Nowhere Man (Simeon)

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Nowhere Man (Simeon)

Post  Chester Branbury on Sun Jan 22, 2012 5:17 pm



It had been well over a century since Dr. Branbury had entertained company in some space that could almost be called his own. Since coming to Highgrove a year after the Twentieth Century had begun, he had not had time enough to indulge in the little social rituals of his time. And then his time had been cut short too abruptly. The last time he could remember entertaining had been at home -for he did still refer to it as home despite all these years- when he had drunk tea some rainy afternoon with friends of the family. When had that been? He couldn't remember the details now, only that a young lady from one of London's affluent families had been there with her mother for a chaperone, and Branbury's family had been very eager that he should take a liking to her. Or even not. They didn't much care if he liked the woman so long as he found a way to asking her to marry him. Her family was worth a great deal of money, they had said, and her dowry alone would secure his future as a gentleman. He would never have to work -not that he would have had to anyway, they insisted- and he and the lady could have lived in any number of London's great houses. They would be received by the gentry everywhere, and theirs would be a wedding to celebrate. Now, he could no longer remember her name or the exact details of her face or her person. Just another woman in an unending flock of feminine suitors. But he hadn't been interested in marriage. He'd been interested in medicine.

He wondered now and then what would have happened if he had offered the woman his hand. He never would have come to Highgrove. He never would have taken that fateful spill down the main staircase. Perhaps he would have lived to see old age and a number of bright-eyed and rosy-faced children of his own. Perhaps he would have subjected them to the same social and matrimonial torture his parents had inflicted on him, auctioning them off to the highest bidder. No, I wouldn't have done that. It was easy to tell himself that, but he couldn't be entirely certain. That had simply been the way of his world, and now he was struggling to get back to that in some small way. The woman with whom he shared this little cottage was away, at work. He had promised Simeon afternoon tea some days ago. And to be honest, he was a little flustered and afraid. Afternoon tea had been so different in his time, and he didn't know any other way to do it now, so he tried to recall the details, tried to remind himself of all the particular little rituals and manners needed. Maybe Simeon would laugh at him for the china tea set sitting on the small kitchen table. He'd ordered it over the internet after realising quite shamefully that he owned no such thing. But now he wondered if it was superfluous, and if Simeon would find him quite amusing for it. Embarrassment was not something he had worried about in some years, and yet now he was fretting as he set out all of the particulars, meticulously arranging and rearranging cups and saucers on the tabletop.

You are an antiquated fool, Chester Branbury. You know people just drink out of coffee mugs now. You should hide all of this in a cupboard somewhere and forget about it. But he knew no other way to entertain. This was what he had grown up with and was the only way he could feel more comfortable about this whole affair. He didn't want to seem crass or rude by slopping some cheap tea into one of Nurse Steele's cheery, pictured mugs. It would be what Simeon was expecting, surely, but it just didn't sit right with Chester. And especially after so many years of being alone and having no space to call his own, this was actually rather a larger deal to him than it should have been. He paced back and forth, the length of the little kitchen, fretting over what he should do and eyeballing the tea set with ambivalence. He wasn't sure what he would do if Simeon laughed. He fancied he'd probably just maintain some sense of normalcy, and laugh and agree on just how silly he was. But inside... He hadn't been this nervous in a very long time, and took a break from his pacing to rearrange the tea biscuits on their plate for the seventh time in as many minutes. Stop it. You look like a damnedable fool. Just sit down. So he lowered himself into one of the wooden chairs, which lasted only a split second before he heard the doorbell. His bones had barely settled before he was up and out of the chair in and instant, pacing to the front door. There were no footmen here to answer it for him now, and he would have shooed them off besides.

"Good afternoon," he said with a smile as he pulled the door open. He stepped aside to allow Simeon entry. "Do come in." He's going to laugh. He's definitely going to laugh. Maybe that's a good thing. Maybe he should laugh. A little strain of worry tainted the smile at the corner of his eyes, but he kept himself from fumbling or showing any other outward signs of paranoia. Fidgeting was an unseemly thing after all. He simply closed the door behind Simeon, and gestured him toward the back of the cottage and the little kitchen. He very almost wanted to stop them, half way there, and suggest they go to the staff lounge instead, but it had all been done now, and if laughter was to be had then he likely deserved it. So he beckoned him into the kitchen, and avoided looking at the tea set himself, as if to subtly downplay its importance to him. "Thank you so much for coming. I know the weather's quite horrid today. I heard it's supposed to rain clear through tomorrow as well." If in doubt, talk about the weather. He really was a man of his times. He might as well ask about the state of the roads now too, save for the fact that neither of them probably had any idea what they were like beyond the front gates. "Please, take a seat if you'd like."
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Re: Nowhere Man (Simeon)

Post  Simeon Marsden on Mon Jan 23, 2012 3:34 am

It had been a long time since Simeon had been to visit the home of a friend...around 17 years now. 1995 didn't seem so long ago when he thought about it, but he could feel the toll the years had taken, sense the imaginary wrinkles that should have been starting to line his face and the threads of gray that should have been tangling with his blond roots. The last time he'd been to someone else's cottage, Marisa had been living in it. Simeon swallowed against the hard, painful lump in his throat, simultaneously squashing thoughts of his long-lost love, and continued dressing for his date - no, rendezvous - with Chester Branbury. A date? Where did that come from, Sim? Yeah, yeah, wishful thinking. Don't hold your breath. That thought threatened to spin down a path he didn't quite wish to take. Simeon had been a fool for getting his hopes up on more than one occasion as of late, and he wasn't going to let his silly little dreams blind him to the reality of things. Friendship was the best he could hope for among the residents of Highgrove. His chance for romance had long passed, and it was about time he accepted it rather than continue to stubbornly deny it. Besides, a good friendship was fulfilling in its own right; it was wrong of him to yearn for something more. He should be more focused on making sure the living had a chance at those things he was no longer entitled to. His happiness might have fled on the breeze of a long-ago summer, eternal and unchanging in the golden memories of his youth, but he could still have a hand in ensuring the happiness of others. It was the most impact he was going to make now. His job gave him an opportunity to do something good for a portion of the world's wayward children, and it was selfish to not be content with that.

Simeon didn't know why he was fretting so much over what he should wear. Surely it didn't matter. More than that, it shouldn't matter. He supposed that since he spent so much time in uniform that he should make an effort to show how nicely he could clean up, but he wasn't sure what for. Chester didn't seem like the kind of man one had to work too hard to impress. He wasn't shallow by any means, and Simeon knew he could show up in yesterday's rumpled clothes and be accepted just as warmly as if he was wearing a three-piece suit, but he still wanted to look presentable. Was it vain? Maybe a little bit, but there was nothing wrong with putting one's best foot forward, especially when social calls were so rare. It should be treated as the special occasion that it was. Frowning disapprovingly at the ratty, threadbare sweater sheathing his torso, Simeon whipped it off and dug around in his closet for something more dignified. He finally settled on a vintage pinstriped gray-and-black waistcoat over a clean black t-shirt, too new to be faded. The black was still crisp and fresh as a starless winter's night, and so were the jeans he shimmied up over his slim hips. There was a touch of the old and the new about his outfit, and he thought that it suited him. After all, he had some pretty antiquated notions, despite having grown up in the 1980s. He was not the proverbial child of his time. His mother had always told him that he was one-of-a-kind, that most boys weren't like him, and he'd believed her, prided himself on it too.

His hair was captured at the nape of his neck by a silken black ribbon, one of Marisa's old treasures. Sometimes it still smelled like her when he held it to his nose, a faint scent of citrus and soft, feminine musk, sunshine in her hair and a daisy tucked behind the small peach shell of her ear. Leather combat boots graced his feet, and the short wool coat came on last, along with fingerless gloves and a jaunty black hat tipped up at an angle so only one eye was hidden by the brim. Simeon grinned at his reflection, thinking that it looked very...him. A modern-day bohemian and romantic, equal parts shabby and chic. It made him feel almost normal again, like he should have done this a long time ago, but of course it was never as easy as hopping into a car and driving into the next town, and aimlessly traipsing the grounds in his free time was nothing worth getting dressed up for. Slipping his keys into the pocket of his coat, Simeon peeked out the parlor window, pulling the curtain aside to get a glimpse of the weather. Rain. What a surprise. He would have heard it tapping overhead if he hadn't been so absorbed in his preparations for tea, but naturally - or shamefully, he wasn't sure which - it was a big event. A simple black umbrella was carried out into the rain, and Simeon was not sorry to leave his lonely little cottage behind. In fact, he was rather looking forward to seeing what Chester's domain was like. All the houses were the same, of course, but even homes that looked identical from the outside had a personal touch stamped on the inside. A person's possessions could tell a man a lot about his or her character. He imagined he already knew the kind of furnishings he might find in Chester's, but he was looking forward to satisfying his curiosity either way.

The days since his impromptu chat with Chester in the staff room had undoubtedly been better than the ones that had come before it. He was feeling optimistic again, even if that optimism came with the occasional twinge of self-doubt, like now. The anticipation began to outweigh the nervousness as soon as he was on his way, and even the rain couldn't dampen his spirits. Chester's door lay just ahead, and beyond it, the promise of hot tea and warm conversation. Knocking, he stamped the mud out of his boots so he wouldn't leave a trail over the treshold, and waited patiently for an answer. It didn't take long to come, and an open smile graced his face as Chester welcomed him and ushered him in. He paused to take off his boots and shuck his coat before following him to the kitchen, where an immaculate tea set was laid out on the table. Graciously, he removed his hat and hooked it over the back of a chair along with his coat and gloves, staring wide-eyed and delighted at the spread before him. "Oh, this is charming. It's wonderful, really wonderful." It didn't cross his mind that anything about the scene was outdated, and if Chester showed any indication that he was worried Simeon would laugh at him for it, the warden didn't notice. "Thank you for having me. It's a lonely day to be stuck inside at home, the rain being like it is." Taking a seat, he folded one hand on top of the other, turning sincere, concerned eyes to his companion's face. "How have you been?"
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Re: Nowhere Man (Simeon)

Post  Chester Branbury on Mon Jan 30, 2012 6:17 am



For a moment, Branbury didn't understand the concern that coloured Simeon's features when he asked how he was. Chester Branbury was always 'fine', or at least made out that he was, if only because he didn't give himself time to consider any alternative. Self pity was a slippery slope, and so he didn't permit it. But he supposed, from Simeon's face, that his existence must look like a rather bleak one, and the assessment was probably fair, compared to the warden. His existence was generally work, work and more work, with a small side of constant butting heads with the young Ms. St. James or Nurse Fairfield. "I'm very well," was his answer, and it was accompanied by a little nod that seemed to say really. "And don't think of it at all, I'm glad you could come. The weather is frightful, not that I'd say it's often as fair as it ought to be. I haven't entertained company in... A long time, so you're doing me an honour. I only hope I can live up to your expectations." He smiled a little, saying nothing of his worries over the tea set. It wouldn't do to go looking awkward and making his guest uncomfortable because of it. He'd project an air of modest confidence, as he should.

After Simeon was situated in one of the chairs, Branbury took another as his perch, and as the host, reached for the teapot to begin the timeless ritual of serving tea. It was really a woman's job in his time, or else the job of one of the house servants, but he'd long since disposed of all of the shackles of his breeding and station. From the moment he'd stepped foot on Highgrove's grounds, he had just been a doctor. He'd poured his own tea and made his own bed. And then he'd died, and he hadn't found much use for either of those skills. Until now, of course. Even this little meeting was a pleasant distraction, a little work in a way. It taxed him in different ways from his job, but he supposed social skills were skills he shouldn't allow to decay either. What if he became strange enough to be noteworthy because of it? Or what if he was just glad of the company..? He couldn't entirely lie and say this was just a part of his job and his vow. And he couldn't lie and claim that he wasn't entirely lonely. Since their talk in the staff room, and his run-in with ms. St. James a few days afterwards, he'd felt that loneliness more keenly than he'd allowed himself to in years. it was possibly a bad thing, sheer folly to allow the sentiment, but he couldn't seem to help it. So he was happy that Simeon was there.

"And, how have you been? Better than last we met, I hope. I know this weather can be terribly depressing, but I dare say it's going to be an early spring this year, and we'll all be picnicking on the lawn before you know it." Not that that happened very much these days, but Branbury could still remember a time when the residents had all gathered in their matching uniforms, to take lunch on the lawn under the supervision of meticulously groomed staff. Cucumber sandwiches on white bread, and tea poured into cheap china. Straw hats and summer calicos. Sometimes he'd wished that he could join in, because it had all seemed so timeless, so like home in a small way. But he'd stood off to the side, reminding himself that any kind of attachment would only end in heartache for whoever was involved, and possibly himself. "Though, I suppose the residents would rather have a disco on the lawn these days, or whatever they call them now. It's so hard to keep up with it sometimes." A kind smile of good humour followed, and he reached to pour tea into the cup sitting in front of Simeon. he'd allow him to add his own milk and sugar as he liked, while he poured a cup for himself.

((P.S. Sorry for short >.<))

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Re: Nowhere Man (Simeon)

Post  Simeon Marsden on Tue Jan 31, 2012 2:41 am

Simeon's concern for Chester wasn't that his life was boring or not exciting enough, only that it was, perhaps, a bit lonely. He'd never thought much about it before, but following their conversation in the staff lounge, he'd taken to thinking about the other man more often, wondering if there was anything other than work that made him tick. There had to be something that captured his interest, other pursuits that he enjoyed besides drinking tea and commenting on the weather. Simeon wanted to believe that he was as well as he said, but there was a sort of emptiness to the words that didn't leave him wholly convinced. His existence wasn't hollow, and if wasn't as if he lacked purpose or motivation, but there was something missing. He liked to think that perhaps he was providing it simply by being there. But was it enough? And would Chester let him in or eventually push him away? Simeon got the feeing that Branbury preferred to live his life without frills or complications, and he hated to think that he might be considered one of them if he got too close, infringing on the privacy the other seemed to treasure so much. Even if it wasn't a voluntary sort of seclusion, Branbury might consider it a necessary evil in his line of work. The hours were long and demanding and there wasn't much time for other engagements. It was also quite possible he viewed friendship as a liability he couldn't afford. Still, Simeon couldn't see how one between the two of them would be that great of a risk. It wasn't as if either of them was going anywhere. They were both married to Highgrove, in it for the long haul, for better or for worse, and especially so since death hadn't deigned to part their souls from the place. Simeon thought it only made sense to find some happiness in the meantime, and for him that meant companionship more than anything. Work came first, but it wasn't everything. It couldn't be. That was no way to live, to his mind.

"If I had any expectations, they've already been met," Simeon intoned, an impish grin ghosting across his face. "The tea set's a wonderful touch. I know it's shameful and not terribly English of me, but I don't have one of my own yet. I keep meaning to go online and order something respectable sometime, but I always end up forgetting. If you ever come 'round my place I hope you don't mind enduring cheap, chipped coffee mugs to drink out of." That, to Simeon, was far more embarrassing than Branbury's tea set. How could any self-respecting Englishman hope to be taken seriously when he drank tea out of a mug advertising Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon, even as pretty as the prism was? He hadn't thought of it that way before now, but sitting across from Chester made him all too aware of his lack of sophistication. And breeding? Forget about it. He had none. But times were different and trying to compare his upbringing to what he suspected Chester's had been like was weighing apples against oranges. It just didn't work. They couldn't hold their differences in lifestyle against one another, those things being a direct result of the eras and customs they'd been born into and neither had had a choice in. "Maybe we'll just have to take wine instead, if that's something you enjoy." It came out sounding huskier and a bit more suggestive than he'd intended, but with any luck Chester wouldn't notice. If he didn't have friends then he was bound to be oblivious to allusions of anything more. Despite the places Simeon's mind went when he said it, it was a genuinely friendly gesture, not to meant to imply any of the notions he was secretly entertaining. The last time he'd had a friend over for wine it had ended disastrously. He should have known that it would at the time, but either way, it wasn't something he was bound to try again soon.

"I've been much better, yes. I must admit our little chat worked wonders on my spirit. Things are lonely with Julien gone - I find I have gaps in my schedule that weren't there before, when I used to tutor him - but I don't mind doing a little busy work to fill in the time. It's also been nice to catch up on some of my reading. I'm finally making a dent in the massive pile of unread books by my bed." Simeon couldn't help but let fly a good-natured chortle of amusement when Branbury mentioned disco. It hadn't been popular in ages - since around the time he'd been born, actually - but it was hard to stay current when the years passed so quickly and contact with the outside world was minimal. Simeon wasn't even sure he knew what was popular right now, let alone what had been five years ago. Before coming to Highgrove, it had been all about grunge and alternative rock for him: Blur, Oasis, Bush, Nirvana, Alice in Chains. Those were the sounds of his tumultuous teenage years, and he had musical interests that stretched even further back. He wasn't particularly interested in what was on the radio these days, but occasionally he flicked it on and caught a snippet of something he liked. "A rave, probably, with loud techno music, glow sticks, strobe lights, and plenty of drugs if they had it their way. I hear some of them talking about it sometimes. The stories are...interesting, to say the least. I fancy I might even like to experience it myself, if I could, just to see what life for a teenager is like now." Simeon slid his cup closer to him, brimming with hot tea, and took his time stirring milk and sugar in. "I think I like the sounds of a picnic better, although if everyone participated I'm sure we'd both get stuck making sure no one sneaks off for a little afternoon delight behind the barn."
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Re: Nowhere Man (Simeon)

Post  Chester Branbury on Tue Jan 31, 2012 3:52 am



Chester Branbury was a grown man. A mature, seasoned and reasonable grown man. He knew all about the birds and the bees from a biological standpoint, even if not in practice, and there was little that shocked him now. And yet... Yet, he couldn't help but drop his gaze from Simeon's face at talk of afternoon delights. He was blessed with a permanently cadaverous complexion that made short work of any heat that tried to rise in his cheeks, and he busied his awkward mouth with the lip of his teacup, managing to squeak out some sound of agreement behind it, followed by a short little nod. It was not a topic of conversation he was familiar with outside of chastising Josephine St. James and eternally -it seemed- trying to instil in her the notion that she was worth more than what she could provide to other biologically. It simply was not something that decent folk discussed in his time, and he'd managed to escape through the years without having to speak of it outside of a doctor patient discussion. He hadn't imagined it would feel so awkward, but then he'd never contemplated raising the subject with someone he considered a peer. It simply wasn't talked about. Not in his time. But then, Branbury and Simeon were aeons apart, weren't they?

Regardless, he resolved not to make an issue of it. His awkwardness of discomfort would be rude to his guest, make him feel awkward to, or worse, make him want to apologise. So he tried to swallow the twinge of cluelessness and anxiety down with his cup of tea. Tea fixed everything, after all. "Y-...yes, I dare say they would." Internally only, he breathed a soft curse of the sort that wouldn't actually ever pass his lips. A stutter? Damnitall. Tempering his slip with a placid smile, he quickly filled the void of his mouth with the lip of the teacup again, figuring that perhaps it would be better to compose himself a little further before trying again. When he put down the vessel again, he looked a little more sound, and a soft intake of breath announced that he was about to say something again. "Incidentally... I'm partial to red. Wine, that is." If Simeon's tone had been a little more than simply friendly, it had flown far above Branbury's head. Because did not really consider any alternatives to their friendly acquaintance, he could not suspect Simeon of having thoughts beyond it. He had none of his own, to be certain. Was he even capable of such thinking? Possibly. Probably. It had never come up in the past. For now, he was simply glad to time travel back to easier topics, and wine was something he knew a thing or two about. "I'm very fond of those from Burgundy, actually. Though, it's been many years."

With a friendly warmth and something of a sparkle perhaps leant to him by the muted daylight leaking in from the kitchen windows, he regarded the blond young man seated opposite him. In some ways, he could almost imagine Simeon always having been there. Finely tailored day suits and casual gentleman's talk over tea. Or perhaps -and more likely- their respective uniforms. Branbury had had a specific day suit for work, of modest black and crisp, starched white. He had not become aware that he was staring until it was likely too late, dragging Simeon backwards with him to days that would never come to pass again. It was a terrible habit he had tried to break years ago, and he'd almost been successful, honestly. But there was something of the poet and the dreamer about Simeon, and it seemed to kindle the wandering and nostalgic side of Branbury's own mind too. He supposed if he didn't comment on his staring and pretended that it hadn't happened, perhaps it would not actually be noticed. He wasn't even certain how long it had lasted for. So he lifted his tea cup again, took a sip, and then said something else. Anything. Something not awkward.

"I never got to go to France." It was a completely natural progression of topics. Certainly. Yes. Wine. Burgundy. France. Simple. "I had meant to when I was still living in London. I was eager to see the universities in Paris, the museums. But I..." He glanced down at his teacup, half empty already. "...Came here." And the rest is history. No use getting melancholy about it though. He was fated to come to Highgrove, he fancied. Here, in this place, he could do the most good, and he'd been gifted this opportunity to keep doing so. What was France compared to that? ...What was youth, and happiness, and the dreams of a future...? Oh, hush. "Have you travelled much, Simeon?" Shift focus. Much more pleasant.

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Re: Nowhere Man (Simeon)

Post  Simeon Marsden on Tue Jan 31, 2012 4:57 am

Simeon had the uncanny ability to make any situation awkward when it involved one of the departed. He often forgot that his ways and mannerisms weren't the ways and mannerisms of others, which led to some rather unseemly things coming out of his mouth at times. He didn't know exactly when Branbury's heyday had been, but he could guess that it had come and gone long before his own, and that the good "doctor" wasn't used to the loose, casual openness of words and character Simeon displayed off the clock. Talk of afternoon delights wasn't a gentleman's topic, but then Simeon wasn't a gentleman of the sort Branbury was used to. If he intended on keeping him around in a friendly capacity, he was going to have to get used to it at some point, because Simeon wasn't the type to stifle his nature for another's benefit. Perhaps he was more apologetic for it than he should be, but he did hate to cause anyone discomfort due to his jaunty, unrestrained, and sometimes poetic meanderings.

"You know, maybe I'll have my own little picnic once the ground thaws," he mused, glossing over Branbury's stutter and the growing tension between them. It wasn't entirely unpleasant, but it was decidedly awkward, for lack of a better term. Maybe if he ignored it, as Branbury seemed to be doing, it would simply go away. When in doubt, move on to other things. "You'd be more than welcome to join, of course. I'll let you know. And I have a fine selection of reds you can peruse anytime." Simeon wouldn't consider himself a wine connoisseur, but he did enjoy sampling different flavors and vintages from around the world. About once a month he ordered a case to be delivered, different each time, though he was partial to the reds as well. The bottles he disliked he drank anyway, or gave to Mr. Moreau in the kitchens to use in his cooking, because anything else would be an abominable waste of good alcohol.

The more he considered it, the more he liked the idea of a spring picnic, wicker basket, checkered blanket, and all. He'd make up a tray of crackers and cheese, another of assorted fruits and vegetables, and bring the finest loaf of freshly-baked bread he could get his hands on. Two wine glasses, a bottle of Burgundy, the warm breeze ruffling his hair and renewing his spirit...it was a nice fantasy, but if Branbury didn't loosen up a bit between now and then, it might just be terribly uncomfortable for the both of them instead. Simeon was probably wasting his time as he drew up the plans in his head, but he could hardly be blamed for wanting something to look forward to after this long, cold, exceedingly cruel winter. What would quite likely happen was that he would end up camping out alone at the outskirts of the forest, propped up on one elbow with a book of poetry in hand, slacks rolled up to his knees, the sun a bright, hollow mockery of what it could be if he had company. Being alone wasn't so bad, really, but it made him restless after awhile and, like a wound left too long unattended, allowed all sorts of nastiness to crawl beneath his skin and fester inside.

Simeon, fussing over his own cup of tea in the hopes of giving the silence less merit than it deserved, didn't notice Branbury staring at first. After a time, he felt the warm, caressing weight of eyes on him, but when he looked up, it was at the very moment the other chose to break his gaze and attend to his thirst. He might have wondered what he was thinking, but after his earlier faux pas, decided that asking wouldn't do him any favors. Unsurprisingly, to anyone who knew enough of his disposition and interests, it would have pleased Simeon beyond measure to learn that Branbury could see him in another time. After all, he'd always entertained the notion that he'd never quite belonged to this one, but wasn't that the way most people felt, walking around in a nostalgic stupor for days that only seemed magical because they hadn't had to endure them? How many people could genuinely say that they were happy in the present? Everything was romantic in stories, but reality tended to illuminate the facts in a harsher light, as seen through broken glass. The modern world was evolving too quickly for its denizens to fully appreciate the changes as they were happening, but humanity had brought that upon itself in the race for better, faster technology. Alas, the yearning for a so-called "better time" was not unique to Simeon, but he wanted to think that it was, that he was different and special and some mistake had been made when he'd been born in 1974 instead of decades earlier. He wanted to see himself as Branbury did in those moments where his mind wandered.

Taking a long, leisurely sip of tea, Simeon's thoughts shifted along with the topic, and he smiled wanly, a touch of melancholy on his lips and in his eyes. "No, I'm sad to say. My story isn't much different than yours. I wanted to be a nurse but couldn't afford the schooling, so I came here, hoping to earn enough to eventually pursue that dream. It's a good thing I ended up liking my job so much. It's really not all that bad, being stuck here...aside from the not traveling bit. I would have liked to see Paris too. My parents always talked of taking us but could never afford it. And by 'us' I mean my older brother and I." He shrugged. "It could be worse. We've got the internet and films, at least, and the quality of the technology now is really something. You can feel like you're halfway across the world without ever leaving your chair." His smile this time was a bit more jovial and encouraging as he set his lips against the edge of the china and peered across the table at his companion.
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Re: Nowhere Man (Simeon)

Post  Chester Branbury on Tue Jan 31, 2012 5:26 am



"Yes," Branbury replied, on the topic of technology as it came to them both. "It's truly a marvel. Who would have thought?" And his smile too was genuine and brighter then, when their eyes chanced to meet across the short span of wood that kept them at a respectable distance. Certainly Branbury hadn't thought many of the modern contraptions possible, when he'd been but a young man. He dreamed of medical advances, but his dreams now seemed so narrow when compared to reality. Televisions and internet had been far beyond his grasp, right up until they had become commonplace. Stuck at Highgrove in the time before such inventions, he truly had been cut off from the rest of the world. Two World Wars had been weathered at Highgrove by the good doctor, and the only word he'd had of many of them was through the radios they kept and the chatter of other staff -mostly female at the time. It was fortunate that his expertise in the medical field had been indispensable, and that he'd kept so much to himself, because he'd never been quite certain how he would account for never having been called up for the war drafts. These were the ongoing trials and tribulations of being dead, he supposed. One never knew exactly what was around the corner. The world had changed so much now that if there was another world war, he was quite sure he'd have no idea what to expect. perhaps there would be few soldiers. Just mass, civilian misery in distant climes.

Still, it was better to not think of such things. Not when they were meant to be entertaining light and comfortable conversation, even if it wasn't turning out entirely as comfortable for Branbury as he'd planned for it to be. Perhaps he had overestimated his capacity for socialisation by getting too bold and cocky following his success in lifting Simeon's spirits some days ago. At the end of the day, he was likely exactly as awkward and unapproachable as he'd suspected himself to be. But now he owed it to the blond warden not to make him uncomfortable. And the only way he knew how to achieve that was by The Old Ways. Light and superficial gentleman's chatter. Polite conversation. Once upon a time, he'd maybe had the capacity for the same sort of poetry that governed Simeon, but generations of work and toil had maybe robbed him of it. He had once gone against his whole world and society to be something more, something worthy. He'd been a rebel and a black sheep. Now he was just antiquated, stuck in his ways, maybe no better than Lady Highgrove, or Lord Highgrove and his pheasant hunting. Perhaps that was the curse of the dead, after all, to be forever stuck in their own time. It felt like dying all over again to imagine giving up that place and time from which he had come. He couldn't quite do it any more than he could throw away that silver pocket watch and photograph.

Just as he hadn't realised he had been staring at Simeon, he didn't realise now that his face had clouded over with something that almost resembled Simeon's own melancholy. Or was it just worry? It was a terrible and obvious slip either way, and when he had the wherewithal to notice it, it flustered him immediately. he was not prone to such turns. He'd forced himself to be infallible, to not think of himself, because the self was not as important as the work he'd been fated to do. But Simeon seemed to bring about introspection. Wasn't that what the poets were all about? Self discovery, and the exploration of their universe? Wincing almost imperceptibly, he reached for the teapot to pour a fresh measure into Simeon's cup without asking first, and then into his own. it was another slip, but it broke up the awkward silence and gloomy tension that had briefly presided over their little tea party. Branbury cleared his throat quietly, politely. Perhaps I ought not to go on that picnic after all... "Oh, I'm sure you could find someone far more lively to picnic with than I." He smiled kindly, though it looked almost apologetic. "I should hate to dampen the spirit of a picnic." And was that the actual apology, in a roundabout way? It sounded like one.

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Re: Nowhere Man (Simeon)

Post  Simeon Marsden on Tue Jan 31, 2012 6:32 am

Simeon wasn't a fiend for modern technology. He enjoyed it but didn't use it to excess. For example, he spent more time reading than surfing the internet, and writing than watching television, and he didn't own anything vaguely or even superficially resembling an e-reader, smart phone, or MP3 player. It was radios and stereos and even an old tape deck that he ended up listening to the bulk of his music through, though he did have a growing collection of files on his computer (acquired quite legally, thank you very much). On a typical day, maybe two hours were spent lounging in front of a glowing screen, except for those nights he marathoned films or television series he was fond of, and the only phone he needed was the old-fashioned rotary placed on an end table just over the treshold in the parlor. He would be amiss if he was to say he didn't adore his television though, and that he'd spent more of his earnings on it than he probably should have. It was a grotesquely large affair, clashing with the anachronistic furnishings that made up the majority of the cottage he shared with Verne. Sleek, glossy black paneling gave way to a high-definition LCD screen that absorbed the light rather than reflected it, making for an extraordinary viewing experience no matter what the content of the program was. His favorites tended to be nature or travel shows, with the occasional period piece sprinkled in for flavor and selfish indulgence. He wondered how Branbury would like it, if he'd find it fascinating or too overwhelming for his charming, if antiquated, sensibilities.

He almost said something about it, but the words died on his lips when he noticed that Branbury's expression had clouded, casting a pall over the room he'd rather hoped to avoid. Perhaps he had come to influence the man more than he'd realized, because he couldn't recall ever seeing him so rattled, so stirred, as if the depths of whatever emotion he was feeling were beyond his tightly-coiled control. And here Simeon had thought that nothing was. He wasn't used to seeing him in any other condition than stoic, reserved, cool, detached, impassive, politely concise, and professionally deliberate. One could cast a stone over those waters in any other situation and they would remain placid, skipping across the surface without creating so much as a ripple. Now things had changed, and Branbury's inner reserves were slipping past the mask he'd carefully fashioned himself out of duty, necessity, and a higher purpose. Was this Simeon's doing, and was it not a terrible thing? He didn't want anyone to suffer as he'd suffered, didn't want to pass the melancholy along, even as much as he hoped to find someone to share in it along with his greatest joys and fiercest pleasures. In a way, Branbury was an innocent to Simeon, untouched and uncorrupted; he didn't want to change that, but then he didn't know enough about the man to know if it was true. It was just the way he came off, not just untouched, but untouchable, a bright star on the horizon, better off because it was so far removed from feeling the miseries of the world, even if its impartial eye saw everything.

Simeon wanted to say something, but no words were coming to him. He didn't know what to say to soothe Branbury when he didn't know what was troubling him, though he desperately wanted to. Besides, he was very well, or so he'd said. If there was something on his mind, something he wanted to talk about, surely he would have brought it up. Then again, maybe not, because this wasn't a man who was used to socializing in the way Simeon had grown up doing. The young blond warden had been encouraged to say whatever was on his mind without regret or the least sense of shame, but that wasn't the way with everyone. He'd been lucky. Despite his misgivings, perhaps it was time to man up and coerce Chester into saying what was on his mind, because it might never come out otherwise. There was a sort of pride about Branbury that suggested he didn't want to burden a single soul with his concerns; he was the one meant to be taking care of everyone else, after all, not the other way around. Still, Simeon couldn't let it go on for much longer. His own instincts nudged him into being a nurturer and protector, and sometimes that meant asking difficult questions, questions that might get you shunned, slapped, or told off, but needed to be addressed nonetheless. As it turned out, he didn't need to say anything, and his jaw unhinged by degrees, mouth softly falling open into a small, startled 'o' of surprise. Was Branbury really worried that he wouldn't be good company? How could he think so little of himself? It was appalling to Simeon, and he sat up a little straighter in his chair, clearing his throat with purpose.

"There's no one else." He spoke quietly, but all the same, his voice was firm, stubborn. "I mean, I suppose I could find someone - anyone, yes. Anyone at all would surely do, but I don't want just anyone. I want..." Oh dear, this really wasn't going well, but it was too late to stop now. "...I want you. I mean, I want you to come. To a picnic. With me. If I decide to have one at all. Spring is still a ways off but...I think you're fantastic company, really, and I can't think of anyone I'd rather spend time with, or get to know better." Way to be a poet, Simeon. How eloquent. Your idols would be so proud, if they weren't all dead too.
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Re: Nowhere Man (Simeon)

Post  Chester Branbury on Tue Jan 31, 2012 7:00 am



If there was anything to be thought of Simeon's rather... leading choice of wording concerning his want of Branbury- To go on a Picnic. With Him.- then Branbury was completely and perhaps foolishly oblivious to it. It was once again a case of simply not even imagining it. A few days ago, he would have scarcely even imagined that he would be sitting in a kitchen having tea with the warden, so to dream up something as elaborate as a romantic attachment was beyond his feeble grasping. Baby steps were what might be needed if it was a subject to even be approached, and even then, there was no telling exactly how Branbury would react to such a sentiment. There had never, never, been room for romance in his life or his death. Certainly he'd taken chaperoned walks with young ladies from time to time, at the bequest of his family, but beyond these formal niceties, there had been nothing. As far as he was aware, he and Simeon were friendly acquaintances, and even that tenuous relationship was now in jeopardy. He had gotten away from himself, and it was a matter that would now require rectifying. For while Simeon's enthusiasm and his compliments did touch Chester in a way that words had not done in a long time, he was silently fretting his own inadequacies all the same.

When Simeon fell quiet again, Branbury nodded his head once, denoting perhaps that he was going to say something important. And he was.

"I... thank you for your high opinions of me, Simeon," manners must always come first, of course, "but I feel I should say something now rather than... disappoint you later." He shifted in his chair, straightening a little as Simeon had done only moments ago. Talking about himself was the least of Branbury's multitude of gifts. The very least. He found it abhorrent and bothersome. "You see, I'm quite old. Too old, probably. Undoubtedly, everyone who ever knew my name in life is dead. I left no legacy behind. I am truly a ghost, you see? But, don't pity me." He held up a hand in gesture as if to wave any imagined sentiments of the sort away. "I only mean to tell you these things so that you'll understand if we don't quite always seem to... To... To meet eye to eye, I suppose. I died in nineteen-hundred and two..." Saying it aloud for the first time had come more easily than he'd ever thought it would. He'd never told anyone before. But the aftermath of the words was as he expected. He felt as if his breath had been knocked out of him, and took an extended moment to recover from it while he stirred milk into his tea.

"Since then, I've not kept friends as you'd call them. My work is my salvation, my sanity. So, you see, casual conversation such as you're used to... Well, I'm afraid I'm rather out of practice with it, and times are so different now that I scarce know where to begin. It is my sincerest hope never to make you uncomfortable, for it's not my goal in the least, but I do feel that perhaps it's inevitable given our... differing backgrounds." Pausing for a moment, to gather the rest of his thoughts into appropriate sentences, he sipped his tea, preferring to watch the dull, rainy light from the window illuminating the table top than see Simeon's face just yet. "Incidentally, I've never spoken of this to anyone else, so if I'm not too bold, I would ask that you not pass this knowledge along. My anonymity is what keeps me at my work, and by proxy, sane I suspect. If i had to stop to think of... all those many years, I'm not certain I'd come back." It was then that he finally lifted his gaze to meet Simeon's. He hadn't the foggiest idea what the young, blond warden would think of it all, or what he'd say. He'd never considered having to have this conversation, in all honesty. He was as lost as the day he'd died.

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Re: Nowhere Man (Simeon)

Post  Simeon Marsden on Tue Jan 31, 2012 3:38 pm

After Branbury finished speaking, Simeon felt like he'd been scolded. The dynamic between he and the doctor was a remarkable thing; sometimes he felt like a child in his presence, and at other times it seemed their roles were in reverse. And maybe in a way he was the more worldly and experienced of the two, even if not by much. He knew about friendship, love, and sex; he knew about seduction; he knew about the lazy poetry of a sunny afternoon spent tangled in a lover's arms, and it was slowly dawning on him that Chester didn't. 1902... It knocked the breath out of him too, and he found himself grasping the edge of the kitchen table, staring past Branbury's shoulder out the window until the middle distance ate up his gaze and it turned slowly inward, eyes of blue tourmaline glassy and far away, seeing into another world. There were things Chester knew too that Simeon didn't, truths the younger might be failing to acknowledge because he hadn't been around long enough. Branbury had been a ghost on Highgrove's grounds for over one hundred years, and in that time he had surely learned a thing or two, if he hadn't cleaved completely to his outdated sense of self. Simeon knew he should take his words with a bigger spoonful of seriousness, but there was a part of him that honestly wanted to laugh, to scoff and wave it all away, because what did a little age difference matter today? Okay, it was more than a little age difference, but he wasn't going to let that put him off, not unless it appeared that that was what Branbury wanted, and in either case, it was too early to tell. It certainly sounded like he was trying to warn him off, but how much of that was genuine and how much a defense mechanism meant to keep others at arm's length?

"If you're trying to frighten me away it's not going to work, though perhaps I have overstayed my welcome and made you uncomfortable." Clearing this throat, Simeon took one last hearty sip of tea, pushed his chair back from the table, and rose on stiff legs. Putting himself behind the chair, he leaned slightly over it, hands planted on the back of the thing, fingers grasping at imaginary threads as if he could pull Branbury to him, separate the vast distance between them through thought alone. "I won't speak of this to anyone else. You have my promise," he murmured. Was he really going to leave? It seemed that he should, but he couldn't make his feet move any more than they already had. His soul, if not his hands, had fused him to that chair, and he felt he should speak his piece too, steer them toward some sort of mutual understanding, before he gave up on the whole afternoon. He refused to believe it was a total loss just yet. "I'd like to be your friend, or to try, at least, if you'd let me. You see, in spite of my efforts, I don't have many. I've developed a fairly good rapport with most of the souls here, and perhaps that's enviable, in a way, but I don't have anyone I can truly share myself with, and that is a burden on me. You would be doing me a greater disservice if you were to cast me out of your life than let me in, but the choice is, as always, yours. I realize how far apart we are and that it's like to deal you some difficulty...dare I say even some measure of insecurity as well."

Despite their differences, perhaps they were well-matched in their aloneness, their confusion over their place in this strange, new world and the angst-ridden melodrama that followed. Branbury seemed determined to be left behind, but Simeon didn't think he could, in good conscience, leave him to flounder in the murk of his past and numbing routine of his work. "There is no shame in what you've said to me, but I still feel you underestimate yourself. I only exist here at your mercy. The only reason any of us have some semblance of a life to hold onto is because you've helped us to achieve it, kept us safe, and I don't stand here because I feel I'm in your debt, only because I wish to know more of the man who would preserve all he holds dear. I know how much this must mean to you, else you wouldn't do it. We all put up walls to keep others out, but if we wish not to become mere shadows of our former selves, we have to leave a break in them somewhere. Perhaps there is only one clever person who might find the vulnerability, the crack in the stone, but we all have our weaknesses, and there is no shame in that either. I'm going to find what it is that makes you tick, Chester Branbury, even if it takes a lifetime." One finger wagged in midair, as if he was a schoolteacher relaying the importance of homework to a pupil. "And don't tell me that all you do have is work, because I believe there's more to you, even if you can't see it anymore. We can learn from one another, if you're up to it. I know I am. Now, I can stay or I can go, and I'd prefer it not to be the latter, but as I am a humble guest in your home, I find myself, as ever, entirely at your mercy."

His eyes, two single points of intensity, burning blue as the core of twin flames, briefly settled on Chester's face, and he didn't know what it was the older man saw when he looked at him, but he couldn't afford to linger over his uncertainty now, or fear the consequences of his passion when it was so close to exploding out of him. "I won't ask you to speak of those days you're trying so hard to forget, but if you find you'd ever like to know a bit about my world..." He drifted off, eyes turning to the window once more, squinting out into the rain as if it could give him words. "Well, it's not so bad, as much as I might feel a romantic draw to your own time." Simeon realized now that he never could have lived in Branbury's age. Among other things, he couldn't imagine not having the freedom to love, to marry because you wanted to and not because societal pressures left you with no other choice. He suspected that was just the tip of an iceberg he wouldn't agree with.
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Re: Nowhere Man (Simeon)

Post  Chester Branbury on Tue Jan 31, 2012 6:42 pm



When Simeon spoke of overstaying his welcome, and rose from his chair, Branbury... couldn't do anything. What have you done, you foolish man? He could only peer up at the blond warden with lips parted as if to say something, and then duck his gaze back to his cup of tea, looking rather morose. To him, Simeon seemed angry about what he'd just said, if only because he didn't understand the other man's passion, and couldn't quite dissect it in the way he should. He thought that perhaps it was better if he just kept his mouth shut in that case, because anything he had to say might again be the wrong thing and only make matters worse. This was a disaster, wasn't it? Why had he been so foolishly ambitious? He should have stuck to what he knew, and that was the art of being invisible, forgettable. That was a vow he'd made a long time ago, and now that he'd broken it, he remembered why. Any moment now, he expected Simeon to politely excuse himself, and leave without so much as another word. Or perhaps he wouldn't even excuse himself. People didn't do that nowadays, particularly not when they felt insulted or cast of. It used to be that even in the heat of argument, a man would politely make his excuses before leaving the room. Now even long-parted friends didn't do such things. It was as if words and manners were in short supply, and they were rationing them.

But, despite the fact that Simeon had stood, and made something of an excuse at least... He didn't actually leave. He was still talking, actually, and puzzlement crossed Chester's brown as he dared a glance at the hands on the back of the chair. To be completely certain, Simeon confused Branbury more often than he made sense, it seemed. Perhaps it was that the doctor really was too out of tune with current times to keep up, for while the times changed, people changed with them. He wanted to open his mouth and say why are you still here? I thought you were leaving, but he didn't want it to be misinterpreted as Branbury chasing him out. He simply didn't understand it. And more than that, he didn't understand why Simeon was interested enough in him to stay, to keep talking, and to want to be his friend. When their eyes met, Chester felt rather like he was being pinned and dissected by the intensity of Simeon's gaze. Had he ever looked at someone like that before? He couldn't remember, but he felt humbled and far younger than his years either way.

"It is... It is not my intent to push you away, Simeon," he spoke out, actually arguing against the slight he imagined Simeon must have felt. Whether he was wrong or not was a mystery to him. He was smothering under the weight of all Simeon's compliments and couldn't seem to find the exact source of them. Why did Simeon hold him in such high regard, when the blond warden was so much more alive, so much more free? He shook his head in slight disbelief. Those carefully constructed and acceptable words he always fell back on were trying to desert him entirely. "I only meant that I... That you. I meant to say that we're different. And so sometimes it..." God Damn It. Flustering again, he gingerly pushed his cup and saucer back from his hands, towards the middle of the table. This was difficult. He'd forgotten just how difficult. He wasn't sure he was equipped for this kind of intensity. Just as Simeon felt scalded, so too did Chester now. He felt as if he was trying to have a conversation with one of history's great artists, poets, or musicians. It was humbling.

"There isn't anything else that makes me tick. At least, I don't think so. Medicine has been the only passion I ever had, and I fear that I'm going to be a disappointment to you because of that. I meant what I said about you having something of the poet about you, and it's a trait that I'm lacking, you see? You're welcome to get to know me if that's what you wish, but I'm afraid that you won't find much more than you already now know." He almost wanted to shout the words, as if Simeon's own intensity was affecting Chester too, making him want to indulge in some childish little outburst. If he had, he probably deserved the small break from over a hundred years of decorum. But he didn't. He never had. That wasn't the way he was. "I am interested in your world, and in learning more about it. But it's not my world, and I can't pretend to be anything but what I am. You're searching for the poet in me, and if there ever was one, I think that he's dead. Maybe he never was there to begin with. I'm not a child of your free-spoken world. I cannot think and feel as a poet, as you do. And I only meant to ask you for patience, not that you desert me or I be allowed to desert you. I apologise if I was not clear before, and for any misinterpretation. You don't have to leave on my account."
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Re: Nowhere Man (Simeon)

Post  Simeon Marsden on Wed Feb 01, 2012 2:34 am

Simeon was...relieved to get that weight off his chest, but the euphoria was short-lived, because as soon as he stepped off of his soap box, he crashed hard. It occurred to him that he'd gone entirely overboard, that he was far too sensitive to be having such conversations, still shaken by the lingering pangs of Julien's unexpected departure. His wounded soul had taken Branbury's well-intended words and turned them into a slight before he'd taken the time to think them through, expecting that everyone was going to turn him away as his younger friend had done (and without so much as a proper goodbye, at that). He felt such a fool! If he didn't stalk out on his own, surely the man would be asking him to leave any moment now. Deeply regretful, Simeon hung his head, a few loose curling hairs falling into his face in a way he was grateful for. They concealed his expression of shame and self-disgust only partially, but he could pretend otherwise, perhaps even make himself invisible if he wished it hard enough. Alas, it was not to be. Simeon couldn't hide. He stood exposed in his dejection, raw and miserable, ashamed of his utter lack of control. One would think that after nearly two decades of being dead, he would have been able to reign his passions in, but to the contrary, time had only strengthened their bonds to him.

God...I'm so sorry. Simeon wanted to throw himself at Branbury's feet, begging forgiveness for his folly, his lack of reason and sense. But before he did that, he knew that he must hear him out. He must face whatever bitter truth was coming and take it like a man, no more ignorance or avoidance. It was Simeon's turn to feel small when Chester spoke, digging his fingers into the rails of the chair with vehemence if only so they would keep his body upright. He might crumple to the floor otherwise, lost in the miasma of his self-inflicted misery. "It is not my intent to push you away." Simeon's shoulders sagged, a long, reedy breath rasping and unfurling into the ether. That was one worry waylaid, at least. As the moment unwound, and some of the tension seeped from the air, it didn't make him think any less of Branbury to hear him stumble over his words. He knew that he'd disarmed him, stripped away his composed exterior and touched something deep inside of him, else he would have found it far easier to summon speech. Undoubtedly no one had ever spoken to the doctor in such a way, and if they had, it had been so long ago Chester had put it out of his mind for the sake of his own sanity.

"You have your merits, as I do mine," he murmured, and his knees felt like butter as he moved around the chair and sank down into it, hands curling around the tea cup out of instinct, some small, unconscious plea for comfort from the heated china. Tendrils of warmth shot into his fingertips and set him ever more at ease. Tea cured all ills, after all, even the mere promise of it. Unseeing, his eyes moved over the tabletop, as if trying to derive a pattern from the grains of wood, some clue, some key that would open the door to all knowledge and experience, providing the answers to everything, including this flummoxing position he'd gotten himself into. "One does not have to be a poet to be appreciated and valued as you are. If we were the same, I suspect our conversations would be very dull indeed, not as they are now." Nervously, he raked his gaze from the table and up what he could see of Branbury's torso, to the slim alabaster column of his throat and beyond, past the distinguished, clever jaw and exquisitely-crafted lips, to contemplate the fine, aristocratic nose and, finally, the eyes, brilliant sapphires suspended in a sea of foam. He chanced a tentative smile when their eyes met, more apologetic than amused, but it was a peace offering all the same.

Simeon thought that Branbury was wrong about himself, but he wasn't going to press the issue. A natural poet he might not be, but there was an eloquence to his soul that Simeon recognized as also belonging to his own. There was passion in him as well. It might not be for books or poetry or late nights hunched over a writing desk with some mad verse spurring him on, but he cared so fiercely about something that he'd dedicated his life to it, and who knew what he had endured to get there. That was the kind of spirit Simeon looked for in a person. Whether or not they cared about the same things as he didn't matter at all. "'Poetry is a mirror which makes beautiful that which is distorted.' There is poetry in you, Chester, and in what you do. But I'll speak no more of it. I can see that it unsettles you and I no longer need play the part of the flatterer. You know my opinions, that is enough. I am gravely sorry that I misunderstood you. It wasn't that you were unclear, it's just... I'm still hurting. I suppose I'm not as fine as I claim to be. I thought I was, but I'm still afraid... of being left alone again, abandoned, forced to walk with no one but my own shadow for company. I thought you might wish to be rid of me already, and I panicked. It was rash and... immature. I'd like to stay. Please accept my apologies and my patience." Gently pushing cup and saucer to the side, Simeon leaned across the table and laid a warm hand over Branbury's, a brief gesture of reassurance, a white flag of surrender.
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