May 28, 2020 9:48 PM
in which we marry off imrainai
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"That sounds like a thing that can definitely happen!"

She has no idea how to come up with another topic of conversation. Has she always been this bad at talking to people or is this a new thing. Aaa.

....at least he liked the pie. Making the pie was apparently somehow not a tactical error.

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"It's very good pie. And I appreciate your company."

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Oh. Well. In that case.

"I'm glad. I don't know if I'm very good company right now, not the way I was, but if you're OK with that then I guess it's OK. And I appreciate your company, too."

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"If my ambition is to be your friend, which it is, I hardly think that I would be upholding the standards of the craft if I criticized the quality of your company when you're clearly having some sort of a difficult time."

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She really can't think of anything to say to that for a moment. But like, in a good way. The way where really good words have been said and you need to take a moment to let them really fill the space they need to fill, not the way where you don't know what comes next and you're terrified that the silence is going to turn awkward in the next few seconds.

"Thank you," she says, after a while. "I used to be better at this, I really did, things've just been..."

She waves her hand vaguely. 

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He nods. "Some sort of difficult," he says, in the tone of someone who is perfectly content to accept that as the final word on the subject without further detail.

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"Yes," she says quietly, though she doesn't think that quite conveys how grateful she is for being allowed to not have answers. "But it's going to be better now, I think. I'm a little out of practice at making friends, but I'm sure that's the sort of thing that comes back to people. Like riding a bicycle."

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"I've never actually ridden a bicycle," Madral admits, with a slight smile.

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"Oh, really? It's not very hard to learn, it's mostly about balancing correctly. My parents taught me before I turned two, I think. But of course it's not really necessary knowledge, you can always just take the trains or the buses. I haven't ridden one in a while - " she's not actually sure where most of her possessions have gotten to, at this point - "but, uh, I hear it comes back, if I ever need it again."

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"Yes, I've heard that too. Though never about friendship."

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"Seems like the sort of fundamental skill that'd come back to a person," she says, much more decisively than she feels. It's important to at least pretend to be optimistic about these things.

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"Plausible," he acknowledges. "I have no more expertise with friendship than I do with bicycles, so I wouldn't know."

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"You've never had a friend?" she asks, very quietly, like being quiet enough about it will make it a maybe less upsetting conversation topic. "Not ever?"

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He shakes his head.

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"Wow," she says, still quiet. "Um, but it's not very hard to learn or anything! And I don't think it's a thing where you have to figure it out before a certain point. So you'll be fine, I think. You're really nice and really fun to talk to, and I think most people like being friends with people like that."

She hasn't been having much fun talking, actually, but she's very sure that she would be having fun if she were slightly less terrible at all of this, which is not really a sign that Madral is in any way bad at having friends.

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He smiles, tentatively.

"Thank you. I'm very glad you think so. You are... easier to talk to than most other people I have met."

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"I'm glad! I think I used to be way better at that than I am now, but I worked pretty hard on it."

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"With considerable success, it seems."

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She smiles and blushes. "My favorite jobs were always the ones that gave me the chance to talk to people. Just incidentally, really, in the course of doing other things. Delivery's not terrible, but it doesn't have much of that. Pest control was more fun. Nursing homes are great, too, you get to talk to people who have all these stories stored up inside them. Sometimes they don't have anyone else to talk to, so a lot of them are really happy to share."

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"That sounds..." He spends a moment searching for words. "...I want to say 'admirable' but I don't think the connotations are quite right."

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"I don't know if it's admirable. It might be whatever other word you're thinking of. But I just like most people, you know? I'm like, greedy for the details of their lives and their perspectives, at least when I'm not too busy thinking about my own problems. I try not to be too busy. It's way better for everyone when I'm focusing on other people. So, uh, it makes sense to take jobs that keep me in that place, when I can find them."

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"I'm not sure there is a word I'm thinking of," he says. "I don't mean 'admirable' in the sense of 'a noble self-sacrifice worth being praised for'; the fact that you like to be doing this, that you have your own reasons for it and your own ways of benefiting from it, only makes it better. Perhaps I more mean... 'worth admiring'. I think the world is a richer place for having people like you in it. I think it's - important, and good, and too often undervalued, for there to be people in the world who make a habit of seeking out connections with those who have too few. I think... these small, simple interactions between people are the thread that holds the world together, and you are making much-needed repairs to the places where the fabric of society has worn thin."

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"I'm glad you think so," she says quietly, like this observation is much more important to her than she's entirely willing to admit. "Um - since we're both, uh, variously inexperienced and out of practice at making personal connections, do you want to maybe - I dunno how long I can keep a real conversation going, but, uh, there's a secondhand bookstore a few blocks away from here that I've been meaning to go to if I ever had the time or energy - lots of time, these days, very little energy - but, uh, if you wanted, maybe we could go sometime? See what they have?"

She's sure it's indicative of some special level of incompetence that they've already admitted that excuses are mostly unnecessary and she's still nervous about coming up with a decent one. But she is.

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—he smiles. "That would be lovely."

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"OK then! Uh, I have no idea what your schedule looks like - mine's pretty open these days, though my hours are weird and if there's a pattern to them it defies easy explanation. I'm, uh, not actually doing anything now, but of course if you have a thing - or if you just need time to prepare yourself for bookstore expeditions and don't want to go wandering off at a moment's notice, I'm sure most people don't, then we could do it later? Or like - any time, really."

Aaaa what are words and how does she use them, she remembers knowing this at some point -

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