|Atticus → (steles) wrote in doorslogs,|
@ 2013-10-09 00:27:00
|Entry tags:||door: marvel comics, gwen stacy, harry osborn|
Who: Gwen and Harry (plus wee Emily)
What: Dinner (2/2)
Where: The Osborn Estate
Gwen watched the little girl vanish from the dining room a moment later, her gaze lingering on her until she was well out of sight. She turned her attention back to Harry, then, and her smile was still softly fond. "Do you want any of your own?" she asked, and it was an unthinkingly stupid question, one tied up in her own uncertainties. Usually those uncertainties were easy enough to quash with charts and Venn diagrams, but she was having an understandably harder time tonight. Almost immediately, she was sorry she'd asked, but there was no taking the question back. She opted to amend, since it seemed the most sensible course of action. "Later. Do you want any of your own later." They were too young for children. She thought he was too young for marriage, too, but she kept that to herself. She figured he'd already heard enough of that from Peter, since Peter constantly told her about it.
"My memory is superior," she teased, because she recalled all kinds of minutiae from her childhood. "When I was small, I would write everything down as soon as I got home. I have a trunk full of diaries that my dad gave me, going all the way back to when I was five. Nothing in the older ones make sense, but things get clearer by seven. Writing things down helps commit them to memory," she informed him, and she didn't add that she'd read through everything in those diaries since she'd been back from college. It had been like cracking open the past. "He would give me one every year on my birthday." She took a sip of her water, and she set her spoon aside. She blinked quickly, because she wasn't going to cry over an important presentation. The small smile she gave him was apologetic, and she took a few deep breaths before continuing.
The caters removing her empty soup bowl gave her a moment longer to collect herself, and her voice was steady by the time she continued. She didn't bother reaching for her briefcase; she could leave documentation with him after. "I've been working with a symbiote. It's a highly advanced, highly sentient being. He's dangerous, so containment is crucial, but I have a very strong working theory that the methods he uses to bond with his host could be synthesized and employed in advanced genetics. In the past, we've had failures melding different genetic profiles for everything from transplants to advanced cell growth. If we can synthesize the symbiote's bonding profile - and I believe I can - we can make rejection a thing of the past. Eventually, we can even use the science behind the synthesized bonding agents to allow for integration of foreign DNA for cell repair and strengthening." She took a breath, and she forced herself to slow down and contain the excitement on her features. She'd been working with Carnage for weeks now, and she had digital diagrams of her theories. In short, she was positive it could work. "Since we'll be synthesizing the enzymes that allow for the connection, there's no risk of the symbiote attaching to anyone. As long as he remains unbonded, he's not a danger." She wanted to add that she'd been working a similar symbiote since high school, that she had experience in modifying the bond between symbiote and host, but she couldn't do that without outing Flash, and she would simply have to hope her research and data was sufficient.
Emily was off to an after dinner digestif tea party with all of her stuffed bears and porcelain dollies. Harry watched her hustle off, and he knew what was in store, as he'd witnessed the nightly orchestration many times on the evenings when it was his duty to tuck her into bed. As frivolous as Emily could be, the little girl had a strangely methodical approach to bedtime. Harry had no idea if this was typical of children or not, but he couldn't recall ever doing anything so deliberate and precise every night. It bordered on a controlled experiment, the way that she set all of her little friends into a line on the edge of her princess bed. She made sure that her dolls and animals were arranged precisely, strategically in the same order each and every night. Then she would sit on the floor before them all and regale her little audience with a story about her day, which always involved varying degrees of wild imagination. Then they all got a kiss, and they were all carefully arranged in the folded down bedsheets for sleep alongside her.
Emily was extremely well-behaved, and this again was something that Harry had no way of knowing whether or not it was usual for such a young child. Harry knew that when he was a kid, he certainly couldn't have been trusted to go off to bed without being escorted to ensure that he actually did so. Maybe that had something to do with being a rambunctious boy, though. He'd never really put that much thought into it until now, and he looked across the table to Gwen with some consideration. "Were you more mannerful and better behaved than your brothers when you were little?" After asking, Harry realized how ridiculous it was to even question it. Gwen Stacy had always been the epitome of best behavior.. or she had been until she'd started hanging out with him.
Harry made a face when Gwen asked about whether or not he'd considered having children. He motioned for some wine from one of the caterers, who promptly came over with a bottle of pinot blanc and two long stemmed glasses in hand. "I don't know," he said with some honesty as the caterer poured them both some wine. Harry took his own glass and swirled the liquid for a brief moment before he took a sip. "My initial reaction was to say no, I mean.." He looked at Gwen, brushstroked eyebrows knotted in self-deprecating amusement. "I don't think I'm the responsible Dad type. I know I'm getting married and everything, but I've got Oscorp to think about for now.. and I don't want to do fatherhood like my Dad did, feeling like I have to choose between my company and being a parent, you know?" He'd hesitated before saying the last part about his father, but it wasn't like it was some grand secret that his father had always been better built for work than family. It was nothing to get resentful about. Harry had long ago come to terms with the fact that his mother's premature death had pushed his father into a position that he'd never really signed up for. "Lily and I haven't really talked about it, anyway…"
Harry'd guaranteed that dinner tonight would involve a plethora of courses to ensure that Gwen and himself had sufficient time for business talk and badinage. The plates set before them next were home to poached salmon drizzled with hollandaise sauce. He took a few bites while Gwen began to explain the work she'd been doing (apparently secretly) with this symbiote. He was a little surprised that this was the first he was hearing about all of this, because he'd always been a willing listener when it came to her scientific interests when they'd been in school. Harry had to remind himself that things between Gwen and himself were a lot more complicated than they had been in junior year, however. "So you want me to talk to my father," he concluded. It made sense that a research project was infinitely more likely to get pushed through with approved funding if Harry backed it.
His question about her manners when she was little, that made her tip her blonde head and regard him with curiously attentive cornflower blue eyes. She didn't know where the question came from at first, and it took her a moment to retrace the exiting footsteps of the adorable little toddler that left the room after eating her puff birdies with such care. She didn't think anything of the query then, because she assumed he was making a scientific study of the differences between male and female children, and anything that led to Harry Osborn considering things that were even marginally academic made her smile. "I was always an angel," she said, and there was enough of a smile to it that it countered the potential vanity in the statement. "My brothers were always wild, and mom would hide everything they did from dad. I was never like that. I cleaned my room without being asked and everything had to be in just the right place, or I would know. The maids hated me. Even my dolls had well-behaved pretend relationships with each other. They liked talking about the health properties of the tea at tea parties," she admitted, the smile on her face growing a little wider. "And I had systems for everything. Getting dressed in the morning was the worst."
Her expression sobered when the conversation turned to his own future marriage and family, but she hid it behind a very long sip of her wine. "You're still young," she said, because he was, and she was. They all were, even Flash, who had grown up more than any of them during his time with SHIELD. "My dad juggled career and family. You'll be able to do it too." Her mom had done a lot of the work, admittedly, since her dad had worked so much. But Harry would have his Lily, and that made her take another long sip of her wine.
She didn't take a bite of the salmon until she was done with her spiel, and she made a sound of appreciation that was probably too genuine to belong at such a formal dining table. "This is really good. I live with a Norse god these days, and we have a lot of carryout," she admitted. She couldn't remember the last time she'd cooked, and her recent outings with Peter had been very low-budget, seeing as she had no job, and he barely had one at all. And, impressively, she waited until he spoke, not jumping on him to re-explain everything, in the hopes of making a better case for her research. "No," she admitted, shaking her head. "I just want my job back. I'd be willing to do it as an Oscorp project, instead of retaining ownership myself," she said trustingly. It was, of course, an entirely stupid move, giving her research up like that for a job that had no guarantee at permanence, but she trusted the Osborns, just as her dad had, and she didn't expect Harry to betray her in any way.
"Emily is like that too," Harry said as he set down his wine glass with revived interest. He'd kind of assumed that Emily's peculiar systems of orderliness and very un-childlike penchant for keeping her room spotless were just quirks or some early signs of an obsessive-compulsive disorder, but it sounded as if Gwen had exhibited similar traits when she'd been little. Maybe these kinds of personality quirks were especially reserved for girls. That thought made Harry feel bad for Emily for a moment, because this wasn't the kind of single-parent household that was best for a little girl to grow up in. Even Harry, who had a minimal grasp on what was normal when it came to family dynamics, knew that. Little girls should have a mother.. and its not like Norman Osborn was exactly the most present father figure.
Harry took another quick bite of his food, disregarding classic etiquette in favor of conversation. "I don't even want to think about kids at this point. There's too much going on with the company, and even this marriage kind of snuck up on me. And.. I just wouldn't want to raise a kid the way that I was raised. I know he did the best he could after my mom died, but you saw what it was like over here when I was little, he was rarely around." Another bite. "Still, I had a father, though. That's what kind of worries me about Emily. Not only does she not have a mother, but there aren't any women in the house either." Harry pointed his fork at Gwen, "Emily doesn't talk to strangers, she's usually quite shy.. but she liked you immediately. She wanted to sit next to you and everything." He considered all of that for a moment while taking another sip of wine. "Maybe I can talk Norman into looking for a nanny for her, even if its just a couple days a week."
The next course was chicken sauteed in herbs and white wine. The server topped off their respective glasses of wine for the dish, and Harry sat back as he considered all that Gwen had said about the symbiote and simply wanting her job back. Norman Osborn wasn't known for being a particularly propitious person, but Harry knew how warm he was toward Gwen. She'd been a part of Oscorp even when she'd been in high school, after all. "I'm sure he'll welcome you back, Gwen, but I'll talk to him about it tomorrow, okay?"
"I can spend some time with her, if you want," Gwen offered, and she was surprised to hear the words come from her own mouth. She certainly hadn't intended to say them, but there they were, and she found she had no real desire to take them back. She missed her family. She barely saw her mom these days, and her brothers were growing up and didn't really have much time for an older sister, even when they were home, which wasn't often. And she did remember what the Osborn house had been like after Harry's mom died. It had gone from serene to somber, and it had taken Gwen a few long months to understand why. Her dad had explained, and she'd felt sorry for Harry. She remembered coming over after, once the reality of the situation had finally sunk in, and kissing Harry's cheek. She'd never been so glad to have her parents as she had that day. She'd always liked Mr. Osborn, but he had always been reserved, and not the kind of parent to hug or kiss, not like hers were, and she imagined Harry being all alone in that house. It had made her sad. "I don't see my family much right now, and I wouldn't mind."
She worked her way through the next course in silence, letting him think through her proposal, and she was anxious by the time he spoke. "Mr. Osborn always said I could come back. I just feel that after leaving in such an irresponsible way, it would be better to come back by bringing something to the table," she explained. "I'll leave my research with you, in case he wants to have it verified" she added, trusting him to hold onto it. Had she been making the same pitch to one of the countless other companies in the area, she wouldn't have made the same trusting offer. She took another glass of wine when it was offered to her, and she was careful to drink this one slowly. It wouldn't set any kind of good example to stumble up the stairs on the way to visit with Emily's doll collection.
"You don't have to do that." Harry immediately felt as if he'd somehow managed to guilt Gwen into making the babysitting offer. By now he was aware that Gwen, as a longtime friend, was the selfless one in their dynamic, whereas he was the unquestioningly selfish one. It was like a strange enactment of good cop bad cop that they'd stuck to over the years. "I didn't tell you those things to make you feel obligated. Really, I was just rambling, Gwen." At least when he was sober, Harry was much more capable of being captious when it came to looking at his own behavior through an unbiased lens. He'd always been especially aware of the stigma that came with being his father's son, and Harry went to great lengths to not be the spoiled brat that he assumed everyone thought he was. True, he didn't always succeed, but he still tried. Sometimes Harry even assured that he didn't get his way, although that might have had more to do a masochism complex than he realized. Regardless, he certainly didn't want Gwen to think that of him. He'd never want her to believe he was that guy, the kind to complain about a situation only so that she might offer to fix it for him.
He wanted Gwen to understand that he was different from the Harry that she'd left standing alone at the balcony on prom night. He'd spent the last four years determinedly putting that version of himself to rest. Throughout his college education, Harry'd building his life into what he'd always visualized his future to be. Mature, critically business-minded with classic tastes and complex virtus. He couldn't dream of living up to the same standards that his father had, but he at least wanted to make the man proud. For a change, Harry actually felt like he was doing just that. One of the servers walked around the table and absconded with their dishes in that silent, professional way that ensured conversation wasn't disrupted, and Harry smiled while taking another small taste of his wine. He wasn't the same drunk and reckless Harry Osborn that he'd been when they were young, and he wanted Gwen to see that. He didn't analyze why it was so important for him to prove himself to her, Harry was comfortable in knowing that it just was.
He nodded when she proposed leaving her research with him until his father had a chance to consider her proposal. Harry didn't believe that such a thing would be necessary, as he couldn't imagine his father not wanting Gwen back in employ at Oscorp, but the idea of bringing something valuable to the table upon her return seemed important to her. "I'll have him look at it in the morning, Gwen. I promise."
"I want to," she assured him of spending time with Emily, not understanding at first that it was important for him to make the distinction. "I miss my family," she admitted. She wouldn't have stated it as plainly with anyone else, but Harry had always been the exception to the rule with her. She could have gone further and explained that Emily made her think of the child she'd given up all those years ago, but that would have led to a discussion that she didn't think would make him feel better, and why put that on his doorstep when there was no solution for it. He had his own life now, and mentioning the baby now would only be some last ditch attempt at connecting him to her. "I know your family isn't mine. I haven't lost my mind, and I understand the logical difference, but it's nice to visit a house where there are kids, and it's nice to have a warm meal that doesn't come from the takeaway place downstairs. Anyway, I'm going to marry science and become famous. I need someone to shower occasional affection on when I'm old and eccentric."
She looked at him a few seconds longer, and then she pushed her chair back without asking to be excused. It was a breach of etiquette that both of their sets of parents would have frowned at, had they seen it, but she had been away from formal dining tables long enough not to think too much about the faux pas, and the slide of chair was still graceful and properly orchestrated for a formal setting. She considered dragging the chair with her and setting it beside his, but she decided that would be too presumptuous and, in the end, she just leaned back against the table at his elbow, her palms against the pristine white and her hips against the table's lip. "Thank you, Harry," she said, solemnly, while looking down at him. Her cheeks were slightly wine warm-red, and her cornflower blue eyes were earnest. "I mean it. Thank you. It means a lot to me," she said unnecessarily, and she reached for one of his hands, releasing her grip on the table, and squeezed his fingers. She smiled, a duck of head and her long blonde hair fanning along her sleeve. "And thanks for talking to your dad, too."
Gwen's reassurance actually took Harry by surprise. Although she'd always been persistent and stubborn (something that he knew she came to naturally by way of her father's genetics), Harry thought that he'd surely given her a convenient way out from the offer of babysitting. Babysitting wasn't exactly the solution for a gregarious nightlife. She might never be the type of girl to frequent clubs or go bar hopping with out of town hockey players, but there had to of been cocktails at the Met or some biochemical conference in town that was more appealing than afternoons spent watching Disney movies.
When Gwen explained that she saw so little of her own family these days, the offer began to make sense. Gwen had always been close to her family. The Osborn household was stoic and cold, but even without that kind of comparison, Harry knew that in high school, the Stacy house had been the paragon of what a perfect family looked like. After Gwen's father died, everything had changed, and even though she didn't talk to him about it anymore, Harry knew that the loss still affected Gwen. The admission that followed, about missing her family, was in line with his own train of thought just then, and that was surprising enough that Harry did nothing but nod. He didn't know what to say, and that was kind of the story of his life because Harry never knew what to say to Gwen when the topic was serious.
He managed to find some words after a moment, "I understand that. Maybe if you come over for dinner a couple more times and she gets to know you a bit, it wouldn't be such a big deal if you watched her every once in awhile at night. My father and I are going to have to make some formal appearances what with the wedding coming up, and there's the engagement party too.. so somebody will have to watch Emily." Harry naturally hadn't talked to his father yet about the prospect, but he couldn't imagine that it would be a problem. His father had always liked Gwen, she'd be the closest thing to family that Harry could think of to watch Emily.
Besides, Emily wasn't a raucous child. She was exceptionally diffident when around other children at the park although Harry knew that she could be bossy when it came to him. Emily was always telling Harry when it was his bed time and watching to ensure that he ate all of his vegetables at dinner. Thinking about it made him smile because it kind of reminded him of Gwen when they'd been little. He beamed up at her when Gwen drew near, warmed by the thought. The smile extended to his acknowledgement of her hand on his. "It's my pleasure, really." And his smile faded in that moment so that she'd know he was being entirely genuine when he said, "Oscorp needs you Gwen. I still can't believe that my father let you go without a fight."
Gwen knew Harry wasn't the best with emotional outpourings. He never had been, not even when they were small and tears and hugs came easier. As they got older, things like hugs became harder. For Gwen, socialization in general became more challenging, and Harry changed once his mom died and once his reputation at school changed. These days, she didn't think either of them talked about their emotions very much, but he was still one of the few people she felt comfortable using feeling words around. She'd tried with Peter, but he tended to make a joke out of everything, and it was hard enough for her to be honest about things without jokes accompanying her confessions. Other than Harry, Flash came the closest to being a confidant for her, but he hadn't known her family like Harry had, and so he wouldn't understand this like Harry would. And, truthfully, she was about as parental as some of the test slugs she kept in the lab, but she wanted to learn, and Emily seemed to like her. She knew she had no real maternal instinct, and if her big secret wasn't such a secret she would have turned that entire subject into a thesis. Maternal instincts, she had decided three years ago, were not innate things that came with the procreation process, and she hated that society seemed to think that girls automatically learned how to be mothers once the umbilical cord was cut. But she wanted to learn, regardless, even if the entire concept was just her torturing herself.
"Thank you," she finally said, after he said she could come to dinner more often, and her expression only faltered slightly when he mentioned the engagement party. Sitting there, with him, it was so easy to forget that he was engaged to another woman. And she knew the laws of friendship almost mandated that she ask him about the wedding, especially since he'd confessed to being in love with Mary Jane, but she wasn't sure she'd had enough wine for that. Instead, he made it easier by saying Oscorp needed her, because that was a subject she couldn't turn away from. She practically beamed, because if there was one thing she was proud of, it was her scientific accomplishments. "He did ask if he could do anything to convince me to stay," she said in defense of Mr. Osborn. "But I told him no." That admission was sheepish, and she pushed the chair back as she said the words, her hand sliding away from his. "I think we better go see some dolls, before Emily falls asleep," she suggested, because it seemed the wise thing to do, especially with the wine swirling around in her belly, the closeness, and the feel of his hand beneath hers.
Harry couldn't help but feel like he'd somehow managed to say the wrong thing in mentioning his engagement party. Although the half-life of her fallen expression was dismissive and Harry honestly did miss it when he took a few moments to focus on his wine instead, there was kind of shift in the energy between Gwen and himself that spoke of drawn breath, firm reminders, distance when she pulled her hand away before he'd even really had the sense to hold it.
Harry still wasn't entirely certain on the reasons behind why Gwen had felt it was so necessary to leave Oscorp. He knew that it was, in part, his fault. Which wasn't surprising, considering just how many things were his fault in the space where Gwen and his lives overlapped, but still. She wasn't the first employee of the company that he'd slept with, and he felt like it was naive of himself to think that she wouldn't eventually date somebody that she worked with, although he did glaringly try to think of who for a moment. Couldn't they co-exist and overcome that kind of awkwardness? Maybe he hadn't thought clearly about the subject for long enough to come up with a definitive answer. Tonight wasn't the night to figure everything out anyway, and he was grateful for that.
He nodded when she made mention of visiting Emily and the army of well-mannered dolls. It seemed like a good reason to leave the table and the prior conversation behind. "We converted my mother's old reading room to Emily's bedroom," Harry explained as he got up from the table. There was a moment of hesitation as he stood beside Gwen, as if he wasn't sure whether he was supposed to escort her formally or not. But that was weird, and he took off for the hallway shortly after. She'd remember the way to the staircase, and it might seem weird to learn that the room which had been so utterly off limits when they'd been children now belonged to one. But in case she didn't, Harry gestured up ahead as they began to ascend the stairs, "To the left."
As it turned out, they would not have to venture quite as far as the doll-infested bedroom. At the top of the staircase, some blond curls were flopped over the edge of the highest stair. Emily was curled up in wait, wearing her shimmering pink Aurora princess nightgown that Harry remembered was too big and dragged the floor when she walked, but it was still her favorite. She'd dragged a pillow out with her, which was bigger than she was, and was now crushed between where she'd fallen asleep and the wooden bannister.
Gwen surmised that he knew precisely why she'd quit. She envisioned in a scenario where he'd immediately understood that it was a sad and drunkenly pathetic reaction to being lovesick and rejected (which it had been), and where this entire event was an attempt at regaining her pride and saving face. She hoped to convince him, by her actions, that her reaction on the night his engagement was announced was just drunk nostalgia, and not an indication of how she actually felt about him. The fact that she had no pride left when it came to him was something, she hoped, that she was successfully masking. It had been hard enough in high school, when he'd insisted that sleeping with her was a mistake. His rejection of her in favor of Mary Jane on the night of his engagement was something sharp atop that old scar, and the jagged edge of it still hurt.
His casual comment about the conversion of his mother's reading room made her think she'd pulled the evening off. The wine was still warm and soothing in her stomach, and she followed him with her hands clasped loosely behind her back. She started up the steps, a little curiosity about why they'd put Emily in the room that had been so forbidden lighting up her cornflower blue eyes, because the scientist in her always loved a puzzle. But that thought disappeared about three-quarters of the way up, when the little girl's blonde curls became visible over the edge of the top stair. She smiled, fingers moving to the balustrade and her smile going so, so soft. "I think we took too long," she whispered, edging past Harry with quiet steps, a hand momentarily resting on his hip, and then crouching in front of the tiny sleeping princess.
It was, perhaps, a presumptuous move, but Gwen wasn't thinking. She pushed a little lock of blonde off the sleeping girl's forehead, and she looked down at her fondly for a few seconds, and then she looked over her shoulder at Harry. "Carry her to bed?" she asked in a whisper.
"Yeah, seems we did," he agreed in a whisper that was just as soft as Gwen's. Perhaps the gentle volume was unnecessary, as Harry recalled many different times where Emily had fallen asleep in the backseat of the town car or in front of the television during a late-night viewing of Wizard of Oz. She wasn't a terribly light sleeper, and that again was something that Harry could not determine whether or not it was common among toddlers. None of their friends had kids, and Harry even knew only a few of the kids they'd gone to school with were currently married. None of his immediate friends, though. Harry would be the first in that regard, although he didn't find it to be a scary or worrying endeavor. He thought that parenthood would have to be infinitely more anxiety-ridden and frightening. That kind of responsibility was something that he didn't even really want to consider or think about too strongly at this point in his life. The idea alone managed to make his stomach feel like one deep, endless well.
He didn't even think of Gwen as practice, or anything like that. Perhaps because he truly didn't believe he'd need to have children for a long time coming. Lily was extremely involved with her father's campaigns and the charity she'd started last year. Children weren't on the docket for another decade according to Lily's business outline, but that was fine because Harry certainly wasn't in any hurry. He might have been if Emily hadn't come around. He'd have felt responsible for supplying his father with a grandchild, but now that Norman Osborn had a small daughter to look after, it just didn't seem like the time for Harry to selfishly start thinking about building his own family.
He nodded when Gwen asked about carrying Emily off to bed. The Osborn home was so large that it could occasionally get drafty at night, he didn't want to leave the little girl out here even if she seemed so comfortable and sound asleep. "Grab her pillow for me, will you, Gwen?" Harry went down to one knee and gathered the little sister in his arms easily, as she scarcely weighed anything at all. Emily made a small, drowsy sound before she frowned, twisted, and buried her face in Harry's chest to block the offensive glare of overhead light from the hallway as they made their way to the end.
Emily's bedroom had the light on when they entered, and Harry balanced the little girl in one arm as he flicked it off. The bedroom had a brief moment of high visibility before being plunged into darkness. Just enough for Gwen to see a great deal of pink, with a small table in one corner that was spread with tea party supplies and stuffed animals in each chair. There were many dolls lining the bed, ranging from yarn varieties to shiny porcelain with intricate, hand sewn dresses. Harry made quick work of tucking Emily back under her fluffy comforter, and he motioned for Gwen to bring the pillow for underneath the child's head. In that moment, the sleeping girl stretched and whined, "But I'm... not sleepy…" The complaint was more of a yawn, and she never quite managed to open her eyes despite the protest.
Gwen was almost positive she'd never heard Harry sound like that, quiet and whispered, and it made her turn to look at his face, wanting to see the expression that accompanied the sound. In high school, she'd wondered what he sounded like when he talked to those other girls, the pretty ones that no one could keep from watching as they crossed the room, and she thought maybe he'd sounded like this, voice hushed and face relaxed. She'd always assumed a smirk was involved somehow, but perhaps not, and that made her long for those bygone days all the more. She shook her head, because it was inappropriate to have those thoughts about her employer, especially here, on the stairs of his home, with a sleeping toddler present. As for a future and children, Gwen was absolutely certain her future was going to revolve entirely around science. Any possibility for more had disappeared when she left New York all those years ago. Her Peter was gone, and Harry wasn't hers, and she was still young and socially inept enough to see that as the end of a road, rather than the potential beginning of a new one.
She watched as he scooped up the little sleeping girl, and she retrieved the pillow as requested. Clutching the soft, child-smelling fabric against her chest, she followed Harry into the room, her eyes adjusting slowly to the sudden dousing of the lights. It took a few seconds, but she could make out the items in the room eventually, and they made her smile a wistful smile. Whatever shortcomings Mr. Osborn had suffered from when Harry was young, he seemed to have intentionally made up for them with this child. Even in the dark, Gwen could tell it was a little girl's paradise, and it reminded her so much of her own childhood room. She could almost picture her dad sitting on the floor in front of the dollhouse, listening to her ramble about the structural stability of the doll family's chimney.
When Harry motioned her forward, Gwen moved, and she slid the pillow under Emily's head and smoothed the little girl's blonde hair away from her face as she stretched and whined. Gwen couldn't help but smile at the fact that Emily never even managed to open her eyes, and she made a soft shhh sound, unthinking and slightly awkward, her fingers still smoothing blonde strands. It wasn't maternal, precisely, because there was nothing maternal in Gwen Stacy's nature. It was testing, and Gwen's expression in the dark was slightly awed, as if she'd never considered the possibility of soothing someone small back to sleep. In all of her musings about her life, this was never a scenario, and she smiled up at Harry without thinking, unguarded.
After a few seconds, Gwen took a step back, unsure what the next step in the evening was. Should she excuse herself? Did he want to talk over cordials? Could she request a glass of wine to soothe her frayed nerves? She suspected that leaving was the appropriate thing to do, before she ended up with more warming liquid in her veins. The desire to hear him whisper, as he had on the stairs, was still present, and there was something about the little girl in the bed that made Gwen heartsore, and drinking always made her feel more stupidly vulnerable. But she didn't suggest any of those things. She just smiled, and she waited to see what he recommended.
Emily dreamy protests were ironically brief as the girl dozed back to sleep with words still warm on her little, bowed mouth. Harry muttered along with her in gentle agreement -- hon, of course you don't have to go to sleep -- because he'd learned a long time ago that the easiest way to get Emily to go to do anything was to agree with her, even if that agreement was built around the complete opposite of what Harry actually wanted her to do. Reverse psychology and all that If she didn't have anything to argue about, Emily succumbed to sleep rather easily. She was weirdly independent and opinionated for a toddler -- defiantly insisting to buckle her own car seat and put on her shoes(usually on the wrong feet) -- but again, Harry didn't have enough experience with toddlers to know whether that kind of behavior was unusual. The life experience that Harry did have told him that rich girls were almost always eccentric in one way or another, so maybe it was usual in its unusualness.
Confident that Emily wasn't going to stir again, Harry made a gesture toward the bedroom door so that Gwen and himself could make a quiet escape. He too was awkwardly aware of the open itinerary that was splayed before them. He could offer Gwen a drink to determine if she wanted stay awhile, and he wanted her to stay.. but these days Harry was more aware of the fact that wanting those kinds of things wasn't a good thing. He wasn't even close enough to being drunk to the point that he could ignore such better thinking. He'd hurt Gwen like he'd hurt Mary Jane -- Mary Jane who he hadn't even heard from since that night of drunken confessions and drunker lovemaking. Before he had a chance to make anything but the right decision, Harry spoke up.
"I'm glad you came, Gwen," he said while pulling Emily' bedroom door closed behind them once they'd made their way into the quiet hall. There was, of course, an addendum that he managed to tack on without sounding as reluctant as he felt, "But its getting late. Norman will be home soon," he suspected, "and I'd like to talk to him for you about everything we discussed."
Gwen watched the little girl fall asleep, and she turned for the door when Harry motioned to it, and she almost kept her face from showing any disappointment at the very obvious dismissal. She kept her gaze on the space of hall ahead of her, and she didn't stop until she was downstairs, briefcase in her fingers once more. "Of course," she said, the need for a second dismissal making her ashamed of something, though she had no idea what. She could pull it apart later, and try to glue the feeling back together for inspection under a microscope. Just then, her cheeks went red, and she felt as if she'd asked for something and been denied. She was back in high school, just like that, feeling like Harry Osborn was way out of her league.
She knew, without even thinking about it, that she wouldn't be able to do what she'd told Peter she'd try to do. There was no way she could confess about the baby to Harry. "Thank you for the meal, and for the attention to my proposal," she finished, intentionally formal. "Have a good evening," she added, more employee than friend as she tried to emulate his tone. She considered shaking his hand, but she thought better of it. Instead, she just backed out the door and turned before she could do something stupid.