May 28, 2020 7:29 PM
in which we marry off imrainai
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"In... in a few days, perhaps?" he suggests. "I don't want you to think your company is not welcome, it is in fact the most welcome thing I can imagine, but - I do like to take some time to prepare before I leave the house."

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"No, no, it's totally fine and sensible! That's, uh, why I preemptively said it was fine and sensible." 

- oh, huh, 'most welcome thing I can imagine' sure is a thing to say.

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He smiles again, tentatively.

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" - so, in a few days," she echoes, whipping out a pocket calendar. It's a new calendar because it's a new year now, but apparently this habit has survived whatever else she's been through. "So, like, day after tomorrow at fiveish, and then we can look at books and maybe get something to eat afterwards?"

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"Yes, that sounds like an excellent plan."

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"Excellent." She scribbles it down in the calendar and then pauses. " - uh, I keep feeling like I should say I have a thing and head out, but I don't actually have a thing and I don't know if I even want to leave, I just, uh, can't think of anything else to say off the top of my head."

Why did she even say that. What kind of person narrates their thought processes with that level of honesty.

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"Well, I'd hardly deny you the opportunity to leave if that was what you preferred, but I am also not going to kick you out of my apartment for being unable to think of anything to say," he says.

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"...then I think I'll stay a bit longer," she says, and quietly munches her pie.

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Madral smiles at her, as though having Kairda in his apartment quietly munching pie is one of the best ways he can think of for his day to be going.

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Eventually she runs out of both room for pie and things to say. "...Alright, then. I'm really glad I came back here, if that isn't clear. And really glad we happened to run into each other in the first place. Day after tomorrow around five?"

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He nods firmly. "Agreed. I will see you then."

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So she goes. She mostly manages not to think too hard about going to the bookstore in two days, except for the few occasions on which her brain absolutely refuses to think about anything else. She makes sure she has enough money for books, plus enough for dinner if need be, and maybe she puts a little extra thought into what she's wearing but not enough that anybody can prove this, and then she shows up on the appointed day at precisely 4:58.

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He answers the door very promptly, dressed like someone who doesn't want anyone to look at him.

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She seems absolutely delighted to see him!

The bookstore is, as promised, only a few blocks away, and is easily within walking distance. She chats idly about the fact that she really likes paper books, even though they take up a ton of space in your house and are hard to move. She's not entirely sure where the ones she used to have have gotten to, between all the moving. Hopefully she can find some of her favorites at either her cousin's or her nephew's house; some of them were really old gifts with margin notes in them.

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Madral likes paper books too!

"There's something comforting about an object with a real physical form that you can hold in your hands and - and see the whole of. Paper books have no secrets. They don't require electrical power to function and they can't be silently corrupted or deleted by accident; when they're damaged, the damage is visible. If civilization collapsed around us, there would still be paper books. They're... dependable."

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"They are! I like that they're - they don't take any other infrastructure to be able to use, as long as you know how to read. Before we had writing we all had to produce our stories and our knowledge over and over again whenever someone needed it, and with digital books you have to make sure you have enough energy on hand to continue accessing them. But you always have a paper book, barring fire or really terrible water damage. Someone recorded a bunch of thoughts and now they're there, they're safe more or less forever, and anyone who has the book can access them. Of course digital books are also pretty good to have, since getting physical books to everyone is sort of a complicated logistical problem even when everyone's using the library system properly - "

And they're at the bookstore.

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"They each have their place," he agrees, stepping inside the store with only a little hesitation. He's reluctant to get in anyone's line of sight if he can avoid it; the first thing he does once he gets inside is take a few quick steps to put some nice tall shelves between him and the cashier.

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She notices this. She considers saying something - he doesn't look that horrible, she's not sure how anyone else can actually have a problem with someone just because their face doesn't look quite like other faces - but she can't think of a way to say it that doesn't sound weird or condescending or like she's making a bunch of assumptions, so she lets it go and heads over to the history section. 

There are lots of books on very high shelves about a multitude of different subjects.

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Madral smiles at the books, and then at Kairda, as though she is somehow personally responsible for the invention of paper.

Then he starts browsing the shelves, glancing at interesting titles and once in a while pulling out a book to flip through it and see if it holds up to the promise of its cover.

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She has somehow very nearly forgotten how excellent books are. She's pretty sure she used to like things, what did she like before everything happened?

She browses through histories and ancient poetry and books about anthropology and linguistics, then goes downstairs to check out what they have in the way of science fiction and roleplaying game guides. Occasionally she calls Madral over when she thinks she's found something really interesting, like a collection of historical letters or an old out of print poetry book that makes really impressive use of forms that she doesn't think she's figured out herself yet.

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Madral is enchanted by her recommendations, and carefully examines each one. The historical letters and the poetry book are both especially good.

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Books are so inherently excellent. (Madral is also excellent. It's so good when people are correct about books.) She doesn't actually have a ton of money with her, and she needs to keep some to pay for food later, but she holds onto the poetry book to buy when she's done.

 

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