A happening documented upon the 11th of August in the year 1883, at the city parklands, involving the Charming Mr. Alexander Endicott and the respectable Miss Adelaide Montgomery.
It had not occurred to Alex until just this moment, that he should be at all concerned about the fact that he currently only owned one complete set of 'suitable' garments. He couldn't quite decide if worrying about it was ludicrous, or if the fact that he hadn't considered that he would require more then one suit was actually slightly more foolish. Regardless he was wearing the same basic set of clothes he'd worn when he'd run into Adelaide at the library, and something about it bothered him.
The fact that he ought to wear something 'nice' to go on a picnic with Addie warred a bit with the fact that it seemed odd to him now to be eating out of doors in ones good clothes. He couldn't really imagine, however, sitting next to a prim and proper Addie in a patched and frayed work shirt.
Alex tried, for the most part, to be a generally unworried person and go with what he had, and what he had was one set of decent clothes retailored to fit. So, after more debate then getting dressed for any occasion really warranted, he wore them.
And somehow managed to rap politely on Miss Montgomery's door quite on time.
Luckily, he and his thoughts were not alone for long. Addie opened the door in short order and greeted him with a sunny smile. "Alex," she said with every indication of being pleased to see him. "I was just thinking of you." Opening the door more, he could see that she was slightly less proper than when he had seen her in the library - a simple cotton dress, pale background and sprigged with some kind of small lavender flowers. Her hair was pulled back into a loose chignon. It was both reassuring and maddening in light of the time he himself had spent.
Alex smiled back, his wide slightly lopsided smile. "Addie, that would be very complimentary, only I must assume you were only thinking of me because I was due to arrive at your front door."
"And I was hoping you still enjoyed ham sandwiches."
"Absolutely." He didn't add that he wasn't overly picky about what went into sandwiches. "Are you ready to go, or shall I loiter outside while you finish preparing?"
She shook her head. "I'm ready. I've been ready for a bit now." She turned away, back into the house, and returned with a neatly packed hamper. A blue check blanket on top kept everything neatly tucked within. She smiled faintly. "I've become very organized in my old age."
"I hardly think this might be considered old age. If so, I admit I'm feeling remarkably young for my age." He reached out for the hamper, intending to carry it for her, before offering his arm.
After a moment's hesitation, Addie relinquished the hamper and then slid her arm through his. "You're remarkably well-preserved," she agreed.
"I'm surprised the weather and sunlight hasn't shriveled me up." He teased.
"I think it's done just the opposite," she answered back easily. "You've grown so much. A fine, handsome man." As if she hadn't quite planned on that, she stopped, feet even pausing a bit, and blushed hotly. Her freckles stood out and she looked ahead resolutely.
"Now you're just flattering me," He mumbled, their steps falling out of sync making the moment more awkward.
"Never." She quickly readjusted her pace to match his once more, almost apologetic in her motions.
"Entirely." He insisted, recovering himself somewhat as well, "Unless I was somewhat more different at eighteen then I recall."
She gave him a sidelong glance. "I don't mean to be indelicate but are you telling me that is the exact same suit, every inch, that you wore 8 years ago?"
He laughed, relieving any remaining tension, "Lord no. The entire thing had to be refitted. As a consequence," he admitted, without thinking "it's the only suit I currently possess that is at all wearable."
"Oh, Alex!" She tried and failed to bite back her own laughter. "You ought to do something about that."
"I have other clothing," He protested, "I don't wear this precise shirt, trousers and vest every day."
"Did I say you did?"
"Ah...well no." He shrugged lightly, "But the cost of tailoring is prohibitive..."
"Prices have gone up," she agreed. Her hand on his arm patted him a bit, slightly awkward but fond. "I'm sure you'll find a way through, though. In the meantime... You -could- have worn something less formal for our picnic."
"I fear the jump is directly from formal to well worn work clothing." Alex admitted, not sure if he was embarrassed or defending his own wardrobe.
"Ah." She smiled to herself, looking ahead at where they were heading. "And I fear that society would put me a bit above work clothing."
"I wouldn't want to spoil your reputation." He tried for a joke, but wasn't entirely sure he managed. He wasn't sure he liked the idea that he might be able to spoil her reputation.
"I think you'd have to try quite hard to do that," she answered serenely, oblivious to his unease. "There is nothing wrong with you."
"That's curiously nice to hear."
"Is it? It's the truth."
"I believe I agree with that. And yet, I'm not entirely convinced it is common perception."
Another sidelong glance. "Do you always concern yourself overly much with the common perception? That's another change, I would say."
"It's quite recent." He almost hadn't been aware of the change until she said it. Perhaps it was just that he'd forgotten the separate set of expectations society here held for him.
Her hand again brushed at his coat sleeve. "Consequence of coming home, probably."
He smiled slightly sideways at her, "Something like that. There is a difference, I have found, between intentionally ignoring what is expected, and forgetting and doing something else entirely by accident."
"Well..." She considered for a moment and then, softly, offered, "I promise not to remind you today. This is an outing for pure enjoyment."
The smile became a grin, "Careful, first thing I'll do when we get there is take off my tie and unbutton the collar."
"I'll try not to be shocked." She wrinkled her nose at him, teasing, before she looked towards the street. "Shall we see if we can find a cab?"
"Oh, yes," Alex might have, alone, walked the full way, and hadn't been thinking, "I suppose we should."
As if picking up on his thought, she gave him a sidelong smile. "You may be ready to walk around the world, Mr. Endicott, but I'm merely a fragile female. Come. It'll be my treat." That said, deliberately light and playful so as to avoid any sense of injured pride, Addie moved towards the street. He had the option of coming along and thus keeping her arm in his or abandoning her.
Not one to appear to be abandoning a lady (nor, admittedly, one to want to be left behind), Alex allowed himself to be lightly tugged towards the street, to hail a cab...a hansom perhaps, or even one of the new horseless carriages.
As they waited for one to approach, Addie's hand lifted a bit to signal, she murmured, "Shall we go where we used to go? When we were all young?"
His hand reached up, impulsively, to cover hers on his arm for a moment, "Yes, lets."
That earned him a sudden, unguarded smile - fully focused on him and bright. Then she turned back to nod at the cab driver who was drawing his hansom rig to the curb. Alex moved to assist Addie into the cab, apparently remembering to be a gentleman in so much as that, before directing the driver as to location.
It had taken twenty minutes to reach the park and then another fifteen of walking to reach the familiar hide-away - a small copse of trees within sight of the lake, lush with springy green grass. Private enough but not compromising. A strange silence had settled between the pair on the trip that was not quite uncomfortable but still did not have the easy flow of years ago. Reaching the spot, Addie smiled at Alex and reached for the basket on his arm without a word.
He handed it to her, absently, more then a little absorbed in the nostalgia of the place. He found himself turning in a slow circle, remembering the view from every direction.
After setting down the basket, she tugged the blanket from within and made as if to spread it out. She paused, though, when she saw his reaction and she straightened, holding the blanket to her chest. "Did you miss it?" she asked quietly but it was as if she was asking something else entirely.
"I suppose I did," He answered, a curiously thoughtful tone coloring his voice, "But I didn't realize it, until I saw it again. Does that make any sense?"
"It does." Her smile was a bit lopsided and she watched him for a moment longer before turning away and bending to spread out the blanket busily.
"It's easy," He continued absently, "To think only about where you are and what you are doing. More so when where you are is somewhere new, and what you are doing is difficult and requires your attention."
Back still towards him, she crouched and fussily smoothed the blanket. "I forgot how eloquent you could be, Alex," she commented wryly. "But I do understand. When you're occupied, you forget certain things."
"Now you're either teasing me or chiding me." He glanced at her back, noting that she couldn't see him as he undid his tie.
"There's a difference?"
"Yes." He sounded as if he meant to explain, but instead left it an awkward yes and trailed off.
Still crouched, she looked over her shoulder. "Alex? If you want to sit down..."
"Ah, sorry, as I was, as promised, removing my tie." He moved to join her on the blanket, aware that he ought to have helped her spread it out.
"It's alright." Addie adjusted her skirts, curling her legs under and to the side so she was partially sitting on them. She regarded him with a raised eyebrow. "Thank you for the warning and... You do look more like you can breathe now," she admitted. "I'm sorry that you had to dress to come visit me."
He reached up and unbuttoned the collar, "I shouldn't dream of visiting you in the other garments available." He assured her, "Vicious rumors would begin to circulate about you running off with sailors."
She watched his fingers at his throat for a moment before catching herself and shifting to focus on the basket nearby instead. A blush touched her cheeks as she bent her head over it and searched out the contents. "I'm sure no one would suspect me of any such thing," she replied. "I'm far too respectable now, you know."
It was hard to tell what she thought of that by her tone.
Perhaps he felt the need to lighten the tone, he'd always been a bit like that, because he took it as something of a joke and replied in kind. "You haven't seen how disreputable I look."
"I'm not about to dare you on that score, Alexander."
He smiled, "I already told you, I wouldn't dream of endangering your reputation. Of course, for proper effect I would have to stop shaving for some time, and possibly sleep outdoors in the rain."
It was actually difficult to tell if he was teasing or speaking from direct experience.
"Sounds horrible." She finally turned back to him, blush safely banished. "I'd rather you didn't."
"It's not really worth it simply for effect," he assured her, still grinning,
"Good. I'd worry over you."
"I don't intend to sleep out in the rain if ever possible. I shan't promise I won't stop shaving, however."
She laughed. "Fair enough. I promise I will never try to hold you down and apply lather and razor."
"That sounds positively dangerous!" He laughed, "What about a neatly trimmed mustache? I could wax the ends..."
"Pardon me for being blunt but you'd look ridiculous, Alex." Lifting her hands from the basket, Addie showed him a neat stack of objects wrapped in wax paper. "Don't ruin your looks to be contrary or I'll... Do something."
He grinned crookedly, "That bad? Well I shouldn't want to force you to come up with appropriate repercussions." He peered into the basket, admiring for a moment, the care taken in wrapping everything. "Ham sandwiches?"
She watched him inspect her work and bit back a smile. "That bad," she agreed. Then she tilted her head to one side. "I hope ham is acceptable. There are a few apples as well and a bottle of utterly uninspired fizzy drink. If you're very good, I might show you where the hidden packet of cookies is."
"Oh you hid them did you? I shall have to either try my best to behave, or try my best to find the hidden compartment." His grinned widened, "I expect I'll have more luck with the latter. And ham," He added, "Is delicious."
"Good." She handed him one of the paper-wrapped sandwiches, looking up at him. Their eyes connected for a moment and then, with a definite air of not being able to bite the words back, "I -did- miss you, Alex."
She caught him with the words somewhere between a vague sense of guilt and a sudden warmth and so he stumbled a bit over an answer. When he managed, it was around a self conscious half smile, "This is the first moment it's really felt like being home."
That earned another tiny bit of color to her cheeks but she smiled back, laughed a bit, and reached up to grab his wrist. She tugged gently. "Then sit and be comfortable, you goose."
He sprawled a bit, beside her with his sandwich. And then gave her a sidelong glance with a grin, "May I take off my shoes?"
She nodded willingly enough though one delicate eyebrow lifted and her hazel eyes danced with amusement at his sudden, singular effort at politeness.
Alex set the sandwich, still neatly wrapped, aside to lean forward and untie his shoes, which were from his youth, thankfully his feet hadn't grown with the rest of him. "I suppose it would be utterly improper for you to remove yours?"
"Well..." She hesitated and then, putting one arm down straight to take her weight, she uncurled her legs and used her other arm to smooth her skirts as they threatened to ride upwards towards her knees. Small, polished shoes peeped from below and she regarded them thoughtfully. "Would it make your soul easier if they were gone as well?" she asked and it was only familiarity that allowed him to pick out the humor beneath the question.
"I should feel remarkably more at ease were you to shed your footwear." He confirmed, with significantly less skill at pretending he was serious.
She considered him with a thoughtful look and then a smile crept over her expression. "Very well. I trust your honor and discretion," she answered lightly. With a bit of awkwardness, she tugged her skirts upwards slightly again so she could bend a knee and work at the fiddly laces of one shoe.
Without thinking, Alex reached out to undo the laces for her. Sailor's skill making short work of the laces.
Adelaide made no move to stop him, instead keeping her fingers tight in the fabric of her skirt so as to keep them in place and out of his way. Pink rose in her cheeks, however, and she bit her lower lip a bit.
He lack of protest allowed him to continue not considering, and once the laces were undone, he pulled the shoe gently off, and turned to set it aside before starting on the other one.
And yet she continued to watch in fascinated silence. Though she did wiggle the toes of her freed foot beneath her stocking as she tried not to think of how flaming pink her face had to be at that point
He made similar short work of the second shoe, and only when he'd set it next to its partner did he look up and see Addie's face. It caused a moment of realization, and he flushed slightly himself, clearing his throat and looking down at his hands. "You were...having trouble with the laces..."
"I... Yes, I was." Though her face was still flushed hotly, she gave him a crooked smile. "I feel like a reverse Cinderella."
"Just don't leave one here for me to find." He managed, meeting her eyes again, "It shan't be necessary, as I have your address."
"That's what I like about you," she answered, equally as brave in meeting his eyes and trying to recapture the formerly light tones. "You're ever so much more sensible than that Prince Charming."
"It's hardly his fault." He said, "Cinderella might have given him a calling card, or her name, after all."
"I suppose so." She looked down at her stocking-clad feet and again wiggled her toes thoughtfully. "And that's why it's a fairy tale."
"I think it's a fairytale because of the wish granting magic faery bit," Alex grinned at her toes.
"But not the 'happily ever after' part?"
He considered that briefly, "No just the fairy."
She smiled at that and reached out to touch his sleeve. "Thank you."
He returned the smile, but tilted his head slightly, "What for?"
"My shoes." She paused and laughed a bit, softly. "Your company."
"My pleasure." He moved to pick up his sandwich and put a more appropriate distance between them again,
Likewise, Addie retracted her feet and curled her legs beneath her once more before she picked up her own sandwich. Quiet sat between them for a few minutes but, again, it wasn't totally uncomfortable.
Alex seemed to gradually relax, so that by the time he was finished with his sandwich, he was leaning back on his elbow, reclining on the blanket. He was looking down towards the lake, when he asked suddenly, "Do you recall how frustrated our parents got with the grass stains we used to get here?"
She laughed, wrinkling her nose. "I remember the lectures about being a proper young lady if that's what you really mean."
"I admit I didn't receive those." He chuckled.
"I should hope not." She followed his gaze to the lake and smiled. "There used to be threats of keeping me from you and Bart."
"I believe your mother must have said something at least once, for we received a spectacular lecture on how one should treat a young lady."
"And how did that go?"
"It had very little effect," Alex admitted.
That startled another laugh from her and this one was less awkward and polite; it rang out in an almost-unladylike manner until she covered her mouth with her hand. "I see," she responded, muffled.
"As if you were in any doubt?" He looked openly delighted to have made her laugh, "We didn't stop running off with you, did we?"
"Never. I frankly think I would have been shattered if you had."
"We would have been just as upset. Did Bart ever tell you I used to climb out my window and down the tree to sneak out of the house?"
She lifted an eyebrow, still smiling. "Of course he didn't. Why would he?"
"Possibly for the same reason he used to latch the window while I was gone to get back at me for things." He laughed.
"The two of you. Honestly." Adelaide absently pulled at the crusts left on the remains of her sandwich but her attention never left him. "You were the best parts of New Haven."
His grin turned crooked again, "I'm pleased you think so...although honestly I imagine New Haven must have something else going for it, somewhere."
"Well, the lending library has always had a decent selection..."
"This is a nice park," Alex added helpfully.
"Very picturesque," she agreed.
"I'm not entirely certain I could claim to be better then the lending library..."
"I think you could," she interrupted gently. "If you remember, I wasn't always a bookish, boring schoolmarm."
"I can't imagine you ever being boring." He protested, emphatically, "And there is nothing wrong with books. I quite like books. I just...prefer most experiences first hand."
She regarded him thoughtfully as if weighing out his reaction. Then she smiled and dropped her eyes to the remains of her sandwich. Carefully, she set aside the crusts and picked it up once more. "I understand."
He felt a bit like she didn't, or at least, felt the need to elaborate, "It's occurred to me that I might have been reading the wrong books. Instead of reading about places I wanted to see and things I wanted to do I might have been reading about things I wanted to learn."
"Except you went out and learned them yourself," she offered after swallowing her bite. "So, in the end, it was all the same thing in many cases."
"In some cases, but, in others, well history for example." He shrugged, "Some things you simply can't learn by doing."
"True. What would you want to learn now?"
Alex took a moment to think over the question, as if making a mental list, "Philosophy...more about economics. More history then I've managed to gather piece meal."
Swallowing her final bit of sandwich, Addie folded her square of wax paper neatly before looking up at him with a slightly shy smile. "If you ever would like help with it..." She trailed off, unsure.
He smiled, "I did already ask you for book recommendations."
"You mean, actually tutor me?" He blinked as if the idea hadn't occurred to him.
"Well, not tutor precisely." Her smile remained shy but was now also ruefully lopsided. "You're no child and I would never presume to order you about. But, that is, if you wanted... If it wouldn't be too ornerous a chore to spend time in my company..."
"I can't imagine spending time in your company would ever be a chore." He considered, "But I don't know, would it be odd, do you think? I've never been a very attentive student. I would hate to disappoint you."
"You've never..." She cut herself off and laughed as she rose to her knees and reached for the basket. "It's entirely up to you, Alex. I was planning on being horribly forward and insisting on seeing you a few more times before you left again. If you left again."
His face fell as the topic came up, brows furrowing. It was clearly something he was undecided on, something that was therefore weighing on his mind. "If you wouldn't have insisted, I should have. I...am not sure how long I will be staying."
Immediately noticing her misstep in his change of tone, Addie abandoned her search of the basket and pulled her hands away. An apple was clutched in one and it pressed against his forearm when she reached for him. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to pry," she whispered.
He shook his head, "No, you weren't, I apologize. I don't know my own mind on the subject." He took hold of her hand a squeezed in gently, before reaching for the basket himself, "Its, that is, regardless I should like to renew our friendship properly."
"I'd like that." She sat back on her folded legs once more but her eyes never left him. "This seems like a promising start."
"It does, although I've no idea what I should suggest we do next. I admit I suggested a picnic because I've felt particularly uncomfortable lately in respectable company."
Her mouth quirked in a wry grin. "I'm not respectable?"
He was caught on that, "There is no way for a gentleman to answer that without saying something wrong. You are...well...you know me well enough to forgive small transgressions against etiquette."
"Such as unbuttoned collars." She was teasing him again; it was reassuring.
"Precisely." He looked just a little relieved.
"And going shoeless."
"Is that improper as well?"
She lifted her apple to her mouth to hide her smile. The way her cheeks plumped, though, and the laughter in her eyes gave away the game. "Mm," she offered unhelpfully.
"I suppose taking off my stockings would be utterly out of the question?" He pulled an apple of his own out of the basket, while trying to look innocent.
"Are you asking my permission?"
"I suppose I might be."
She regarded him from behind her apple for a moment and then finally lifted one slim shoulder in a shrug. "I promise I won't swoon away if you make yourself even more comfortable," she offered.
"My feet aren't really worth swooning over." He suggested, grinning a bit, as he moved to pull of the socks and leave his feet bare.
Addie glanced downwards out of habit but almost immediately drew her gaze back from his now-naked feet. "Perhaps but a promise is a promise."
He wiggled his freed toes, looking amused, and then leaned back, to stretch out on his back on the blanket, "Mind I don't so something truly drastic, such as remove my vest."
"At this rate, Mr. Endicott, you're going to start all sorts of gossip flying." She giggled and shifted upwards, barely scrambling as she gained her feet beside him. Her white-stockinged feet and ankles were easily visible from his position and she occupied herself with smoothing her skirts for a moment. Then she straightened and rolled her apple between her palms as she looked out towards the lake thoughtfully. "Not that I pay attention to gossip."
"One shouldn't, really. Its hardly reliable as a source of information." He peered up at her, "Supposition and hearsay."
"Stuff and nonsense," she agreed.
"I think, that I will take you up on your offer." Alex said, as if continuing a conversation rather then jumping topics suddenly. Perhaps he'd just come to a decision about it.
"You will?" She turned back to look down on him, sprawled out comfortably, and blinked. The apple dropped from her hands and she immediately sank down in a rather ungraceful flop to her knees in an attempt to reclaim it before it rolled away.
Alex had already moved to capture it, and nearly collided with her in his effort. He did, however, managed to catch the apple, and to avoid colliding awkwardly with Addie in the process. He offered it to her with a grin, "It's hardly that shocking, is it?"
Her hand skirted against his shoulder in an attempt to steady herself and pulled back almost immediately. "No," she admitted, "but I have no other excuse for being so clumsy."
"Well, then, we'll say my sudden interesting in academia is quite beyond belief."
"Thank you." She took the apple with a smile. "You're very kind to me."
"Not at all." He collapsed back onto the blanket, "Consider it making amends for my lack of ability to catch the apple before it hit the blanket."
"But you had no warning." She carefully set the apple in her lap, holding it in place with one hand while the other awkwardly attempted to untangle her skirt from her legs. "I still thank you."
"Well you're quite welcome. Although there never is any warning, that's rather the point." He chuckled, "Although I admit it's rather awkward to go from laying on your back to catching an apple."
"You did it marvelously."
"Now you're being too kind."
"Never." She looked up from her efforts and then, balancing the apple in one hand, she adjusted herself to leaning on one hip, legs away, body braced by the other arm. She faced him now and he could clearly see her smile. "I'm not in the market of flattery."
"No? Not even upon rare occasion?" He grinned back, "Next time I'll try to catch it mid arm, if only to be more impressive."
"I'm hoping that you'll not be such a rare occasion in the future."
"I'm hoping," He countered, "That you shan't often drop apples I must catch."
She lifted an eyebrow and smoothed her expression into polite query. "If I do, will you be there to catch them?"
He paused, as if considering the hidden meaning behind the question, before finally answering, "As often as possible."
"That's more than acceptable." A smile eased her features and she reached across impulsively to touch his hand. "I'm not usually prone to dropping things."
"I'm pleased to know that, else I should be concerned about such things as cups bearing hot liquid."
She laughed. "I'll be careful."
He smiled, and settled back down onto the blanket, resting a hand behind his head, "I feel like I ought to run barefoot through the park, or climb a tree or insist on going swimming, in order to uphold my reputation."
She hesitated but finally lowered herself a bit more, still braced on her arm but at a more gentle angle, as she studied his face curiously. "Which reputation is that?"
"The one that suggests my manners and maturity leave something to be desired," He studied the clouds, while she studied his face, "The one you insist can't possibly damage yours."
She laughed softly. "That wasn't a dare, you know," she teased. "If you want to walk about barefoot, though, don't let me stop you."
"I think at the moment I'm quite satisfied watching clouds," Alex admitted, shifting so he could settle both hands behind his head.
"Do you see anything interesting?"
"Oh I don't know. I wasn't thinking about it, I just like the way they drift slowly off into the distance."
"That's almost poetic." Thoughtfully, she shifted next to him so she could look upwards. After a moment, she wrinkled her nose. She made a small sound of dissatisfaction and bent her arm more for a better angle, resting on her elbow at his side. "Which ones?"
"The little puffy ones, that drift cheerfully along. Big banks of clouds seem to ponderous and foreboding." He laughed, "I'd be a terrible poet."
She giggled. "Perhaps. Let's just say it isn't your first love." Eyes still focused on the sky, she absently lowered herself to lie flat. Her small hands crossed over her stomach. "That one looks like a sailboat."
"Which one?" He asked, tilting his head a bit to try and figure out where she was looking.
"To your right." When he didn't immediately voice recognition, she unlaced her hands and lifted one to point.
"Hmmm I think it looks more like a fish."
"I've never seen a fish like that before."
"They sell them in markets in the orient. Big fins on the top and bottom."
"Oh." Addie's voice was quiet, a bit whispery, but easily heard by their proximity. "Boats that look like fish and fish that look like boats. There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio..." She trailed off with a soft laugh.
"Then are dreamt of in our philosophy," He finished with a little self conscious grin, "I remember that one."
"I apologize if I was the one who made you read it."
"I don't recall, but actually I rather like it. Now anyway, I can't say I'm certain I did originally."
She smiled faintly. Her hands laced atop her stomach again. "People change," she answered.
"I suppose that's true."
Addie was quiet then and silence settled between them as they laid on the blanket, watching the white clouds scud across the blue sky. Finally, she licked her lips absently before glanced at him out the corner of her eye. "... Have I changed that much?" she asked.
He considered, letting his head fall to the side to look over at her. The thought that she'd become very lovely came unbidden to mind, and he wondered where it had come from. Finally he said, "You've grown up."
She was once more studying the sky, offering him her profile. Yet he could still easily see her crooked little smile. "So have you. That's not necessarily a bad thing, correct?"
"I was under the impression it happened to most everyone eventually," Alex offered quietly, "And no, it's not a bad thing."
Her smile grew a bit more. "Thank you."
"Now I feel as though I should ask you the same question, although I suspect you've already answered it."
"I did." She wrinkled her nose as if that would combat the faint blush brought on by remembering her impulsive announcement that he was handsome. Not to mention the personal observation of how he had outgrown his old wardrobe.
"I don't think I noticed I was any different." He admitted.
"You've been busy." It was said gently with no trace of sarcasm or patronizing.
"I suppose. I'm not entirely sure that's the reason but, there's a certain sense to it certainly."
"Certainly?" She turned her head a bit to smile at him. "You also live with yourself. No one can perfectly see themselves. Well, so I hear."
"I think everything occurs so gradually you hardly notice, you only have the last little while to properly compare it to."
She nodded. Then she froze. "Look," she whispered, "A steam train."
Alex realized he'd been studying the side of her face, and turned back to look at the clouds, "Where do you think its going?"
"West. Doesn't everyone go west eventually?"
He grinned, "Not necessarily, I went East until I was back where I started."
She laughed. "You went East until you landed in the West."
"Okay I suppose that's true," He laughed with her, "And from here, a train has no business going east."
"Not unless they've made some discoveries that I don't know about." She paused, seemed to weigh her next words, and then forged ahead. "Which would shock me. I try to keep up on things." A totally unladylike admission but she felt as if he, of all people, would not judge.
"It won't be long, I think, before they start working on how to send airships across the oceans, if they aren't already." He didn't even seem to notice anything untoward about the idea of Addie keeping up with the progression of science and invention, "Coal is to heavy to carry what's needed and stay airborne, I wonder how they'll solve that."
She considered that for a moment. "Obviously, if they have any brains at all, they are searching for alternative fuel sources. Before coal, the world used wood, after all."
"If they have any brains at all..." He laughed, "Listen to you, I'm feeling a bit of trepidation regarding having you as a tutor now!"
She blushed hotly, her freckles showing up pale in contrast, and pushed herself over onto her side, braced with her elbow. She nearly pouted but not quite. "I didn't realize that your brains were under any kind of doubt," she replied tartly.
"That's probably because you have yet to attempt to teach me anything, and have never attended a class with me."
"Alex." Her voice clearly showed exasperation.
"What?" He did his best to look innocent.
Now she did pout at him.
"How about brilliant but inattentive?"
The pout only eased enough to allow her to ask, "Are you repeating what your teachers told your parents in long-suffering tones?"
"No," He admitted, "They left out the brilliant part." Her pouting was having an entirely unfair effect on him, of the sort he couldn't quite quantify.
"Only to keep your ego from expanding, I'm sure." Her hazel eyes sparkled a bit despite the nearly sulky set of her mouth.
"I was always fairly certain they meant it. Of course I was so inattentive they'd have had no way to judge, really."
"Would you show me attention?"
Alex flushed, at his own first thoughts regarding the entirely innocent question, and then tried very hard to pretend it was merely embarrassment at his failings at academia. "I intend to do my best to try."
His reward was a brilliant smile. "I will remember you said that, Alex, and hold you to it."
He couldn't help but mirror her smile, "I supposed you'd better."
"It would be my pleasure and honor."
"We'll see if you still think my brains aren't in question."
"I have faith in you."
He smiled, "That means a lot."
She looked a bit surprised at that. "Oh." Then she smiled. "Well..."
She giggled. "Do you even know what I'm thanking you for?"
"Not really," He admitted, with a little grin, "No."
"Then that's a dangerous thing to say."
"What is, you're welcome? I don't see how you're welcome could be dangerous."
Addie considered his face, his expression, for a moment and then smiled once more. Slipping back, she returned to lying flat on the blanket beside him, face trained on the sky. "I don't think it is ever a good idea to respond to something without knowing what it is," she answered quietly. "Is that cynical of me?"
"Maybe." He turned back to the clouds as well, "Only, since I'm not sure why you're thanking me for saying I'm pleased you have faith in me. That to me seems as though I should thank you."
"... I think I'm confused now. Should we start over?"
"Shall I clarify? You're opinion means a great deal to me." He continued to study the clouds, a bit self consciously, "There, now you go."
At least this time, there was no hot blush, just a simple faint pink. "Thank you," she murmured.
"So there, you see why I was confused?" He smiled slightly, although he had missed her slight blush.
"I do. Thank you for being patient." She sighed and wriggled a bit absently against the blanket. "You know," she said carefully, "I think this is the first time I've been back here in years."
"It is?" He sounded honestly surprised.
"I had no one to come here with."
"Oh..." He wasn't sure he should ask about Bart.
She seemed to sense his hesitation and sudden discomfort and again twisted to give him a faint smile. "And it's too far off for a school picnic."
He grinned again hesitantly, "Couldn't bring them all over by cab?"
"Not all at once and I have some very active little boys under my care." She made her tone deliberately light to reassure him, to try and make him laugh. "Can you imagine trusting them to behave in a separate cab?"
"I can imagine them slipping out of the cab and running off. But I'm only thinking back to my own childhood." He didn't quite laugh, but his smile was wide and genuine.
"I forbid you from teaching my students your tricks if you ever meet them!"
"The entire point," He answered, with false gravity, "Is for lads to figure these things out for themselves."
"Without coy hints from their seniors."
"Entirely. How else are we to foster ingenuity in the youth?"
She narrowed her eyes at him. "I think you like setting a bad example, Alexander Endicott."
"That's unfortunate, I was attempting to prove that I wasn't." He laughed.
"I shall have to keep you to myself. Where I can see you."
"I'm not entirely certain if I should be enormously pleased, or somewhat concerned."
Addie smiled in what appeared to be utter serenity. "When you decide, please inform me."
"I shall, though by that time I suspect it will be obvious." There was a pause and then, possibly just to prove his lack of focus, he said, "So where did you hide those cookies?"
"Oh." Looking a bit shame-faced, Addie pushed herself up abruptly and shifted onto her knees. She pulled the basket to her and began searching along the lining.
Alex grinned in a manner that suggested he felt he'd succeeded in getting cookies without having to look for them.
She looked over her shoulder at him, caught his expression and paused. "Do you have a magic word for me?"
"Please?" He said, like an appropriately guilty lad.
"Good." He was rewarded with a bright smile before she turned back to extracting the package of cookies with a faint crinkle of paper.
"I haven't had cookies in.....well if I say forever it will sound appropriate but be a clear untruth." He grinned, "I bet yours are perfect."
"Now who flatters?"
"Okay fair enough. I'll say so after I've eaten them and then it will be true rather then speculation."
"I can accept that." Turning then, she heldout her hands in offering. Delicate brown cookies nestled in a surround of wax paper.
He took one, politely because taking the entire package would be entirely unfair, and ate it very happily. And remembered not to say anything while his mouth was full, just barely.
She watched him with a crooked smile, eyes dancing. There was a definite sensation of her waiting for the verdict on her spice cookie mastery.
"Your cookies..." He said slowly, repeating his earlier statement with a sense of proclamation, "Are perfect."
A blush rewarded his repetition and she laughed. "That, now, I will accept."
"Good, because its entirely true. May I have another cookie please?" He very nearly smirked.
He appeared to enjoy the second cookie as much as the first. There was something adorably boyish about it, a grown man who in other circumstances might be utterly serious and capable, grinning like a fool because he had a cookie.
Likewise, she seemed to be taking as much joy out of watching him as she might have out of eating the cookies herself. "I should have brought more."
He smiled, "I think it's probably better if you don't indulge me quite so far."
"Why? Am I in danger from you?"
"It's for my own good," He corrected, looking a little concerned at the implication.
She giggled. "I'll do my best to resist spoiling you, then. I won't have you cite me as your temptress."
"You're supposed to be my good example, save my virtue, etc." He looked positively delighted that he'd gotten her to giggle.
She bit back another round of giggles. "I'll try to remember. perhaps I should write this down."
"I don't think that's necessary, I shall try to remind you."
"You're a true gentleman."
"Why thank you. I appreciate the sentiment."
She shifted her cookies to one hand and took one from the package, nibbling demurely. Her eyes watched him with laughter.
He leaned back again, propping up on one elbow. "Thank you, for packing the basket, and indulging me in my choice of activities."
"Oh, no. It was my pleasure." The smile she gave him proved there was no lie to her words.
"Good. I promise, next time we'll do whatever you choose. I'll even practice my grammar and etiquette."
Addie laughed softly and looked down at the cookies in her hands. "Honestly, Alex, I've enjoyed this. I don't often get the opportunity to relax." She looked up to meet his eyes with a forthright hazel gaze. "I truly enjoy your company."
He couldn't seem to come up with a flippant response to that, and smiled, looking down at the blanket for a moment. "We should have brought wine, we could toast to old friends."
"Isn't wine at a picnic too bohemian?"
He grinned, like he was trying not to laugh, "As opposed to running barefoot through the grass?"
"We have not yet done that." She paused. "And you're the only one fully barefoot."
"I only run barefoot through the grass when I'm having wine with my picnic." He chuckled.
"I will keep that in mind."
"We should go down the coast to take a walk on the beach sometime. Then barefoot would be more pertinent."
She smiled. "Is this an offer?"
"Of course its an offer." He smiled, "Or more like a request."
Carefully, she folded up the square of wax paper around the cookies and set it back in the basket, stretching a bit awkwardly. Then, returning to her seat, she held out a hand. "I'd be honored."
He took her hand, with a smile, and found himself completely unable to avoid pressing it briefly to his lips. Of course, he might have just been continuing the joke of his own lack of propriety...
His immediately reward was a barely heard gasp and an immediate pink flush to her cheeks. She left her hand in his, though, and still smiled.
"I think I've done fairly well so far," He released her hand, still smiling, "I haven't climbed any trees, soiled my nice clothes with grass stains, or embarrassed you over much."
"I'll remember to mark that in your report card."
"I might even be safe to take somewhere indoors."
"But I would want you to enjoy yourself."
"Ah." His grinned turned crooked again, "Well in that case, perhaps not somewhere quite so proper."
Addie folded her hands absently in her lap and shrugged, studying his face thoughtfully. "I really don't mind things like this," she admitted. "And I have not been to the ocean for ages."
"There's nothing as relaxing as a walk on he beach."
"Really." He shrugged, "I mean, to me at least. There' something about standing look out at the horizon that's just flat endless water, listening to the surf on the beach."
"I've never done that."
Alex grinned, brightly, "Well then. We'll go down the coast a bit, to one of those beaches past the harbor, and I'll show you what I mean."
She returned his grin. "Do you promise?"
"Yes, I promise."
"Thank you." A moment of silence settled between them and Addie just continued to gaze at him, smiling slightly. Then she shook her head a bit, laughed and rose up onto her knees once more. Efficiently, she began tidying up their picnic. "Pardon me," she murmured. "I was wool-gathering."
"Let me help you with that." He moved to help her clean up, somewhat less efficiently.
"Oh." Her hand brushed his and she pulled back to look at him. "You don't have to. It won't take much time at all."
"You already packed it. And I ate half of it." He looked vaguely puzzled, "I didn't think there was any point in just watch you put it up."
"Well..." She sat back again and held out her hands in a gesture of resignation. "Alright, Alex."
He blinked again, "What? Am I folding all the papers wrong?"
"No! I just... I've never had a gentleman do this sort of thing for me."
He lifted his eyebrow slightly, "Really? I mean...." He paused, tucked a discarded but of paper into the basket and then said, "That surprises me. If I had come here alone I should have had to clean up for myself, I don't see any reason why I shouldn't be doing it now."
"Because..." She lifted her hands again and this time the gesture was almost helpless. "Because gentlemen don't usually feel the need to do this sort of thing when a lady is present."
"Because..." She lifted her hands again and this time the gesture was almost helpless. "Because gentlemen don't usually feel the need to do this sort of thing when a lady is present."
Alex paused to consider that, "I suppose so. And ladies don't do with when servants are present. But when no one else is around you make do, maybe I've just gotten used to that way of thinking." He did not appear to mean that he was going to stop and have her finish packing up the basket however.
She nodded and carefully shifted her position to sit more firmly. She untangled her legs from beneath her and, instead, drew her knees up to her chest, arms looping around them. Her stockinged toes stuck out from beneath her hem.
"I'd cook for you, too, if I thought it wouldn't be a disservice." He grinned and finished packing up the last of their picnic debris, leaving just the blanket they were sitting on.
"You are..." Addie smiled and hugged her knees, dropping her chin down onto them. "You are truly one of a kind, Alexander Endicott."
He looked up at her, grinning slightly, "I doubt it, but thank you."
"I have no doubt about it."
"Because I pack up picnics and cook mediocre scrambled eggs?"
"Because..." She bit her lower lip, something he was fast coming to associate with her thinking. "Because you're something different. You're more gentle than I remember. It's as if we can have real conversations, conversations that I have not had with anyone else in a very long time."
"I...." Alex tilted his head to look at her "Really?" He paused and shook his head at himself, "I'm sorry, that sounded foolish. It just very curious to have someone describe me like that."
She smiled, lopsided and wry. "It's curious to say as well."
"Have I changed so much, do you suppose, or is it simply the distance of memory?"
"I can't say for certain. Perhaps a bit of both."
"Fair answer. I'm certainly not in a position to tell the difference."
She considered him. "Could you answer if I asked you the same?"
"How do you mean?"
"If I asked whether I had changed so much or if it was the time and distance."
"Ah." He considered, "To me....it feels like you've changed, grown up, become proper and respectable. But it might be me who has changed, or hasn't grown up."
Her expression reflected only thoughtfulness. "You have," she finally said.
"Changed?" He asked, with his crooked smile, "Or grown up?"
"Both. Definitely both."
"That's something anyway."
"Most people would be happy to hear they've changed."
"It depends what the changes are." He studied his hands for a moment, calloused - although the dirt had been painstakingly scrubbed out from under the nails. "Not that I mean to say you were implying I had changed for the worse, of course. Its fairly complicated, I fear."
Suddenly, her hand was covering his and she peered up at his face with a frown. "Alex," she murmured, "it's alright. You will be fine."
"I know," He covered her hand with one of his, "If I've learned anything its that. But there is so much more then simply being fine. I think sometimes its like the difference between living and existing."
"... I understand." Addie nodded and looked down at their hands. "You can handle one but the other... It's unthinkable."
He sat in silence for a moment, then sighed, "I am not sure, if there is a place for me here anymore. But," He looked up form their hands to her face, her freckles and hazel eyes, and lips turned into a little frown, "I hope there is."
Pink touched her cheeks again and she squeezed his hands before she looked up to meet his eyes. "You'll always have a place on my picnic blanket," she murmured.
He smiled, "As long as I clean up afterwards?"
"With no restrictions."
"Very generous of you."
Addie laughed softly. "Do you think so? I thought it was selfish."
"Somehow that makes it even more heartwarming." He laughed.
"As you prefer then!"
"I like being welcomed under most circumstances really."
"Well, I think I've welcomed you quite a bit, don't you think?"
"You have. And I think you for it." He smiled, "There's few places I'd rather be welcome then your picnic blanket."
Addie could not seem to quite help herself and giggled again before releasing his hands and moving to finish the picnic pack-up. "I'd be intrigued to see a list of those," she teased.
"Would you?" He answered, in kind, "You put a gentleman in a hazardous position, honesty risks offense."
She looked over her shoulder at him, eyebrows drawn together. There was the strange innocence again. "Do I? I should think you'd put your ship on that list. Which is perfectly acceptable. Maybe in front of a warm fire on a cold night?"
The innocence alone made Alex feel suddenly embarrassed, and he cleared his throat, looking down at his hands, "Some exotic foreign lands, as well, perhaps."
Addie smiled, sighing a bit longingly. Then she turned back to finishing the tidying process. "I envy you sometimes."
"Just your freedom. The things you've seen."
"It's been mostly hard work for little pay," he said, carefully, "Freedom has its price."
"Everything has a price, Alex." At sharp contrast to the innocence of before, Addie's words and following sigh sounded almost jaded. She smiled, nonetheless, and set her hand atop the basket before dropping the other to untangle her skirts as a prelude to standing.
Alex reached for his own shoes, and began the process of making himself presentable again, "Yet the price is often worth paying."
"And you believe that fully?"
"Yes," He looked up to catch her eyes, perhaps to convince her of the honesty of his answer, "Yes I do."
She merely smiled, bright and wide. Then she reached for her shoes. "Good."