1964-06-25 - Cow Tipping and Flapjacks
Summary: Clark and Vesper meet up on campus again
Related: If there are no related logs, put 'None', — please don't leave blank!
Theme Song: None
clark vesper 

They keys of the typewriter clack against the paper and every so often it whirs back to the beginning of the line. Eventually Clark pinches the bridge of his nose in frustration. He's back to writing about school functions and Mets scores. Not everything can be earth shattering. Sometimes a writer has to pay the bills. He puts his story in the folder for editorial review and sighs. He checks the time and it's 9pm on a Sunday.

The night is oddly cool for the season as Clark, with a bookbag slung over his shoulder, tries to think up another job to pay for the catering one he was fired for.

NYU's sprawling campus is a fascinating place, entangled with history, purpose, and the cutting edge technology. Research keeps Vesper up at the oddest hours. She's an owl in a sea of pigeons and mallards. Birds of a feather flock together. Women in biology are rare, in genetics almost unknown. The one here carries a folio full of X-rays in a manila envelope, stamped by a dozen different handwritten and typed signatures. Her thumb worries the corner. Nothing very earth-shattering except everything, copies of DNA sequencing that hasn't even broken across the Atlantic. Some of it makes no sense. She sighs and walks her way through the commons, her flats grinding against the concrete.

The brunette might be mistaken as staring blankly at the sky, trying in futility to find the stars. Clark won't be ignored for long.

Once Clark realizes it's Vesper, his looks turns into more of a peer as he turns slightly to walk towards her. "Vesper? Hey, it's Clark," he says, not knowing if she'll remember his name. "From the rain?" he adds awkwardly. He reslings his book bag as if there's something he needs to do with his hands.

Vesper is the only friend he's really met since he's been on campus, so if he seems eager to talk, that's probably why.

The glitter in the sky, bedimmed by so many streetlights, proves somehow lacking. Vesper looks away, tearing her attention from the faded outlines of old friends studied in detail. Up there a big bear follows after a shambling young cub. A chained queen suffers punishment for sacrificing her daughter and disobeying the gods. The planets move, unseen thanks to New York being wholly consumed with its own importance. Midwestern accents definitely catch her attention more than others, someone unused to the dialects from all over the country. A blink and she instills a polite smile for Clark, one anchored to a bit more honest depth when she sees him. "The young man out to spend time in the laverie," she says, gentle. Vesper doesn't tease people (much). Her French accent makes her indescribably herself. Hugging her manila envelope to her chest, she nods. "Bonsoir. It's good to see you again. Have you enjoyed your weekend so far?"

"Actually, I sort of got fired," Clark says as he gets a bit of a mischievous grin. "It was a catering job, and I made the wrong people mad. Other than that I've just been writing for the school paper all weekend. What about you? Burning the midnight oil?" he asks, turning it back on her. A classic Kent trait, especially after the family took in an alien: keep the conversation on and about the other person. Given that it's a girl from France, that might be to be expected.

"Fired? Ah, I am most sorry to hear of your bad luck," Vesper replies. It's not a simple automatic phrase but one clearly imparting a degree of regret. "How did you anger them? I hope it will not dampen your prospects elsewhere, oui?" Her hair is pulled back in the same chignon, and switch out the colours of her striped shirt and capri pants, she looks remarkably similar to their previous encounter. They have the same school of politeness in their upbringing, the same readiness to listen rather than speak. "Research takes focus. I forget in the lab if it's day or night sometimes. Do you find that when you study, you forget the time?"

"Well, I sort of made a client mad. It's alright, though, it was the right thing to do." Clark, meanwhile is dressed in a blue flannel shirt, opened with a red undershirt. "Research? That sounds like a lot of fun. Honestly, for the classes I have now, I just try and get done as fast as I can. I don't think I'm used to this sort of work load. What are you researching?"

Vesper nods, the slight dip of her chin to the boatneck collar of her shirt showing a thin chain necklace. It's not terribly valuable, but a demarcation of metal against fair skin translucent enough to show blue veins and the cotton. "Research can be great fun, though it is not always the joy of mixing chemicals and causing smelly clouds." Spoken like someone who spans chemistry in her favourite things. "Are you taking any science classes? I am currently researching the structure of nucleotide bases in the structure of DNA. It is rather fussy. Often research requires much writing and testing formulas, setting up equipment, and measuring before I have any fun. Like cooking, actually. It would not be something to rush."

She moves in step beside Clark as long as he walks. Should he not, she'll stand across from him in polite distance. "You will get used to the workload. How do you find it? Too easy for you, or too difficult?"

"No, I'm taking a math class, a literature class and a reading class. Just trying to get some gen-eds out of the way so I can get into my major as soon as possible," Clark replies as he notices her necklace and the thinness of her skin. It's rude of him, but he worries for her health. It really is none of his business. "I like the actual work fine, there's just so much of it. I'm not sure the standards in Smallville were quite so high as here. This is like another world in a lot of ways."

"Maths, excellent. I am not sure what 'gen-ed' is?" The puzzling over this will take her a moment to properly consider, hedging through possibilities and coming up empty-handed. Vesper's brow spiderwebs in thought, softening away. What may be none of his business goes without comment, the girl a master at turning the other cheek or simply blind ignorance. Being practically convent-raised does not help her in this situation, any more than inexperience with certain parts of American culture do. Clark's quite safe from any rude glares or angry nose wrinkles, or the half-dozen other ways young women generally express their displeasure. She simply isn't bothered or displeased.

Besides. He's such a nice young man.

"Did your teachers tell you how to prepare for the workload?" she asks. Not one to dole out advice without being invited, she treads a careful path. "The professors and advisors sometimes list their hours on the syllabus, and always at their doors, too."

"Oh, general education. The classes you have to take before you start getting into your major," Clark clarifies as he continues to walk along. He missed his turn for his dorm a few paces ago, but doesn't seem to notice or maybe care. "Honestly I think they would just tell me to make more time. I'm just busy, or lazy? I don't know. But it's a lot of work. I guess anything that matters in life probably is."

"Ah, the required courses rather than the electives. We call them something slightly different in France." Vesper isn't much at pains to explain the fundamentals to someone who might not find an interest. She nods to a few passing professors and turns along one of the other paved paths, the shadows of the leafy trees a welcome addition. Even the tiny bit of additional oxygenation eases her capacity to breathe unencumbered, though it's largely an unconscious effect little registered. "Non, not lazy! I cannot imagine that is true for you. A new student in his first semesters may want for a little guidance and help. They know all of us were new once." She shakes her head a little. "Have you heard of the study groups that meet in the library? Maybe your department, too. The university has orientations, but the study groups are very good for meeting others. Or you learn who is helpful and stick to them like a… burr?"

"Do you miss it? France, I mean." Clark asks. "I'm not sure I could make it in a different country." In truth, he returns to Smallville often, especially when his father needs a hand with something. The trip doesn't take long for him. "That's good advice. I think something like that would be a good way for me to meet people once the school year starts in earnest." He grins at her use of figurative language. "Yeah, a burr is a spiky thing found in weeds. Sticks to your socks."

Vesper's silence speaks for itself, the contemplative lines a smooth mask that slowly aligns her features. In profile, she seems calm enough. Her thoughts sail off in a ketch for the sunset-drenched horizon of memory. "Sometimes more than others. You always feel the call for home. Do you not miss your Kansas and the small town life? The pleasure of the countryside and the fields?" She can guess what a farm is like. They're not too different, Gallic or American. "Do you find New York like a different country? It can seem so to me. New streets. Things I have not heard of. But that is, in its way, also very exciting. New things to try, new people to meet. And the people here are wonderful, most of them. They have much to teach us and much to contribute. Everyone has something marvelous and unique about them worth discovering." She smiles back at him. "I can help with study groups if you take any science courses. Some are not my specialty. Biology, chemistry, astronomy, physics? I can help."

Clark can't help but nod at the thought of missing Kansas and small town life. The cost of living is a lot different here. And the way people interact with others in quick and superficial way. Part of it entrances him. Part of it bothers him. "I guess you're right. It is like a different country than what I'm used to." Oh wow, that's quite an offer. Especially given that he has an biology class first semester. "You know, I'm going to take you up on that offer."

Just wait until he encounters the subways!

Vesper smiles. "Good. The best way to learn is to teach. I would not mind seeing how you fare in the coming semester." Her statement is quietly hopeful rather than snide or rude. It's almost categorically impossible for her to adopt that kind of attitude at the moment, not without baguette-snapping, wine-spilling offenses done and her back to a wall. She so much resembles a doe, liquid dark eyes and careful about where she steps. A startling noise will probably send her bounding for cover. Perhaps. "You could pretend this is like a different country. Then when you travel, Monsieur Kent, it will not feel so very strange. It helped me to remember we all share many cares here. To study and do well, have fun and eat, sleep, shower, all the important things."

Something in what she says strikes him. He has been so sheltered during his life; so protected. So worried his family was they never took him on vacations. Despite his speed he has seen so little of the world. It's not their fault. They had their reasons and their reasons were good ones. It must have been very hard for his parents to let him even go this far. Yet, there's a yearning for more.

"I like how you threw shower in there," he says with a laugh. "Are you implying Americans smell bad?"

"Non! My country's perfumes are legendary and so our love for good smells. Baking bread, coffee, the best of soaps and leather," Vesper can count them off with a quiet wistfulness. "Pain au chocolat, the very best of treats in the morning. It's chocolate and light pastry, magnificent." Her smile is the softer candor of a sunbeam slanting through an open window rather than something brassy and demanding, far rarer. A door opens for Clark with any patience, touching the true nature of the young woman rather than simply a student or a fellow fish out of water. Her vibrant personality is under there, but not in the first chapter and verse of any book, any poem. "But showers are not something special to you? Is there not a satisfying feeling of the hot water and being clean? I think we all share that in common. Or baths. Not always with big heaps and heaps of bubbles, either."

"Sounds more like a dessert than a breakfast," Clark says with a smile. "A really good dessert." Clark seems to regard her anew as she speaks with vigor, but becomes embarrassed a bit as the topic of conversation, bathing, is inherently one that an 18 year old should not, in the interest of being in polite company, be thinking about when using someone like Vesper as a visual. "Right, I mean." He swallows, laughs, and shakes his head. "I mean, they're great. Yeah."

"A good dessert can be breakfast, especially with coffee." Her smile carefully flows away back into a polite cant. Vesper crinkles the envelope with her fingers adjusting their grip, and the various buildings flowing by are nearly forgotten. They can do six laps of Washington Square Park and she might notice sometime to the end. Easy to forget things. "You have the summer semester ahead of you. Will you look for new work then?"

"I guess the difference between p-ehn o- shocola and flapjacks on the farm isn't down to the amount of sugar," Clark admits. When she asks about his work plans he shakes his head, "I'm going to keep writing for the school newspaper as long as they'll have me. But I'd like to pick up something else. It helps with the bills back home."

Flapjacks. Someone please explain this translation to a girl inherently familiar with crepes and English breakfasts, also known as inedible fried concoctions heavy on questionable contents that usually do not belong to breakfasts or beside one another on a plate. Continental is popular for a reason.

"You write for the newspaper? What sort of articles?" This catches her attention and imagination, especially in light of the competitive nature of it and, well, age. Not like much separates them, but still. Vesper's eyebrows lift and her eyes widen, curiosity painted all over.

"Flapjacks. You know," Clark says, as he senses her confusion. "They're pancakes. Fried batter and topped with maple syrup. You guys don't have those in France?" The land of Jeanne D'Arc and Le Coq Hardi may have just fallen a peg in Clark's book. Probably not, though, but it is cause for concern.

He nods as the topic turns to the newspaper. "I do. I just started, really. Most of it is just fluff, but a lot of people liked an article I wrote about Lex Luthor."

"Pancakes. Yes, we do. They are very good with a little bit of butter and berries too. Or sometimes sugar powder?" The crack of the confectionary world, icing sugar. Vesper laughs very softly. "These names are all new for me. Sometimes I have to read very carefully."

Someone now needs to introduce her to a newspaper and that will count as an excellent bit of advancement on the world. Especially given her genetics predispose her for being all but a living conduit for information, in a way. "You wrote about Madame Luthor? Interesting, and how did you end up doing this? Are you acquainted?"

Clark laughs, "Well, to be honest." The way he begins is a bit sheepish. There's a smile on his face, but there's nervousness too. "Turns out that catering job was at an event for Miss Luthor. I was supposed to be her personal valet. I watched her do some pretty ruthless things and decided the world needed to be told. Or, at least, the students of our school anyways."

The slow reappraisal of the man follows pieces of the puzzle dropping into place, an image forming. Truth told, Vesper needs a few moments to adequately arrange them into a formation that makes any sense. Once she does…

Laughter. Soft, a spring shower rather than any downpour, but shared all the same. Her hand covers her mouth to avoid lending an impression she laughs at someone. Egads, never. Rather the gentling corners of her eyes crinkled up and the rounding apples of her cheeks carry their reverent mirth for a few seconds. Of course she'll cough to the end. One can still be amused. "Oh my. You have a ring of truth to those words, Monsieur Kent! I think it would be hard for anyone to question the source or insight your piece brought."

Clark chuckles, clearly happy he made her laugh at least, "Yeah, well, I'm going to be eating styrofoam for the next week, so I hope that it was worth it. That's a journalist's life, right?" He lets out a sigh as he sees the time on one of the buildings. "You know, I really don't want to go, but I should. I have class tomorrow. Maybe we can get together for coffee and to watch flying people again. You can teach me how to speak with that accent, it'll be great."

"The responsibility of the press is truth. They have no easy task, oui?" Vesper blows out a soft breath, turning around to assess their whereabouts. Having lost any sense of her surorundings except the general direction, it may surprise her how far they've walked, or how little. "Without their questions, we have only answers given to us. Critical reflection and constructive examination are important for any society to run well and the populace to participate in the country. You do a small part of that with your story. Sometimes the response is negative, I'm certain. They must sound very unhappy when you write something unpopular or unflattering. Do not halt your pen when you tell truth based on observation, careful thinking, and reflection. The fifth estate plays its part to keeping us all free, safe, and informed."

Then her cheeks flare immediately pink and she ducks her gaze. It's too late with the words out and the encouragement presented like a flower. Eating styrofoam and a bit of admiration is something, no? And this is why France went to revolution one hundred seventy five years prior. Vive le France! "I'd like coffee again. You can show me how to write in English or what people do in Kansas." She looks up briefly. "Clark."

Clark chuckles, "If you really want to know what we do in Kansas, Vesper, I'll have to take you cow tipping."

"On second thought, better not."

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