|Atticus → (steles) wrote in doorslogs,|
@ 2013-10-09 00:25:00
|Entry tags:||door: marvel comics, gwen stacy, harry osborn|
Who: Gwen and Harry (plus wee Emily)
What: Dinner (1/2)
Where: The Osborn Estate
A month away from New York felt like eternity for Gwen.
It was an entirely illogical feeling, because she'd been away longer for school, and a month was a miniscule time increment in the life she'd lived as a whole, but it still felt like forever. She'd returned with some of Sam's bruises and some of Sam's memories, and she'd immediately gone to her apartment to shower it all away. Luckily, she was removed enough from Sam that it didn't feel like the things that had happened to the other girl had happened to her, but there was still that pervasive feeling of dirtiness that the girl in her mind carried with her, and it took three long, hot showers to realize that wasn't going to go away with soap and scrubbing.
She'd spent the next two days in bed, curled beneath blankets stolen from home that still reminded her of her dad, and she'd found a way to distance the trauma in Sam's head. Then, once that was done, she began the painstaking work of collating her life.
A month put distance between her inebriated heartache over Harry, and it had soothed the pain of betrayal from Mary Jane. It hadn't eradicated either thing entirely, but they were manageable now. She still loved Harry Osborn, and she accepted that she might always love Harry Osborn, but that Harry didn't love her. He was engaged, and he had confessed his love to Mary Jane, and she had to stop living her life in Mary Jane's shadow. She rethought leaving Oscorp too, now that she was sober and could think about it all without crying. Her dad would have been disappointed that she'd given up her dream for a man, even one he'd liked as much as he'd liked Harry. That truth had made her come up with a plan to be asked back to Oscorp.
Mr. Osborn had always said he would take her back, but she'd done something childish and immature, and she felt the need to prove herself again. Luckily, she already had the symbiote that Flash had located, and she spent the next week working on a proposal for how studying the symbiote (which she had named Carnage, so that she wouldn't forget it was dangerous) could advance the science of integrating non-native DNA for corrective medicine. She knew the topic was one that was of interest to Mr. Osborn and Oscorp, and she was hoping that it would impress Harry.
And, too, she wanted to see her best friend. Whatever had happened between them, she loved Harry Osborn. She'd been honest when she'd begged him for a night with her, and she was still embarrassed that she'd sunk that low, but she wanted to repair it. So, dressed in a pale blue, slim dress to mid-thigh, along with boots to her knees in grey, with a grey headband to match, Gwen took a cab to the Osborn Estate, and she walked up to the familiar double doors. It was early, and Gwen assumed that was because the little sister that Harry kept talking about ate earlier than Harry would if he was alone. She wondered that he spent time taking care of the little girl, who probably had more nannies than either she or Harry had as children, but she thought it was sweet, and she was looking forward to meeting Emily and her barbies.
Harry's relationship with his father had always operated without questions asked. Harry liked to think that he understood why his father was the way he was, and why he did the things he did. Even the bad things that were supposed to have occurred but never did, Harry spent many nights during his senior year, after all of this weird future shit came to light, analyzing the reasons why his father would have ever done those things. With enough sleepless nights spent alone in the dark, the impossible could start to make sense in an ass backwards kind of way. Of course, none of that bad news had ended up transpiring. Gwen was still alive and well, and a favored employee of his father's. His father talked about Gwen in such high regard that sometimes she seemed like the daughter he'd never had. It was only in recent years that Harry noticed the subtle warmth that he'd begun to regard Gwen with, although she wasn't around. Harry had always assumed that his father had thought Gwen was trouble for him while in high school, although he didn't remember his father liking any of his friends back then.
Norman Osborn was a private man, which was why they'd always lived in this quiet old place without visitors. It'd seemed lonely and haunted before Harry had grown old enough to spend his afternoons and evenings away instead of trapped indoors behind heavy oak doors and thick, ornate curtains. The curtains were gone now, traded out for thin, cream colored chiffon that draped forever long in the living room, pooling against the carpet in ombre of blue. When Emily came, the aesthetics were the most immediate change. The dark shadows of his youth were gradually eaten away by color, and his father was a more prominent figure in the Osborn home these days. Still not quite qualifying for the most emotionally available father of the year, but Harry's father made it home a lot earlier these days, and Oscorp rarely saw him on the weekends. Late work nights were rare, unlike in Harry's own childhood, but they still occurred every now and then. Like tonight.
Tonight was Harry's night to look after Emily, as the Osborn men traded off with the occasional nanny visit in between. Harry knew that his father wasn't a particularly trusting person, and that was why there had been very little nanny activity in his own childhood, so he didn't question his father's determined self-care of Emily despite his busy schedule. They managed fine, and Harry found that the responsibility that came with a little sister was good practice for his grown up future. He was at least sober on these babysitting nights.
Dinner was being catered, like usual, and a small team of chefs was busy at work in the kitchen when Gwen sounded the doorbell. A minute later, the door's latch sounded with a metallic click, and the heavy door was drawn open by small hands. The little girl on the other side of the door had a yellow ribbon in her pale hair that didn't quite match the dusky floral print of her dress, but her patent leather maryjanes with their little black bows were on point. It'd taken Harry almost two hours to talk her out of wearing her favorite red rain boots, and a bowl of ice cream proved to be the perfect bribe. She had a couple of rainbow sprinkles stuck to the lace of her dress, red and yellow herrings to a ruined appetite. The little girl didn't say anything, but rather stared up at Gwen with blinking eyes of familiar blue.
Somehow, Gwen wasn't expecting the little hands that opened the door. She expected one of the servants, in fact. She didn't expect either of the men of the house to come themselves, and she certainly didn't expect the little girl that looked to be no more than three years old and could barely close her hand around the latch. But that upturned face made her smile immediately, something warm and instant that had no basis in science. Gwen had grown up with much younger brothers, and she was comfortable around children, but she couldn't ever recall immediately smiling at one like she did this one. And it only took her a second to recognize the familiar, Osborn blue eyes, and she realized Mr. Osborn likely hadn't been entirely honest about adopting an orphan. But that, too, wasn't surprising. After all, there would be scrutiny if Mr. Osborn had fathered a child out of wedlock, and he might have been trying to avoid any paternity claims that would affect the company. For whatever reason, he'd clearly decided to hide the true parentage of the little girl with the telling sprinkles on her dress.
Gwen didn't hesitate before crouching down to the little girl's height, uncaring about the slim blue skirt or the work briefcase that dragged on the floor when she let it rest there. "Hello," she said. "I'm Gwendolyn, but my friends call me Gwen. You must be Emily. Your brother told me all about you," she explaining with a smile and drawing out that all and making it sound like Harry talked about his little sister all the time. She looked past the little girl's shoulder, and then she looked back at the tiny face. She meant to ask if she could go inside, but she found herself staring, and it took a moment longer to find the words to ask very solemnly and very officially, "can I come in?"
It'd also occurred to Harry that his father might have had ulterior motives in adopting the little girl. Norman Osborn had never seemed particularly warm toward children that Harry could recall. The randomly sudden news of Emily's adoption had admittedly been something of a shock, but Harry initially had regarded it as some element of a mid-life crisis. It had later seemed probable that his father might have had a stronger connection to the girl than he'd initially let on, although Harry never brought the question to light. Harry had never known his father to be a particularly social man, and he'd certainly never heard of him dating. So whatever the reasoning was behind Emily's inclusion to the Osborn family, Harry decided that it was best left unquestioned. Like everything his father did, Harry trusted that it was acted on with the best of intentions. He still had his doubts that the child was a product of his father's genes, however. She seemed too sweet, although Harry inevitably attributed the differences between himself and Emily to the fact that he'd obviously been a bad seed from the very beginning.
There was an angelic quality specially reserved for toddler girls, and Emily had it in spades. Not just because of the blond hair and blue eyes, but because of her quiet, endearing shyness. Her little shoes edged back from the door a step at a time until she was a couple of paces back, then she turned with a practiced twirl to her flowered dress, racing toward the stairs, where she inevitably clung to the banister. "Harry! Gwen here!" The little blond thing whipped around the banister to peek around its polished wood to get another glimpse of the woman at the front door, as if she was appropriately hidden by the slim pillar.
Harry'd naturally heard the door sound a minute earlier, and he'd ceased the nervous fumbling with his tie in resolution. Although his father wouldn't have approved, Harry knew that Gwen wouldn't mind if he didn't wear a tie to dinner. The lack of it didn't help Harry feel at ease about this being a business dinner, however. Considering that it was his night to watch Emily, Harry was admirably sober.. which likely attributed to his shaking hands as he'd fought with a windsor knot for the last fifteen minutes. He heard Emily's girlish shout as he stuffed the uncooperative tie back into a drawer, and Harry headed down to the foyer a moment later. Dressed in simple slacks and an auburn button-down of starched cotton, Emily with her designer dress and sprinkle accessories was the most flamboyant out of all of them.
"Gwen, you found the place okay? I know its been awhile," he teased. Harry tried for gentle and smiling, because he desperately didn't want to seem as nervous as his whiteknuckles on the banister would expose him to be. Friendly, he aimed for friendly. Friendly meant smiling at Gwen while determinedly refusing to take notice of how beautiful she still was. It seemed like some cruel fate that she couldn't begin to seem ordinary after all of these years.
Gwen forgot to stand up as she watched the little girl twirl into the house and cling to the bannister, too taken by the practiced little spin and those shy blue eyes. She knew this was biology playing tricks with her. She saw the little girl, and she wondered about the child she'd given up. Emily, she thought, looked a little younger, but she still had the Osborn eyes and that blonde hair, and it was hard not to think about things she'd promised herself she wasn't going to dwell on. Her child (Harry's child) had been adopted by a good family in California, and the last update she'd received said that the child was thriving. She had no reason to compare the two children, and yet she couldn't help herself. It made her hurt, and it made her feel guilty, and it made her wonder if she'd done the right thing all those years ago.
She smiled when Emily peeked around the polished wood at her, realizing that the little girl thought she was invisible behind that pillar. Gwen played along, and she stood and smoothed her skirt, and then she retucked her hair back behind the headband she wore, and she finally picked up her briefcase and looked inside the open doorway, as if she was trying very hard to figure out where Emily had gone. It was all an act, of course, and she kept Emily in her line of sight as she played along.
She heard Harry, before she saw him, and she wondered why (even knowing all of the biological and chemical reactions to auditory input) he could still make her heart race. She'd convinced herself, while she was away, that she would return and have no reaction to Harry Osborn. Logically, she knew she shouldn't. He was in love with Mary Jane Watson, and he was marrying a politician's daughter, and he wasn't interested in her. But her heart still beat too quickly in her chest, just from hearing him say her name. She reminded herself that Peter Parker was the smart choice. He was the available choice, and whatever she felt for Harry had to quietly fade away, despite the fact that it had refused to do just that for the past four years.
"My memory is excellent, Harry Osborn," she quipped back, and she'd always been good at bantering with him, even with the lingering embarrassment at having propositioned him while drunk. It was easy, even with her pulse beating a loud staccato in her ears. She looked at him when he approached, and it was an appreciative look. There wasn't anything particularly seductive or forward about the look, but she wasn't very good at hiding social tells. She'd always thought he was handsome, even when she hadn't actually realized it, and it showed in her cornflower blue eyes. "Your little sister was here, but I don't know where she went," she added, her smile making it obvious that she was playing, and that she knew precisely where Emily was tucked away.
When Gwen had bailed on their breakfast plans, Harry'd been worried that whatever damage he'd inflicted on their friendship had been incapable of being cured. He hadn't anticipated how distraught she'd become over his engagement, and Harry knew that his late night rendezvous with Mary Jane hadn't done much to reaffirm Gwen's faith in him as a decent human being. So when she hadn't wanted to gather over bagels like they'd originally planned, Harry had to assume the worst. The fact that Mary Jane had rediscovered her ever-fluctuating hatred for him was all the proof that he needed in knowing that he'd done some major fucking up on the night of his engagement announcement.
But tonight Gwen was smiling. It wasn't the polite, tight-lipped expression that Gwen used when she was busy trying to pretend that she wasn't sad or frustrated. This smile was real. It was a charming, wide spread of teeth and color in the cheeks. That look, moreso even than her agreement to dinner, put Harry at ease. Her voice was confectionary, sweet and delicate with not even a ghost of a clue as to the tears she'd carried in her words that night on the phone. He still didn't quite know what to make of the things she'd told him, the love that she swore on. Harry couldn't have ever imagined her having any kind of lasting affection saved in her heart for him. The fact that she still reserved some friendship for him after all of these years and let downs, well that was miracle enough.
He nodded when Gwen playfully explained that she didn't know where Emily had disappeared off to. "She must have gone off to bed," he suggested loudly in the direction of the bannister post. This was received with a fit of chaotic giggles as Emily bounced joyously out from behind the rail. Her smile could have challenged the sun for brilliance, as perfectly proud as she was with her successful game of hiding. There was a dimple in her cheek that paired with the slight gap in her teeth for a dangerous formula of adorableness. "No, Harry! I didn't! I was invisible! You didn't see me!" She hopped excitedly around their legs, all of that prior shyness lost in a familiar surge of sugar brought on by those sprinkles. "Gwen didn't see me either!" This was announced on the cusp of more laughter, and Harry smiled, genuinely amused by his little sister as he turned his attention onto Gwen. His most loyal friend. Emily was still prattling on about being invisible as she danced up through the hall, going curiously around the bend of the dining room to watch the finishing touches of the caterers as they prepared the dinner table.
Momentarily alone, he told her what he'd been meaning to say since the moment he'd come down the stairs, "You look great, and I'm really.. really glad you came, Gwen."
She was smiling. It was hard, and it had taken so much peptalking, but her dad had always said she could be unbelievably stubborn when she wanted to be, and she wanted to fix things with Harry. She didn't want it because of her career, and it had nothing to do with Oscorp. She'd spent four years away from Harry Osborn, and she'd missed him. She'd missed the friend from her childhood who would always let her play whatever game she wanted to, no matter how much he wanted to play something else. She'd missed the boy she'd known in school who had always treated her differently than he treated everyone else, and who had made her feel special without even meaning to. She'd missed all the years in between. And, as a scientist, she couldn't exclude pertinent data, which said she missed how things had changed between them that last year. She knew the memories weren't good ones for him, even with his confused confession that he might have harbored feelings for her then, but she missed them all the same.
But she had made lists of all the reasons she didn't need to remind him of the drunken things she'd said the night she'd learned about his engagement, and all those reasons still pertained. He loved Mary Jane. He was engaged to another woman. He hadn't wanted to sleep with her. That last reality made her cheeks flush red with embarrassment, and luckily Emily was giggling by then, and she hoped the flush could go unnoticed. And the little girl was a wonderful distraction. Gwen couldn't help but smile at that dimple and the gap in her tiny teeth, and the little girl's tiny smile reminded her so much of Harry's smile when he was small. The little girl didn't actually look like him, not beyond the blue Osborn eyes, but that smile, that was all Harry. Mr. Osborn had definitely fathered this little girl. The scientist in her would be willing to bet good money on that.
"I didn't see her at all," she assured Harry, backing Emily up in her claim of invisibility, her gaze on the little bouncing ball of sugar all the while, and she laughed as Emily danced her way into the dining room. "You let her get more sprinkles in her mouth than on her dress, didn't you?" she asked of the obvious energy Emily had so late in the day. She glanced toward the dining room again, where Emily was peeking at the tables, and she smiled. "She's adorable, Harry. No wonder you volunteer to babysit."
She looked back at him, then, not expecting the compliment at all. She blushed again, slightly, but she managed to keep from stammering like she would have in high school. At least she'd managed to lose that tendency during her years in California, practicing in front of a mirror for when she'd eventually see him again. She was supposed to wow him when she came back to New York, and that hadn't happened, but she'd settle for looking collected. "I'm glad you invited me," she said truthfully, and she took a step forward and kissed his cheek, linger-soft friendship in the press of her lips against his jaw. The greeting was appropriate for their social circle, and yet it still made her heart speed up. "Are you going to invite me in, so that I can wow you?" she asked as she pulled back.
Gwen might have intended to pull back after placing that chaste display of friendship on his cheek, but Harry hadn't seen her in long enough that a hug felt necessary. If physical contact had been relegated to the no column for tonight's social dinner, Harry momentarily forgot. He wasn't thinking about it meaning anything more than a hug, and he wasn't thinking about what kind of connotations it might have had for Gwen. The only thing that really occurred to Harry beforehand, and what spurred him into action, was the awareness of how long it had been since he'd hugged his friend. There'd been a time when Gwen had been his best friend, and while she'd gone off to California, Harry supposed that Peter had managed to take up the role of bestie.. and now maybe he was too old to have things like best friends, but he hugged her like one all the same. A tight squeeze that managed brevity, just like the smack of a kiss against the side of her blond head. "Come on in, Gwen," he said. The invitation was punctuated by Harry forcibly pulling her through the door before releasing her from the cinch of his arm.
"I wouldn't call it volunteering to babysit," he said with a soft laugh. What man in his early twenties preferred quiet nights in rather than Manhattan nightlife? "But you know how my father has always been about strangers having run of the house while he's away." Harry'd never had any nanny or butler to open the door for him after school. The days that Gwen had tagged along to come home with him were the only afternoons that Harry wasn't completely alone with spooky shadows.
He started down the hallway where a blue carpet with oriental tassels of cream and gold ran the length of floorboards. The doorway on the left opened up to the dining room. Aside from some of the color scheme, not much had changed since the days that Gwen used to come over when they were children. The dining room table and chairs were familiar, sturdy oak. Like most of the furniture in the Osborn home, the set seemed sturdy and carved by hand a good hundred years ago. Caterers in white aprons were also a new attribute, as Gwen probably recalled that when Harry had been a boy, the house didn't have any housekeepers or kitchen staff. In those days, the massive estate had been a lonely place of echoing rooms. Harry's father stilled preferred the privacy that came with solitude, and that was why Harry typically babysat Emily rather than any nanny. Dinner was regularly catered on the nights that Harry watched his adopted sister, and Emily seemed familiar with the service as one young man in all white pulled out a chair for her to climb into. Harry gestured the man away so that he could pull Gwen's own chair out for her beside Emily.
She was lemons and vanilla, and she wasn't expecting the hug. Had she been expecting it, she might have felt it less. Logically, she knew prior expectations wouldn't have had any effect on physical pressure, but maybe it wouldn't have felt like the world stopped turning when he wrapped his arms around her. She knew it was nothing but a friendly hug, something intended to solidify the renewal of their friendship, but she wanted to melt into him all the same. She had to remind herself of all the reasons she shouldn't, and she caught herself just as she was about to let herself press against him with more familiarity than was appropriate. And then he was kissing the side of her head like she was Emily, and the moment passed in a wash of embarrassment and quick recovery. When he pulled her through the door, she nudged him with a shoulder, the movement coming just as he released her and, she thought, saving face nicely.
She had the briefcase back in her hand as she followed him inside, and she looked around as he talked about how Mr. Osborn hated strangers running the house. As a child, she'd always thought the Osborn house so different from her own. Her mom had always been home, ready with a smile and a hug, and her brothers had always been making noise somewhere. When her dad came home, everyone dressed for dinner and was on their best behavior, but she'd never been careful around him like her brothers were, and she'd always spent the evenings bugging him with all the things she'd learned at school. In contrast, the Osborn house had always felt like the kind of place that required whispering, and she and Harry had spent plenty of time hiding in its nooks and crannies. Walking behind him over those familiar blue carpets, she remembered those days with fondness. It had all seemed so simple then.
Once they reached the large table, she set her briefcase on one of the side tables, and she watched Emily get tucked into a chair. She wanted to ask if a - three? four? - year old could feed herself, but she refrained, figuring she'd find out soon enough. She smiled when Harry gestured the footman away, and she refused to let her stomach develop butterflies, which she knew were just a physiological reaction to stimuli. "Always so gallant, Harry Osborn," she said, her smile bright and her cornflower blue gaze playful. She took her seat, and she looked over at Emily conspiratorial. "Your brother is very nice," she mock-whispered to the little girl that looked so very small and young in the big chair, little more than a baby, really. Her expression softened with unintended softness, and she glanced back to see where Harry had taken his seat.
Harry took a seat across from both of the girls. Surprisingly, he found that he was glad he'd come up with the idea for Gwen to join his father's child and himself for dinner. It felt as if some of the pressure that came with being alone with Gwen was alleviated by such a small addition. It didn't feel wrong to be here with her, and Harry wasn't sure if that was because it always felt right to hang out with Gwen, or if Emily's innocence softened what might have been an awkward dinner under other circumstances.
Little Emily could barely see over the table's edge, but she was stubborn enough to refuse a booster seat. Harry and the catering staff were familiar with this by now and didn't even suggest it to the headstrong toddler. The girl preferred to sit on her knees for needed height, and Harry didn't reprimand her for it the way he suspected his father would have. Norman Osborn had always been rather particular about etiquette, and childhood wasn't an excuse for neglecting one's manners. Emily must have had some of these Osborn lessons in manners, as she became remarkably quiet for a sugared up child at the dinner table. There was no hint of her prior giggling, although she did bounce on her knees with noteable impatience until Gwen moved in for that top secret whisper. Emily leaned over with her tiny hands cupped up near her ear to listen, then she twisted to whisper back, "Are you nice?"
Harry raised an eyebrow at the whispering, but didn't say anything as caterers brought the first course out. Three year olds did not have much of an appetite he'd learned over the last couple of months, even if they weren't pumped full of ice cream and sprinkles. That's why Emily was given a small plate of green apple slices and puff pastry crackers in the shape of birds. Meanwhile, Harry and Gwen were served bowls of cold, creamy vichyssoise.
Gwen's smile made it very clear that she was enchanted with her little dinner companion. She was always socially awkward, and it was a constant battle to figure out the right thing to say in any given situation, but that didn't apply with toddlers, and she leaned a little closer for her conspiratorial reply of, "I think so. Should we ask your brother if he thinks I'm nice?" Her blonde hair tickled Emily's nose, the shade almost an exact match for the little girl's at the table, and she sat back with a polite, respectful smile when the caterers brought in the first course. She might not have been raised as strictly as Harry, but her mom had been a stickler for etiquette, and her dad had insisted on formal, family dinners, right up until the day he died.
Gwen thanked her server, and she waited until the table was cleared to taste the vichyssoise, which was delicious. She made a sound of pleasure, which wouldn't have been acceptable etiquette, and she smiled at Harry. "This is delicious," she said honestly. "I haven't had anything like it since mom had formal dinners." Which seemed even more than four years in the past. She looked over at Emily, with her apples and pastries, and she smiled at the little girl who managed to kneel on the chair and eat like someone years older than she was. She knew that was Osborn upbringing, and she knew that messiness was probably healthier, but Emily looked like a little doll, and it was impossible not to smile at her. "Harry says you like dolls," she said, wanting to hear more of the teensy, toddler voice, and she looked over at Harry and gave him a warm, honest grin. This was the most home-like meal she'd had in a long time, even if it wasn't with her family.
Emily shrugged at Gwen's conspiratorial question, blue eyes gone big with an uncertainty that was entirely trusting, little mouth pursed with indecision over whether or not they should ask Harry about how nice the Gwen woman was. Any interest in the endeavor obviously deteriorated the moment that those little pastry birds appeared on the china plate before her, anyway. Toddlers weren't known for owning adequate appetites, but it helped when food was cutely constructed. The little girl nibbled on one, humming in pleasure and bobbing her head from side to side in time with some song that only she should hear. When Gwen mentioned dolls, though, Emily's eyes widened and she bounced faintly in her chair to tell Gwen all about it. "I do, I have a millions!"
Harry smirked over his soup, pausing mid-bite to clarify to Gwen, "She's barely exaggerating." The little sister had come as a complete surprise to Harry, and if anybody had asked him beforehand if he thought his father could raise a little girl, the answer would have been a laughing no.. but Harry had to admit now that he'd been wrong in that thinking. Norman Osborn treated the little girl like a princess, and even with how often Norman worked still, there was no absence of love or attention in her life. Emily was perfectly spoiled, and even though Harry knew he should.. he just couldn't bring himself to think that there was anything wrong with that. If he ever had second thoughts on her numerous toys or infinite closet, it only took the sound of a joyous laughter to make him realize that it was worth it. She was never around other children, and Harry wasn't sure if that loneliness would contribute to her being a complete brat in the coming years, but he just couldn't imagine it with as sweet as the kid was now. "Maybe you can show Gwen your dolls after dinner?" Harry's little sister glanced to the woman beside her in excited inquiry whilst chewing on a wedge of apple.
Those big blue eyes reminded Gwen of just how young her dinner companion was. She hadn't read any instructive books before coming over, and she was suddenly feeling an educational lacking that she was unfamiliar with. She always researched every situation before potentially encountering, but she'd assumed growing up with her brothers would be enough to properly gauge dinner conversation with Harry's little sister. But Emily was younger than Gwen had been expecting, and she couldn't remember her brothers at this age. Again, it made her think of California, and she had to take a long drink of her water to chase the thought away. By the time she'd set the glass down, she had convinced herself (again) that she had made the correct decision all those years ago, and her uncertainty about what to say to the adorable little girl at her side only cemented that renewed conviction. Luckily, the topic of dolls seemed to be an acceptable one, and she smiled at Emily. "I would love to see your dolls after dinner, if you'll let me," she said, honestly interested.
She took another few spoonfuls of her vichyssoise, and then she set her spoon aside and glanced at Harry across the table. She wasn't sure how far she should venture onto the topic of work, not with Emily at the table with them. She didn't want to bore the little girl, and she wasn't sure how much she needed to be entertained while she ate. The uncertainty surely showed in her cornflower blue eyes, and the expression was an unfamiliar one. Maybe it could hearken back to high school and situations where they ended up drunk and liplocked, but uncertainty wasn't something that Gwen Stacy did in non-social situations. "Do you want me to tell you about my proposal now, or should I wait?" she finally asked, finding herself at a stalemate that would either leave her staring across the table at him or embarking on a topic of conversation that he wasn't ready for. She laughed almost immediately after asking the question, a nervousness in the quiet sound. A shake of her blonde head, and she smiled at him, a genuinely fond smile. "I'm being ridiculous. I can diagram all the ways I'm being ridiculous, if you want," she offered, and it wasn't just the proposal. It was all of it - sitting across the table from him, this tiny little girl at her side, and it would be so easy to let herself forget the parameters of their relationship.
"Do you remember," she asked, sitting back for the servers to clear her bowl away, "how we swore we'd instigate a rule about sitting closer together when we were grown up?" she asked of the big table and the space between the chairs.
Gwen's apparent interest in the dolls, which was naturally more significant than any feigned interest Harry or his father were able to put forth, obviously pleased Emily. Her smile was wide and bordered on ecstatic. The little girl even snuck one of those puff pastry doves off of her plate and secretly dropped it into what remained of Gwen's soup in a purely munificent offering. Emily managed to do so while Gwen was paying more attention to Harry, and notably pleased with her sneakiness, she went back to quietly munching on a piece of apple which she held in all of her fingers like a hungry little mouse. Harry watched the entire exchange quietly while Gwen made mention of the proposal. It made him smile because he could not ever imagine exhibiting such playfulness at the dinner table when he'd been a child.
Harry hadn't forgotten that this was a business dinner, but he took Gwen's reminder of the proposal as a suggestion for the two of them to get down to brass tacks. The discussion, since it was outside the realm of princesses and ponies, would only bore Emily. The little girl had a toddler's attention span naturally, and she was already resorting to playing with her food rather than eating it. "We can go ahead with the proposal, I don't mind talking about work over dinner," he assured her. Then, he nodded to Emily, who was beginning to slouch in her chair, "Why don't you go upstairs, Em? Get your dolls all ready for bed so that Gwen can come up and tell them goodnight once we're done." Glad to be excused from the table and told she could go upstairs to play, she hastily excused herself by sliding out of her chair with excited agreement, and vanishing from the dining room a moment later.
Harry took another taste of his soup. He'd always found the concept of cold soup unnatural and honestly unsatisfying, but he was glad that Gwen liked it. He couldn't remember the last time that somebody had come over to the Osborn home for dinner. Even his fiance had never come by, she preferred to meet with Harry in more social settings throughout the city. It kept them as a regular feature in the society section of the newspaper, which Harry had grown tired of a long time ago.. but if it made his fiance happy, he supposed that he could find a way not to mind.
"I don't remember that," he said with a laugh. Harry had to laugh because it certainly sounded like one of the strange schemes they'd developed in their youth. The two of them had a lot of weird perceptions on the traditions that came with adult social functions. The memory gave him a maudlin smile, and Harry shook his head with an amused glance Gwen's way. "How is it you remember all of those little things?" She had the craziest knack for recalling the tiniest details from their childhood.
It pleased Gwen more than it probably should, that ecstatically wide smile on Emily's little face. She felt like she'd accomplished something impressive, and the feeling was generally one that was reserved for great scientific endeavors. It didn't make any sense, because there was no real logic employed in making a toddler smile, and yet it was just as satisfying. It confused her slightly, and she missed the insinuation of the puff pastry into her soup entirely because of it. By the time she noticed it, the little girl was nibbling at her apple like a mouse, and Gwen made a pleased sound at discovering the soggy little pastry in her cold soup. She didn't hesitate even a moment before scooping it up with her spoon and tucking it between her lips. She gave Emily a bright smile, all cornflower blue eyes and an incline of her blonde head. "Thank you very much," she said, with formal politeness and a completely informal grin.