|Isobel Brandt \\ Persephone (praxidike) wrote in paxletalelogs,|
@ 2017-02-19 21:06:00
|Entry tags:||freyr, persephone|
there was no sound when they touched the ground
Who: Isobel & Rafe.
What: Isobel stops by with a present for Rafe after their brief discussion at the Neighbor Meet and Greet event.
Where: Pax Letale, first floor.
When: Feb. 19, Sunday. Midmorning.
Isobel gingerly handled the small betta fish container as she came back into the Pax Letale lobby. The small, transparent box boasted that it contained an entire ecosystem within; multicolored pebbles were strewn across the bottom, and a small, live plant grew upward. Stuck to one rock at its base was a little snail, but the main show was a beautiful blue and purple betta fish, whose fins unfurled and curved in the small waves created by Isobel's careful motions. A plastic bang hung from around her wrist. Hanni, wearing a green harness that stood out among his black fur, danced around her feet. She smiled at Stephan, who smiled back with a quirked brow but asked no questions, as she crossed the lobby space, making her way toward where she knew Rafe lived.
Pausing in front of his door, she carefully balanced the small, fist-sized tank on one hand and reached out with her left to rap her knuckles gently on his door. Hanni came to sit nearby, and Isobel glanced down at him with a finger pressed gently to her lips. Quiet sounds emanated from inside, the peephole darkening as the room's tenant peered out. Then the door opened, and Rafael stood in the entryway, a small smile on his shadowed, stubbled face.
"Isobel," he said. "Good to see you again. Would you like to come in?" He stepped out from in front of the door, holding it wide for her. Beyond the doorway lay a small studio, spare but tidy, and bright in all ways. The hardwood floor was light and brightly polished, with vibrant rugs covering it at what appeared to be irregular intervals. The plush gold sofa matched the red and gold sheets on the still-mussed bed, and off from the corner, unseen but heard, the muffled sounds of a television show drifted out.
Rafael smiled, nodding down to the little fishbowl in her hands. "What's this?"
Hanni accepted Rafael's invitation before Isobel could even speak, his lead trailing and tightening as he ventured forward into the new space; he spent a long moment inspecting Rafael's feet. Isobel tugged him back gently.
"Sorry," she said, smiling, switching the fish tank from one hand to the other as she tried to bring Hanni to heel. "This is...well, I hope you don't think this is too forward of me, but I was at the pet store with Hanni, you know, just getting some food and treats and whathaveyou, and I saw their betta display. And I remembered our conversation last time, and I just thought... Well, fish are pretty easy to take care of, and according to the label, he's in his own little ecosystem, so all you have to do is add some food," she reached into the bag at her wrist, pulling out a small plastic jar of brown pellets, "and he's set. You don't even have to clean it.
"And yes, I would love to come in," she finally added, once her spiel was over. She stepped over the threshold, bringing Hanni with her, still holding the fish because she wasn't sure where to set it, if Rafe even wanted it to begin with.
But Rafe was smiling, more sincerely now, and already reaching out to take her burdens from her. "Please," he said, "please do. I can get you some coffee if you'd like, and some water for your bodyguard here." She nodded, her hands still in the air as they were emptied of their load, and then she followed him further into the apartment, drawing Hanni's lead close around one hand.
Barefoot, he shuffled off toward the little kitchenette. His gait was visibly slower than when she had last seen him, but he straightened his back and managed as stoically as he could. He carefully set the bag and the fishbowl aside, placing them atop the kitchen island. He gestured to the high-backed bar chairs in front of the island, to their thick yellow cushions that looked barely sat upon. "Make yourself comfortable," he said. "This is really very kind of you. I haven't had a fish since I was very young. And I caught that one myself." He turned toward the cabinets to hide a wince as he stretched and reached up for two clean coffee mugs. The carafe was half-empty, but still warm; he was grateful that work was already done.
"You should help me name it," he said, looking over his shoulder to her.
She slid onto one of the yellow seats, eyes creased with worry at his deflated manner and obvious pain. For a moment, she wondered if she should linger overly long.
"Water for Hanni would be great, but you don't have to put yourself out for me. Did I interrupt? If you were resting, I can go." She hovered on the edge of the seat, ready to be dismissed if it came down to that.
"No, that's all right. I was only taking a nap." He gestured ruefully down to his makeshift pajamas, which consisted of an oversized white tee and grey basketball shorts. He found a small Pyrex bowl, its walls short enough for the teacup pom to easily access, and filled it with water from a filtered pitcher. His teeth sank slightly into his lower lip as he bent down to place the bowl in front of Hanni. Then he rose once more, moving as quickly as he could manage to fill both mugs. His own he took black, but he set down a small sugar bowl and a glass bottle of milk in front of her, and a teaspoon soon after.
"So," he said. "What should we call it?" He chuckled softly, looking over at the bowl. "My older brother had a fish once, and called it Joe Peixe. Which is just embarrassing, really, but it made me laugh."
Isobel accepted the mug, taking it from his hands almost as soon as she could reach it, as if she were able to simultaneously relieve him of whatever burden he carried. She needled her bottom lip with her incisors, worrying that he was doing too much, but was glad to have her attention called back to the fish.
"I'm sorry, but is that a celebrity? I don't recognize the name," she said sheepishly, adding so many spoonfuls of sugar to her coffee that one might ask if she wanted some coffee with her sugar. "I'm not the best with names, honestly. Probably just go with something silly, like Mr. Fishy. Clearly I haven't gotten much older than three in the naming department."
Rafael laughed as he set down his cup. "Honestly, Mr. Fishy is sort of the same thing… 'o peixe' means 'the fish' in Portuguese. And, you know, Joe Pesci, the short burglar in Home Alone…" He laughed again, shaking his head; realization dawned on her face as well, and she grinned to match his. "Anyway, I like Mr. Fishy. I'm keeping it. Thank you, Isobel."
He rustled through the bag, taking out the little bottle of fish food, and shook a few flakes into the bowl. "Did you name Hanni? That's a very nice name. Between that and Mr. Fishy I'd say you're actually quite good with names..."
Isobel shook her head. "No, Obed named him. My fiancé. He got Hanni as a present for our first Christmas, and he was just a teething little puppy going through everything that Obed called him Tiny Hannibal Lecter, and it just kind of stuck. Tiny Hannibal Lecter was too long for the name tag, though," she answered, looking back down at the dog with affection. Hanni had finished lapping at the bowl and had curled into a content little black ball, glancing up when he could sense his mistress looking at him. Rafael smiled down at the dog, chuckling at the name that somehow seemed to suit him well.
She looked back at Rafe, glancing down only momentarily to her coffee mug before taking a sip. "But it's your fish. I think Mr. Fishy has a nice ring to it. Very...professional," she added, grinning again.
Rafael nodded, raising his mug to her in toast. "It certainly does," he said. "I'll have very small business cards printed up for him." He sipped at his coffee, enjoying the subtle burn that kept his mind from other things. "How is your fiancé?" he asked. "He seemed a little reserved at the party. I know it's not everyone's sort of event, but I thought it was nice."
Nodding, she swallowed down another mouthful of coffee. "He's...not very much into social events, and I think he wasn't sure what to expect. I'm usually not terribly social myself, but I just really, really want things to work out here." Isobel stifled the desperation in her voice with another drink of coffee. Rafael hid a mild frown behind his own cup. "This is really good. I'm not much of a coffee drinker, usually, but what brand is this?"
"Just Starbucks," Rafael said, shrugging. "I prefer cold brew, but I've not really felt like going through all that work." He smiled softly. "Next time I'll have the good stuff ready. I promise." He cast a glance around the room, his pleasant expression fading somewhat. "I'm not… really prepared for company, most of the time. I apologize."
Isobel waved a hand, dismissing his apology. "I dropped in on you unannounced. I'm the one who should be apologizing." She followed his glance, her eyes falling on a set of prestigious looking awards on a far away bookshelf, too far for her to make out just what they were for. "Oh, goodness, is that for your work?" She turned an eager eye back at Rafe, curiosity striking deep. "What did you win for?"
He coughed, clearing his throat of a wayward sip of coffee. "Oh. Um…" He looked over to the bookshelf. He knew each category in which he'd won, each year and film it had been for, by heart. But when he looked back to her face, so wide-eyed and open, he found it impossible to rattle off each one as he might have in less polite company.
"Yes, it's… they're for my work. I do adult films. Mostly gay scenes, but not always."
Those wide eyes got wider, and Isobel's curiosity immediately turned to embarrassment as her cheeks flared red. She nodded, not wanting to see judgemental, adjusting her glasses as though this would hide her blush. Rafael politely looked away, glancing down into his cup instead of at her brightened face.
"Oh, well, that's...that's nice." The full extent of her pornography education had been when Obed suggested a short film or two, but otherwise Isobel found the whole of it to be...distasteful. She had a hard enough time of it with her own relationships that, the Texan born and bred girl that she was, she could not fathom having sex with so many different people. "How...how does one get into...that line of work?"
"It's all right," he said, looking back up to her from beneath thick lashes. His smile reflected in his eyes, bright and sparkling. "You really don't have to ask if you'd rather not. I know it makes people uncomfortable. We can talk about something else."
"I'm sorry, I just.." She gratefully grabbed at the exit door he'd so eloquently provided. "It's always easier to ask about people's jobs, you know? I read that in Sweden it's rude to think people are solely their work. Which, I don't think you are, of course. I know I work a lot, and so does Obed, I think it's more just an American thing. But, um..." Isobel wracked her brain for another topic of conversation. "Have you always lived in California?"
Rafael chuckled, amused in spite of himself at her continued embarrassment. He kept his silence for a moment, letting her work through the awkwardness he well understood. "No," he said, "but for ten years or so. Before that I was in Miami. Originally from São Paulo." He smiled sheepishly, glancing back down into his rapidly emptying cup. "That was a very long-winded way to say 'no,' I guess.
"What part of Texas did you say you're from?"
"Elgin," she replied, her red face fading as they quickly moved away from the uncomfortable topic. "It's near Austin, kind of. There's not much to say about it - your typical tourist town. How did you end up moving from Brazil to the U.S.?" She took another sip of coffee, wetting her lips as she watched his face with careful interest.
"A dear friend of mine was going to college there," he said. "I'd been wanting to travel anyway, and I'd never really been without her, so…" His smile twitched, fading at the corners. "Um. I've heard nice things about Austin. That it's very pretty, and actually progressive, which I didn't expect of Texas. No offense intended. I haven't gotten to visit yet, though. Do you go back often?"
Isobel held up a forgiving hand. "None taken, really. The majority of the state could sink into the sea, if you asked me. And, no, not really." She barely even spoke with her parents by phone these days, and she wasn't sure if she should be upset that she wasn't upset. "There's enough going on here to occupy me. What about you and São Paulo?" She couldn't repeat the word with the same cadence that he managed, that simple soft tone that made a magical sound that came out so easily, but it was close enough all the same.
His smile returned, and brighter than before. He felt oddly comforted and deeply pleased by her attempt; it was more courtesy than many showed, and he appreciated it. "I don't get back as often as I'd like," he said, "but I try to go every couple of years. It changes so much every time, but in some ways it doesn't... " He raked a hand through his hair, further mussing it. "It's like that for everyone, though, I know."
She gave a little shrug. "Doesn't mean that it should be any less important for you. To be honest, I haven't been back to Texas since I left, and I got out pretty much right after high school. I didn't want to get stuck in that small town, just...living the same life as everyone else. Living, growing, and dying in the same place, like you're stuck in a wheel. Following that same plan -- get married, pop out kids, the cycle continues." Isobel shook her head, hands cupping her mug. "Sorry. That's wonderful, though, that you try to stay connected. Do you still have family there?"
"Oh, don't apologize," Rafael said. "I completely understand. My brothers and parents are still in São Paulo, and they're doing exactly that. Career, marriage, children… all of it." He gestured toward the window, where outside a world waited that was very different from both their foundations. "And look. You and I got out of that cycle. There's something to be said for that, don't you think?" He took a sip from his mug, wincing a little at the cool coffee, and set it aside again just as quickly. He flicked his tongue over his lips to clear away the taste. "Are you happy here?"
Isobel nodded, the smile on her face content and whole. "Very. Things were...a little rocky, when I first moved to California, but now they're working out really well. I've got my own business, and I'm getting married, even when I just said I didn't want any of that." The hand sporting the ring Obed had given her fanned out for a moment, her eyes glancing down at its existence before it wrapped once more around the mug Rafael had provided. She tipped her head at Rafe. "And you? I mean, with those awards, you must be..." Her mind spun a wheel of inappropriate terms, trying to avoid anything related to the word 'endowed.' "Very good at what you do." Her face fought off another blush, feeling childish for it.
He chuckled, his gaze falling to the counter between them. "I am," he said. "I do enjoy my work, and my personal life is improving." He gestured to her ring, a genuine smile breaking broad over his face. "It's not an engagement, but it's nice all the same. Congratulations to you both. When is the big day?"
Isobel licked her lips, shrugging. "We haven't decided yet. Still working out a lot of the details. We've been engaged for a few months now, but...we're not in any rush." Her mixed feelings regarding their 0-to-60 courtship and her own impromptu proposal in the hospital were on clear display, but she opted to not give any further information. It was enough -- for now -- to know that Obed was clear in his desire, and that he was perfectly happy to wait until she decided they would move forward. Lifting her mug again, Isobel changed the course of the conversation once more. "An engagement isn't everything, though. Who's the lucky, um...gentleman?"
Rafael smiled, rubbing a hand over the rough stubble at his chin. "Um, lady, actually. This time. I actually met someone in the building. I think we were sort of keeping things quiet before, but…" Valentine's Day and its aftermath had changed quite a few things, and whether or not Rafael suspected as much, the waves of its influence continued to ripple outward. For now he only deepened his smile, turning away only briefly to place his nearly-empty mug in the sink.
"I don't suppose she'd mind so much now. I hope not, at least. Do you know Nishka Barriss?"
Isobel was happy to gloss over her mistake with an encouraging nod and smile. "I do! Just a little. We had a short run in at Whole Foods a little while back. She seemed very nice." She was glad to at least know of the woman Rafe was talking about, but it would have been better to know her as less of an acquaintance. Still, this was a start. "Did you two meet here? That's so wonderful, moving into a new place and having everything start to just, you know, click."
Nodding, he said, "It feels like a fresh start, which is really what I wanted." He leaned down over the counter, his hands folded atop it. "We actually met at CASKET. We didn't realize we both lived here until later. That certainly made arranging our first date a lot easier." It made subsequent dates far easier, too, and everything that went along with those dates, but none of this seemed necessary to put to words. "It's been a very good change for me. I hope this is the start of a lot of good things. For all of us."
Isobel smiled in return. "Me too. How is CASKET? I haven't been there yet, but I've heard a lot of good things. I know this may surprise you, but I've never been the club-going sort. Do you think it's something I'd like?"
"I do, actually," Rafael said. He circled the kitchen island and gingerly lifted himself into the seat beside her. "Julian makes it very welcoming no matter what you're looking for. It's not like most clubs in that regard. He has events there, you know… you and your fiancé might enjoy it together. Drinks after a date, perhaps?"
"It's certainly something to consider. We need to find new date places, now that we're living here," she replied, finishing her mug and insisting that she put it in the sink herself. She found she quite liked the other tenants in this building; promising starts were certainly in the stars, and Isobel hoped that the trend would continue.