its flaws, I like it and I do think of it as inseparably linked to my personality, perhaps the same as you?"

* * *

Royal raises his brows at 'sword accident' but doesn't probe further. No doubt his family has suffered similar odd mishaps over the years. "It is the same with me, but in part because so much of what I consider to be my identity is tied to it. My title, my place in my own family. My public profile. I find it hard to imagine who I would be in a different sleeve, because I'd be leaving a part of myself behind." He takes a moment to put a little of the tartare on a bit of garlic toast. He bites into it and chews in approval, finishing the bite before speaking again. "That would be a permanent resleeve, naturally. But I've never even temporarily resleeved or even looked like someone else in virtual." Which might be surprising given his overall hedonistic air.

* * *

"I'll say this?" Mary states, the opening salvo of an observation with Mary's eyes staring in an unmitigated way directly into Royal's face. Attempting, it would seem, to capture and hold eye contact. "You seem to be in the middle of a personal struggle about what the title demands you to act as and who the man wants to be." It's a question but not asked as one while also occupying real estate as an observation. She pauses to sip her wine, not yet having touched her food by choice or by distraction of the topic at hand. "Virtual is ultimately more disconnecting than connecting. I'm often asked to appear in what someone's version of the perfect body is, which requires that I not be myself in its full entirety."

* * *

The Duke is not one who avoids eye contact. On the contrary - he likes to seek it. Easier to charm people when he can look them in the eye, though he's not really trying to charm her right now, just be good company. "Well-observed," admits Royal. "In some senses, my life would be simpler were I an ex-Duke. People would be less likely to think I'm a pretender to the PI business and, to a lesser extent, the academic world. But I've been taught my whole life that my sleeve connects to a vital part of my identity, and I'm in no hurry to lose that."

He pauses a moment to take another bite of his appetizer. "I have been slightly tempted, by virtual at least. A little disconnection can be fun if everyone involved remains aware that it's not reality. Like a bit of roleplay."

* * *

"People get too easily lost in virtual, I find. It becomes easy to dictate the circumstances of your reality because it's constructed. For some-" She shrugs faintly, finally picking up a canape of her food. "-I think it's relief. For others-" Her eyes slide away from Royal's face, looking out the window enough. "The nature of my job is that much of what this is really about is projection, specifically that I'm paid to stand still while other people project something on to me. It's not good or bad, inherently. In virtual space, I'm almost totally subsumed by that projection. It's… or well it can be- on bad days- bad for one's head space. I can't imagine it's any easier or less fraught for the people doing the projecting, because what they want can't follow them when they're jacked out."

She smiled at Royal, focused on him again. The commitment to the real talk she agreed to on their last meeting not apparently turning out to be an affectation or a measure to mollify him.

"You should try virtual, to decide for yourself. I think at the end of your journey through yourself, you'll come out the person you're meant to be."

* * *

"Perhaps a bit of turnabout, hmm?" says Royal with a cheeky grin. "You project on to me, and you get to be whomever you choose. Force me out of my comfort zone, and let you spend time in yours." It's hard to tell if that's a real suggestion or simply a wry comment. Even when he's being honest, it can be hard to tell. "Because yes, I can imagine it gets quite tiring to be the avatar of another person's fantasy. It's why I try to connect with people in the real. I find people interesting, in all their imperfections. Fantasy is just that, fantasy."

He salutes with his glass of red wine, sips, and cleans up the last few morsels of the tartare. He then nudges the dish aside to check the menu to confirm with himself what he'd like for a main.

* * *

"Careful, you might be surprised at what you find." She smiled right back at him, softly and her tone a dry tease. The exact nature of what about this was just an observation and what was more of a warning garbled like a pleasantly static-y transmission. Unclear, too, if she was only observing back at him or effectively agreeing to the bargain he was proposing, if it was even a bargain at all.

She's slower to finish her plate, having spent much of their time talking than just eating. Eventually though, she follows suit and examines the menu for her next choice. "I have a question for you-" she states, quietly - the prelude to the question itself and owing no particular preview on the nature of it by her vague tone.

* * *

"I'm up for a little unconventional experimentation," says Royal with a fair bit of confidence. Then again, he doesn't say much of anything without a great deal of confidence, earned or no. He enjoys his wine, clearly in no rush to move on to the main. The service is good enough that empty plates are swept away quickly, but no one comes to bother them further while Mary still has food in front of her. He lifts a brow, then leans forward on the table. "Yes?"

* * *

Mary eschews the menu, it paused where she left it in favor leaning over the table to meet Royal and match his body language. One elbow finding the table, the hand linked to the arm propping up her chin. Her other hand in leisurely congress with a wine glass. Her brown hazel flecked eyes staring straight on at Royal. "In your wildest dreams, tell me the thing you fantasize for the most?" The vagueness of what 'fantasy' means in this setting probably pointedly intentional.

* * *

"Why Ms. Mary, that's a deeply personal question. Why do you want to know?" Royal drawls slyly, a light of amusement in his eyes. "Professional curiosity?" He leans in a little more to add to the conspiratorial nature of their conversation.

* * *

"Because there's a man at this table who is currently attempting to outrun the weight and trappings of an external obligation in his life that functions on the idea that monarchy is monolith, impersonal, and symbolic which I would guess always forces the people caught under those obligations to relegate anything they truly want for themselves to second in line, always." Mary's explanation is forthcoming and expansive, not cottoning to being vague or playful when it could be. Not misdirecting into something sexual when it could easily back the question into that latitude and make it all a great and entertaining flirtatious game.

"I'm just curious if anyone has ever asked you what you really want most in the world or if you've ever thought to ask yourself that question?"

* * *

Royal goes quiet for a moment. He seems a bit dumbfounded by her direct question, and the quick it cuts to. He actually clears his throat a moment after sipping his wine. He really doesn't know what to say, and that's new for him. After a moment, he says, "You're absolutely right. Although I am quite far down the order of succession and I get further still as each family has children, the Dukedom means certain things have always been expected of me. It is a responsibility, but it isn't one that I resent. Well, not something I always resent." The second is more truthful.

He considers for a moment, then sets his glass down and holds the stem of it. He gets fiddly when he gets thrown off, but there's not much here for him to play with. He settles on fingering the arm of his fork. "My great fantasy is to be respected on the merits of my own work, separate from my name and reputation. Perhaps that's part of what has driven me to the GPPI. It is a world in which my royal title is a handicap rather than a benefit. So I can be certain any successes are entirely my own."

* * *

"Interesting." Mary's smile isn't coy. It appears to truly appreciate the answer after the internal wrestling match Royal went through to get there on the other side of the table. Her smile is actually real, noting the genuineness of his reply before she sits back and takes a sip of her own wine. Finally remembering to or actually actioning ordering her next course with a resolute press of a finger to the table.

Her eyes had slipped down to watch his worry at the neck of the fork but by now, had returned to his face. "Would you like me to choose an attitude of conversation that's a little less stressful?" She pauses. "Or you can engage in some turnabout as fair play."

* * *

"It's not stressful," says Royal with a cant of his head. "I did ask for honesty. I suppose I'm just not used to such…observant questions. I should have been prepared. It's been my experience that people in your profession are uncommonly insightful. You see such a broad cross-section of human nature." He picks up his wine, sips, then sets it back down, tips of his fingers touching the rim like he's about to try and make it sing. "I suppose my other fantasy might be to make use of virtual or wearing another sleeve without worrying about my birth sleeve. And yes, I realize that all of my anxieties are in many ways connected."

The server does come back to refill drinks and take their mains. Distracted as he is, he opts for a gnocci dish when there are more adventurous choices on the menu. The description, however, makes it sound quite comforting.

* * *

"Most things can be cast down into just a handful of things that bother and upset us, even we can't see it clearly as such." Mary's response is quietly offered, as the main courses are laid out in front of them. The bolder of the two - she opted for a rare steak as her choice. "I did promise honesty," she admits and reaffirms, as the waiter withdraws.

"You should try virtual, though. You could very well like it," she confirms, picking up the steak fork left behind by the waiter.

* * *

"Yes, but perhaps that's a danger. I have a habit of sinking into my vices if I'm not careful, though I've gotten better in recent years." Royal relaxes a little, stops fidgeting, though he does run his fingertips over the design on the fork once more before withdrawing his hand. "Can I ask your advice on something?"

* * *

"Like most drugs, you just need an effective trip sitter if that's your concern." Mary's response is thoughtful and possibly volunteering to be that exact function, as she's cutting into her steak. She pauses, eyes down cast on her plate only to lift them up to look at Royal's face. "Mmmm?" she responds with a smile, nodding in affirmation that she's happy to dispense sought advice.

* * *

Royal bites the edge of his lip, which is an uncommon tic for him. "In your profession…how do you manage making a connection with someone while…maintaining boundaries? I've gotten around this problem by primarily dallying with…" he motions a bit towards her, "…people with whom the transactional nature of the relationship is crystal clear, or those who only want a bit of fun as well. But as you know, that limits real connection. That's just sex, not intimacy." And he clearly draws a distinction.

* * *

Her fork and knife get set down. It's not a squirm persay but it's Mary's turn to be hit with a close to home question. But she looks at him, dead on and smiles lightly - it not an affectation, even if she's a little outside her lines now too. "I entered this profession out of necessity - I wasn't looking to become famous or fish for a role as a meth's or meth associate's wife or extended, exclusive mistress. At the time, I was in a place that couldn't ever see a romantic or intimate future with another person. I just- I assumed that my life had excluded that possibility on a permanent basis." Her explanation, measured and thoughtful - trying to distract from the rough edges and implication of bad circumstances around it.

"I recognize the danger of those blurred lines, if that's what you're wondering? That any sort of real connection comes with the possibility of jealousy and other dark things. And it does happen in this profession because there are people who do meet and marry or partner for love, there's at least one person in my house in that arrangement now with their spouse. I think… I think you just have to talk about it and keep talking about it. Create a safe word of a sort maybe? A touchstone that keeps everything anchored in reality. I don't think there's a simple formula. I think you just decide you love someone and trust them enough to let you be who you are. It's a job, but it's not just a job. For most people though, they won't be in this job forever."

* * *

There's a long moment where Royal's fork and knife are stilled as well. He listens intently, politely, to all she has to say. "I…have never been good with monogamy. The one time I attempted to stay faithful, I failed. I uh, was engaged to a lovely young woman who accepted my many faults and was prepared to accept my lack of fidelity after it came to light. It's possible I'm not quite…built for it, but I recognize most people are."

He pauses, still thinking, as he takes a few bites of his food. "How do you know if someone truly means it when they promise they won't be jealous, that they promise a lack of monogamy isn't an issue?"

* * *

Mary sits back, abandoning her food for her wine glass. It's not really an attempt to escape; rather, it's an attempt to work through the question at hand. "Well it's two different things?"

"First, I'd say that there's more than one kind of fidelity. You can roll in and out of a lot of beds and still be emotionally monogamous with one person only. Some people are truly only wired for one lover and one love for the rest of their sleeve life and possibly into the next. Some people aren't? And I think its the case that Houses are a culturally sanctioned outlet for people who need to experience sexual variety without imploding their entire lives." She smiled lightly at Royal, then. "I think you have to be brutally honest with whomever this is and what they can expect from you emotionally and sexually and if they show they can't handle it, you have to believe them."

"Jealousy though? Everyone is jealous. Occasionally, we get jilted spouses who want to make a scene because they didn't know their husband or wife had been visiting… which isn't exclusively jealousy, but I think you follow what I'm saying? Everyone is jealous, Royal. People aren't good at just saying something makes them feel bad instead of acting out. You have to expect jealousy, you have to just deal with it when it comes up without locking anyone out or making ultimatums. Most of the time, people feel ignored or thrown away for something novel or new and that's how it becomes jealousy."

* * *

Royal listens again, intentive and thoughtful like before. He too takes up his wine, though he doesn't sip it immediately. "My situation is further complicated by the fact that any official relationship comes with strings attached. It comes with an obligation to public life. Not to mention the fact that I can't marry anyone who has been resleeved without permission from the Queen. That's…part of why it ended with my fiancee. She got sick and had to resleeve." He corners a look away, then sips his wine in earnest. "I didn't ask for special dispensation." He clears his throat. "It seems…simpler, all around to stick to casual relationships." His lips flick into a smile, then the expression dances away.

* * *

Mary listens thoughtfully, the edges of her mouth pulling down slightly at the resultant end of his never-actually-became-a marriage. "I'm sorry that happened," she responds, the condolence softly stated before she sips her wine.

"But I think I'm going to repeat what I said the other day? I'm not sure you ultimately want to be casual, Royal. It sounds easier but it will probably be harder for you, in the end." She pauses, setting down her wine glass - her eyes dead-to-rights in their focus on him. "It is okay to admit that you want to be loved by someone, who won't just tolerate your want to experience other people. If you're lucky, they'll help you have that kind of fun." She smiles consolingly at him for a moment. "That man or woman exists out there. Harder to find but you may be turning over the wrong rocks and declaring it doesn't exist?"

* * *

"My worry is that someone might say they can handle my…wandering eye in theory, but in practice, I end up hurting them." Royal smiles a bit sadly and moves a bit of gnocci around on his plate. "But what if I want to love more than one person? I love so many things about so many different types of human beings that the singular feels…" he rolls his shoulders back. "Constraining?" Then he inhales. "But perhaps that's just an excuse."

After a moment, he starts to chuckle. "This dinner was supposed to be a thank you for your assistance, not…leaning on you for life counselling. I feel like I still owe you some kind of treat."

* * *

Mary nods, in something like mild agreement. "It might be constraining but real love is a lot of work. You can love a lot things about a lot of people but that's not love - that's rounding up into convincing yourself that it is love. You can love more than one person but you'll want to put in the work in every case."

"You can make it up to me, if you feel like I'm not getting the best of you. I won't say 'no' to more time spent with you," she concedes in a way that doesn't seem to mind that the evening has turned out this way.

* * *

"You're very kind," says Royal, getting a bit of his bravado back under him. "Continuing the theme of the evening, tell me, what would you like to do, where would you like to go if it were entirely up to you?" He seems content to leave difficult questions aside for the moment. Or for potentially longer than that.

* * *

The answer to his question doesn't require a lot of effort on Mary's part. The answer it becomes apparent is easily jumped at, if perhaps startlingly benign. "Ice cream in a library," she informs him with little hesitation going for it, at all. Her smile across the table at him secret, as if she was expected to say something far more complex or outrageous. "Real books," she qualifies, in case there was confusion.

* * *

"In a library? That's a very interesting combination. Wouldn't you get worried about getting the books all sticky?" Royal seems charmed by this answer. He smiles in a pleased manner. "I do enjoy real books as well. It's the history lover in me. Something about holding a piece of history itself while reading its contents."

* * *

Mary shrugs gamely, her head canting slightly at him. "That's the gamble isn't it? Avoiding paper-based tragedy via ice cream interference."

"I just like that it's quiet and generally, hardly anyone is ever in a library any more - it's like being alone. Ice cream is pretty self-explanatory, though."

* * *

"Indeed. But you hardly need me for that particular fantasy experience, hmm? Unless it includes me giving you a mini-lecture on colonialism as we wander the stacks?" Royal chuckles softly.

* * *

"I can't imagine anyone else there with me," she informs, as though it may or may not have occurred to him that this venture requires his presence. "Maybe I'll offer up a lecture on medical theory. We can intellectually stimulate each other." Her mouth turns up into a teasing grin. "I don't think that's something a lot of other House employees can boldly claim?"

* * *

Royal laughs brightly. "Well, when you speak of it, you can simply say you stimulated your patron for hours and hours." There's a playful twinkle in his eyes. He raises his glass in a salute.