1965-10-07 - A question of trust
Summary: Arguing with a monster professor in his office is always a good idea.
Related: None
Theme Song: None
halgrim ambrose 


It's been some time since he set foot on the campus. Dressed in fatigue pants and an innocuous brown winter jacket against the damp chill, Ambrose wears not a baseball cap this time, but a knitted stocking cap in deep maroon with a kitzchy pattern of white snowflakes around its edging. This late at night, he could easily be a student with how his dark hair curls rakishly from the cap before and behind his ears. He gives a passing co-ed a foxy grin, if only to see her tuck chin in a blush and continue along her way, clutching her books to her chest as both walk on, passing ships in the night.

He's headed for the building on campus devoted to Archaeology in particular. At his belt, both guns and his trench knife and, in the pocket of his coat, an erstwhile wallet. Time to return it, seeing as he's had it long enough to be a mild irritance — at least, in his personal opinion. His boots make little sound as he enters the building and makes his way up towards where he thinks the Professor's office might be…at least nearby the Collections rooms. And oh, those? He can't resist, especially one in particular. He slows and softens his steps on approach. Maybe the click of opening door is noted? Maybe not. Regardless, he shuts it and then flicks on half the lights in the room. The reverent sigh is oh-so-appreciative. Hello, old friends…let's simply look and make plans as to who's going home with Uncle Ambrose next.

Halgrim has been hiding out in the collections rooms today, getting some work done on a few new items on loan from the Swiss National Museum (thank you Anna-Lise) in the European prehistory room. It's a place he can safely cough without raising eyebrows or needing to come up with an excuse which won't see him told to take time off. Prior to Ambrose's arrivel it was the only door with a light on behind it in the long hall, and having just finished, Halgrim steps out to see there's another light on in another room. Mesopotamia…is Oliver really back already? Or is it one of his post-docs?

He moves over to the room, knocks on the door before opening it. "Oliver? Aren't you supposed to be in Instanbul?" he calls inside.

Ambrose freezes very still at the sudden voice. He's standing before one of the glass-paned cases displaying the bits and pieces of scrolls in particular and his hands are markedly folded behind his back. Almost primly, he straightens in place as he recognizes just who is speaking at him and turns to give Halgrim a thin smile.

"Given the weather lately, I'd rather be in Istanbul than here. Balmy in comparison to this drab gloom. I thought I'd gotten beyond it once I'd left London," he comments with marked lightness despite the fact that his heart is nearly dancing in his throat. Oh, fun-fun-fun, interacting with this particular man and his shifting golden eyes. "Oh, and I was only looking…not touching."

From the look of it, this is a better night than most for Ambrose to be caught. Halgrim is paler than usual, face drawn like he's dealing with some amount of pain, and he definitely looks like he could use at least a couple of days sleep. There's no visible injuries, but he's wearing a long-sleeved sweater, so anything could be hiding under there. He sees Ambrose and just sighs, shutting his eyes and rubbing them. "Of course you were," he says, steps away from the door, and points out into the hall in an unmistakable order for Ambrose to quit the room, now.

With an immense amount of dignity and an expression clearly projecting that he's humoring the man, Ambrose does indeed quit the room…but only after giving the glass case one last nearly-rakish look of interest. He will return to speak further with those artifacts, believe it. His air of composure is a good mask overtop the knee-jerk inclination to immediately flinch out of the way of Halgrim and he makes a point once within the hallway to take a few more slow steps backwards before apparently planting himself.

"I would say that you look well, Professor, but it would be a lie. Maybe the security guards are correct in suggesting that you should go home. Rest. I'll keep a careful eye on things here." His smile is a little wider now, in a shadow of what could be construed as friendly tease. If only his wariness didn't reflect in his attentive gaze.

Well aware that his activities the previous night have left him looking worse for wear, Halgrim just narrows his eyes and raises his chin in a wane sort of sneer. "I'm sure you will," he says, tone dry. He shuts off the light and relocks the door. There is, oddly, little to no hint of the anger Ambrose has seen before; almost like it's dormant, or lying very quiet.

Halgrim similarly plants himself, between Ambrose and the rest of the rooms. "Are you here to ogle the collections rooms, or do you have some other sort of business here." That definitely sounds like a preamble to being told to get the hell out. Told, though, not chased; he really doesn't look like he has the energy for the later. Not at the moment.

The master-thief watches the battening of the room with an almost bored interest. Oh. Damn. Not a lock. However, it's the underlying lack of emphasis in Halgrim's tone that catches his attention above all else. Hmm. Not even hide nor hair (or feather) of that nearly-subsonic growl of childhood fears. His heartrate lessens and a sense of satisfaction seems to creep into his expression.

"Having appreciated the fine collection stored here at the university, I can now move on to my next task," he informs Halgrim. Reaching into the pocket of his coat, he then presents to the man a small item: his wallet. Note how he holds it almost by fingertips alone, as if wanting very badly to avoid any form of touch with him. "Here. I believe this is yours." And damn straight he knows it is, in fact, Halgrim's wallet — still, he looks guilelessly back at the Professor.

Halgrim snatches the wallet witch a sharp gesture, and oh, there's a little flicker of—something. Nothing like Ambrose has experienced before, and no change in his eyes, yet he can feel it none the less, that ripple of irritation that's like a dire wolf setting its ears back.

"I hope you thoroughly amused yourself with the riveting cont—" He cuts himself off, wincing, and turns aside to cough. He yanks out a handkerchief and coughs into that for a few seconds; when the spasm is over and he pulls it away, there's a hint of dark gray visible as he folds it back up. He spends a few seconds catching his breath, eyes shut.

Ambrose yanks his hand away for the abrupt motion and dares a step back. He only doesn't bolt in retreat because he senses that something is amiss with the golden-eyed man. There, the briefest flash, and then…nothing to be concerned about at all, apparently, not with how Halgrim almost doubles over upon himself. The Jackal frowns despite himself.

"Bloody hell, man, what happened to you?" he asks softly as his eyes rise from the handkerchief to Halgrim's pallid face. "I haven't seen grit like that come up since — " He pauses, wincing at a memory. "Never mind. If you'd prefer to continue our conversation sitting, I won't fault you." What's this, compassion? Maybe…or simply clever social manipulation.

"I'm *fine*," Halgrim snaps through gritted teeth, stuffing the handkerchief back in his pocket. Another, stronger murmur of his usual anger, which he reins in quickly. He opens his eyes, which are clear and dark. No sign of yellow threatening. "There was a fire yesterday and I was helping clean up. We didn't have masks, so we all took a few lungfuls of ash." Another short cough. He grunts in annoyance, because as much as he doesn't want to be caught agreeing with Ambrose on literally anything, he does need to sit down. The beast is mighty; her host, considerably less so.

He steps aside so Ambrose doesn't have to walk too close to him, nods down the hall towards the offices. "My office. It's the only one with a light on right now. My name's even on the door these days."

Keeping his preferred space (an arm's length) from the other man, Ambrose walks towards the room in question. He still has an eye on Halgrim in his usual state of wariness even on approach and he stops outside of the open door

"I have no need to sit, please," and he gestures into the office, towards the chair, as if he had the right to direct the prickly, fire-touched man. "And look at that, indeed, your placard right there." He tap-taps a fingertip lightly on the emblazoned 'LINDQVIST' and nods as if in approval. "How quaint. But yes, about the wallet. You'll find its riveting contents intact, have no fear." All except for the photograph containing one young Halgrim and Rolf; it is not present, though intact.

Halgrim keeps that arm's length between himself and Ambrose as he makes his way into his office and settles in behind the desk. There are a few personal effects, though not many, scattered about: a set of photos Ambrose will recognize as Halgrim's pictures of the longboat prow from Nekor, taken in Munich, framed as a tryptich and hanging on the wall; in a bookcase with top-sliding glass doors is a photo of Halgrim and Anna-Lise, and a cluster of three other men, probably at a conference (it might be less than five years old, given how Halgrim looks in it as compared to now); on top of another bookcase behind Halgrim is a photo of himself and none other than Bran Driscoll, taken some time after Munich to go by their relative appearances. Inside the glass-doored bookcase, flanking the photo with Anna-Lise, are small, soapstone carvings of animals (one seems to be a wolf, another some kind of bird—maybe a raven, and a third is a stag).

He pauses in the act of double-checking his wallet when he finds the photo of himself and Rolf missing, glances up at Ambrose. "Like that one, did you?" He tone is almost droll.

The brunet takes up a projected 'lazy' lean on the doorframe once Halgrim is inside as well as behind the desk. A rather insurmountable object for the standard human, after all, in case Ambrose suddenly needs to bolt away. His eyes rove and linger here and there. Ah, the prow, yes, hello. Anna-Lise gets a fond little smile, wistful in its way — and there's Bran, of all people. The Jackal's eyes linger on his photograph and narrow a touch. Hmm. Someone to look up, considering that he hasn't thought of the young man since he left Munich that year.

His gaze flicks to Halgrim when the man speaks up and his lips then thin a touch. "…I didn't intentionally leave it behind. It must have fallen out in my abode when I was looking through things," he says, absolutely meaning to lie about it right off the bat — no weaknesses before this man, not him.

"Oh, of course," Halgrim says, agreeing easily and with a brittle smile which says he doesn't believe Ambrose any further than he can throw him (which in his current condition wouldn't be far at all). Of course, he's just taking the tack that he can't believe hardly anything Ambrose says. There's also the part where, cursed or not, a thief like Ambrose doesn't do as well as he seems to do by 'accidentally' dropping things.

He continues, "Well, thank you for returning it. Maybe they'll even refund me the cost of the new ID." He smiles, sweet and sarcastic, and puts his wallet away. Coughs again, pulls out his handkerchief to wipe his mouth.

His lips thin further yet, accompanied by the hooding of his eyes, as Ambrose is subject to the response to his lie. Ah, well…can't fool them all. He seems to glance aside in respect when Halgrim gets to coughing — if no one sees you do it, it doesn't happen? — and then looks back to him again after the handkerchief has done its work.

"I would think that they might refund you, yes. After all, you're well within the reissuing period and no doubt you're on good terms with the staff about this place." He says this only a little drily. "Did you go buy the watchmaker coffee after all? He's surprisingly tough for his size. I was impressed," the Jackal comments, seemingly out of the blue…having no idea that Elmo has not yet spoken with Halgrim about the bar fight.

Halgrim leans back in his chair, studying Ambrose with a thoughtful expression. "It was my state ID, actually, and as an immigrant my relationship with them is, as you might expect, precarious." He takes up a pen and begins to turn it in his hand. "I did, yes, though we largely discussed how he's been." He frowns slightly when Ambrose calls Elmo tough. "He's quite resilient," he agrees, tone almost neutral. "Given who he is and all he's been through, that's hardly surprising."

Ambrose manages to look the tiniest bit contrite at the reminder of the state ID; a master forgery artist in government-based identification can appreciate the awkward state of being without when such an ID is necessary. He tilts his head to hear precisely how coffee went and nods accordingly.

"Very resilient," he agrees, reaching up to scratch at the line of his jaw as he adds, eyes averted off to one side and looking at nothing in particular, "I had no idea that his…mutant abilities stemmed to acting the part of grabbing a handful of electrical fencing. The gentleman who swung first at us in the bar regretted his decision." He laughs a few times quietly before glancing back to Halgrim, his teeth and grin bright, fully expecting to hear a similar amount of enjoyment taken in the tale.

Halgrim raises his chin as Ambrose starts describing the bar brawl, turning his pen over in his hands. His expression gradually takes on a sort of amused patience; it's the classic pose of a professor waiting while a peer or student digs themselves a nice, deep hole.

When Ambrose stops, he sets down his pen and says, "Well, I like that you made certain to point out that you didn't start this bar fight which I," he raises his eyebrows, "had no idea of," his expression becomes shaprer, "because it tells me that you took away things from our conversation which I didn't specify, and that says we understand each other quite well. For example," he tilts his head, and his tone hardens, "that if something happens to Elmo in your general vicinity, I'm going to assume you were somehow involved, if not *directly* to blame."

Hmm. That's not a smile returned at him. The Englishman visibly draws up in his lean against the doorframe; almost straightens up out of it entirely. Once Halgrim is done speaking, the brunet's expression has shifted into something stormy. He sucks at a canine tooth beneath his lip until he finally finds what he believes to be the proper response to all of that elucidation.

"That makes you a bloody assumptive bastard, Professor," he informs the man in a tone nearly successfully forced to calm. Something's been prickled. "I made certain that the other gentlemen involved in the little spat regretted their decision to attempt it in the first place. Your watchmaker was in good hands," he says, tone gone silky and sickeningly sweet. "And I'll have you know that it was his smart mouth which encouraged the first swing as is."

Halgrim is working up to being good and mador, as mad as he can get when he's at such a low ebbwhen the last thing Ambrose says takes him entirely off guard, and the anger that was threatening transforms into a sharp, short laugh. He rubs at his eyes. "Ah, of course it was," he says, trying not to break into additional laughter; it'll trigger another coughing fit for sure. He spends a few seconds getting hold of himself.

"I was just like him at that age," he says, "so I can believe he made certain to escalate the situation into something you were sucked into." A few seconds clearing his throat, then, "Given who you are, Atherton, and what he means to me it's an assumption I have to make. I'm not particularly concerned with being fair when it comes to his well-being." He's completely unapologetic about that. "However," now he almost looks contrite, "thank you, for doing that."

Ambrose continues giving the other man the flat, cold look even after the gratitude offered towards him. He then looks away and shrugs, almost rejecting it outright with the uncaring and dismissive motion.

"You're bloody welcome," he mutters, half-meaning it. "I can assure you, on top of all of this rubbish, that it was a chance encounter. I did not search out your watchmaker and nor do I intend to but for matters of repairing items." His gaze flicks back to Halgrim and his tone gets drier yet. "He is nothing to me but a man behind a counter, tinkering with housegoods. I am not out to jeapordize his life in any manner. Thank you, so kindly, for your faith in me." At this point, his words are dessicated. "You and the rest of humanity, you continue to thrill me. Bravo, Professor — what a heart you have." And he even golf-claps quietly once or twice to accent his point.

"I find it interesting you lump me in with the rest of humanity," Halgrim says, raising an eyebrow, "considering they wouldn't do me that kindness." He lets out a slow breath, looks away. "Not any more than they would you." He fiddles with his pen, rolling it around on his desk. Presently, he says, "I can't entirely trust you, Atherton, as much as I might like to."

He meets Ambrose's gaze, expression somewhat resigned. "And as you already know, starting over is a difficult thing—losing something after you have, is in many ways, worse than the first time." He doesn't expand on that, hoping he doesn't need to. "I don't offer this as an excuse, simply an explanation. I can't afford to have something happen to him." And you, are something that can happen; oh, are you ever. (But he doesn't say that.)

The Jackal ceases to glare a hole in one of the cabinets within the office in order to give Halgrim another scowl. "I'm not about to claim that nothing will happen to him when he's in my presence because I'm sure as hell not his guardian, but nor will I let harm come to him when I can avert it. He's useful and I might need his assistance at some point in repairing another watch. That is the extent of my involvement — but let me get one bloody thing straight, Lindqvist," and he points a finger at the man behind his desk.

"You claim you can't trust me, well and fine, that, but that's pot calling the kettle black. You and your cadre of possessing spirits, puh. Half of the time, I'm waiting to see if I have reason to draw on you and I haven't yet. I lump you in with humanity because just like the rest of the world, you'd turn on me in a heartbeat to save yourself. In my case? I'd just knock you on your ass and leave you for a good samaritan to find. I don't - kill," he emphasizes tightly. "Not anymore. Not if I can help it. We could be allies, Professor, not at odds."

'Useful' and 'won't let harm come to him' are really about all Halgrim could have asked for, so he's entirely calm as Ambrose lays out that part. The rest, though…

His jaw sets, and there's the reaction Ambrose knows so well, the distinct sense that there is much more to this exhausted, pale man behind a desk that he can see, and whatever it is comes from a time when humanity huddles in caves in the dark. It doesn't linger; Halgrim's hand forms a fist and he squelches it almost immediately. There's a brief glimmer of yellow in his eyes, nothing more. He lets out a sharp breath, sags in his chair.

"No, I can't be trusted," he agrees, voice hoarse. "Maybe some day but not right now. Everything in my life is a nail and she's a hammer. Even to the things which aren't problems." Having gotten that out, he takes a shuddering breath. "I don't think I would turn on you, Atherton, or at least I like to think I wouldn't. You're one of only two people who has any idea what this is like. But I can't really know, with her — I don't have much of a say."

Even as the flicker of gold comes and goes through the man's eyes, Ambrose does his damndest to remain stalwart. It means his heart clawing up out of his ribcage and into his throat again. One does not run from supernatural predators if you can bluff them down, rule number one. The readied twitch of his hand towards one of the revolvers at his hips is averted only once he sees the balance reinstated. The cold and calculating half of his brain makes careful note of the amount of self-control present, even in the face of apparent physical discomfort to the host body of this collection of yellow-eyed spirits.

He shifts in his lean on the wall as a result of adrenaline quickening his system. Even so, Halgrim's agreement in terms of proposed trustworthiness seems to take much of the wind out of the sails of the Jackal's anger. He appears to settle hackles even as he stands there, some of the edges smoothing out of his posture, though not entirely. "I am thrilled to hear you say that you'd consider not turning on me. I would hate to have to come to blows. When you're not being a cantankerous, over-protective curmudgeon, you can be tolerable." He smirks, knowing it's not a full compliment. "…but I do understand," he then emphasizes with a noted decrease in animosity. "Not entirely, but in a way. Trust me in that, at least."

Halgrim reassembles his composure and regards Ambrose again. If he looked exhausted before, he seems ready to tip over now. How many times has he simply found a comfortable couch in the department office rather than go home? (Graduate student habits don't die easily.) With a rueful little smile, he says, "I hate to break it to you, but being cantankerous, over-protective, and a curmudgeon came with the original me, and have only been worsened by my current situation, so you can expect me to be one or all of those things at any time."

He leans back in his chair, tipping his head back to the ceiling for a moment, sighs. "Kanske du gor," he murmurs to himself, sits up again. "It's useful for Elmo to know someone like you, given what he," a corner of his mouth twitches in a smile, "gets himself into. I don't begrudge him, or you, that." He takes a deep breath, lets it out. "Allies is a workable prosposition. Maybe." He arches a brow. "Of course, that probably requires us to at least take something resembling 'trust' under consideration."

"Precisely," the Jackal agrees with a faint smile and lift of his hand from where it lies across his bicep. "I am handy in a pinch." These puns are probably terrible and he knows it given the darkly-amused glint in his eyes. "And allies is an entirely workable proposition — joining together for a common purpose or mutual benefit. There need be no explicit agreement on anything but our work towards…perhaps…simply staying alive. As bitter as that may sound…but, still," and he sighs quietly, continuing to watch Halgrim behind his desk. "I think we can at least agree on that, if you refuse to place even a modicum of trust in me?"

Halgrim takes to staring down at his desk, tapping his fingers restlessly. It might have sounded bitter to him over a year ago, maybe even as recently as a month ago. Not now, though. Not after the previous night; not after the revelations of his first attempt at meditating (nevermind that subsequent times had been fine). Staying alive was a low bar, yet becoming harder and harder to negotiate.

"I can agree on the mutual purpose of staying alive." He raises his eyes to Ambrose's for a moment, looks out over his office. He's quiet for a time, then, "An acquaintance of mine told me it was difficult to get people to understand the truly molten fear that inhabits a person who can't trust themselves. What, or who, can you really trust, if you can't trust yourself?" He narrows his eyes for a second, frowns, shakes his head. "Trust will take longer," he tells Ambrose, frankly but not unkindly. "But if you have any sense — " his expression indicates he's sure Ambrose has plenty of that, or at least enough for this, " — you'd need a great deal of proof you can trust me. And such a thing can't be other than mutual, in the end. Not for people like us."

His eyes rise from the small movements of fingertips upon wood to meet those across the desk. A small nod to Halgrim's consensus in remaining alive with odds stacked against them, fleeting and socially invisible as they may seem at first. Good. A little decision in his favor. He's not surprised to hear that he's untrusty and sneers the faintest at it. Ah, well…he didn't plan to work at finding neutrality with the professor, not at first. The mild wag of Ambrose's head from side to side communicates a sense of dissent even before he opines, once Halgrim's done with his thought,

"Eh…you'd be surprised how little trust I require in the end from those who choose to remain in my acquaintanceship. Whether it matters or not, my worldly education in parley came in Shanghai beyond the end of the first world war. We didn't require trust, not in the circles that I ran within, but we did require an understanding that mutual purpose, once betrayed, was unforgivable. Do I require trust from you? I'll accept it. Will I be surprised if you turn on me? No." A shrug, his expression gone neutral. "You require trust from me, however? So be it. How do I earn it?"

It's really not a question anyone has ever asked Halgrim, and he doesn't know how to answer it without some thought. The answer to the paralogous question 'how did you come to trust anyone else' is fraught with peril, at least in terms of informing a response to Ambrose. He can't apply the same guidelines as applied to Adam or John or Morbius or Jeb or Elmo. None of them fit this interaction, not by a long shot.

He makes his 'professor in really deep thought over a thorny question' face as he turns all of this over in his head. And as in all things academic, when there's not really an answer, he just comes clean. "To be honest, I'm not totally sure." He laughs softly. "But, I can agree that I don't have to trust you to work towards staying alive." Ah, of course. That's how. He adds, "And that itself can be the foundation for trust. Eventually."

There's a small part of Ambrose that takes great delight in the severely concentrated expression that the professor puts forth for some time. It brings back faint and foggy memories of enjoying those moments when his own tutor found himself wound into a logical conundrum, allowing a far younger Atherton to indulge in idle fantasy and wishes to be beyond consulate walls, off and running the streets with his city-friends.

Another inclination of his head and most sincerely yet, the Jackal replies, "And so be it. It can be the foundation if our present situation requires it as such. Still, know that if there is one thing I hold in higher respect even than trust, it is honor. If you find yourself in danger or in need of assistance, and I find myself in your vicinity? It would be honorable to offer aid. In this, I hold firm. Call me archaic, but…in some cases, it has more worth than trust itself."

Halgrim sighs, runs his hands through his hair. "I have to assume you mean aid of the more mundane variety," he says, tone dry, "since when I find myself under any kind of immediate threat, aid tends to come very swiftly, and violently," he raises his eyebrows, "from my own corner, and it's safer if everyone" he pauses, corrects himself, "or nearly everyone, steers clear of me until it's resolved."

He clears his throat,looking almost uncomfortable with the offer. "Just the same, I'll keep it under advisement," he says. Then he sighs, makes a face, relents. "As much as I can't offer anything other than…" he waves a hand around himself, "academic, aid, consider the same offered." He narrows his eyes. "But not, with *obtaining*, anything, from this campus, or any museum."

"Eh-heh-heh…damn," and Ambrose snaps his fingers mockingly. "And here I thought you'd renege on your stance about my task at hand. Fine…I shall remain classically present on campus if necessity comes to be — and it hasn't," he emphasizes before there can be any snark. "I have been hunting elsewhere as of late. I thank you for your offer of academic aid, however. It might come to be useful in the future. I may need someone to authenticate what I bring in a knapsack, for example." He gives Halgrim a thin, almost smug smile before seeming to think twice of it. His face smoothes out. "I will inform you that what you may become, in your rage, may not be the worst thing I have seen in my years. I know better to linger when chances are not in my favor, however, so I can assure you that you will not find me present until your issue is resolved."

"I'm so glad to hear it hasn't," Halgrim says with an acidic smile. That fades for some internal reflection; he can't deny the thought of identifying random finds is something he's sorely missed, even if he can't condone doing it to things which were obtained anywhere other than in the field. He'll just have to cross that bridge if they ever comes to it. (Who's he kidding — Ambrose probably doesn't deal in ancient European pieces.)

He can't hold back a wry smile. "It might not be. But if it is, well, you won't be the first, or the last, to think so." He pauses, adds, "And we—*she*, won't know who you are." His expression becomes one of frank honesty. "So don't expect any exchange we've had, any understanding we've arrived at, to matter. It won't."

A sigh, almost remorseful. "Yes…I figured as such, in regards to your possessing spirits. The damndest thing, the amnesiac state of shifting between the minds. Really, you should work towards a state of symbiosis. It was one the few ways I saw the possessed remain…" Ambrose pauses and then looks almost embarrassed. "…sane," he still finishes despite the potential faux-pas in insinuation. Then something seems to occur to him. He eyebrows at the professor. "I'm sorry, but did I hear you identify your collective as 'she'…?"

"Yes, she." Halgrim says it almost absently, like it's a fact he's so used to now that it doesn't occur to him it might seem unique to anyone else. He grimaces, waves a hand dismissively. "There's no need to mince words, Atherton, I was well on my way to insanity before—" he stops, wary of revealing too much (or overprotective?), and decides on, "they found me. I had weeks, maybe, until I was killed or worse." The tired look he gives Ambrose says this isn't a time he cares to think back on.

"There are, things we need to address before we can get to that. And I'd be lying if I said I was in any hurry. Of course I'd rather something better than this, but if we do…" It takes him a moment to work up to saying it. He folds his arms, winces as the movement pulls at one of his burns under the shirt. He's defensive, almost. "If we come to an arrangement, there's the unavoidable problem of how much I lose, in order to gain." He taps his fingers on his other arm, the uninjured one. "Where do I stop being me, and start being," he shrugs, "someone else."

"A proper conundrum… I hope you have the correct aid in your quest to solve it. You do seem sincerely convinced that your collective is dangerous. I believe you." Now? After all of the explanation and hemming and hawing and even the flash of those eyes to amber and back? Maybe it was saying it aloud that cemented it in his psyche. "I would share with you names, but unfortunately, those who I once knew who could offer you aid are now either deceased or have been lost to time itself." Ambrose then scratches at the back of his neck, where the knitted cap is pressing hair against his nape with itchy insistence.

"How much of yourself would you lose to keep your loved ones alive?" He asks the question softly, knowing how personal it likely is and attempting to respect this in turn. "Would you quit this place? Take to the winds and disappear into the wilds? Perhaps that may help you in countenancing a potential arrangement."

Halgrim grunts; if he minds the personal nature of the question, it's not apparent. "I already tried that," he says, and tilts his head a moment to indicate the present situation. "The reality is, the people who I need help from are here, and," he raises his hands, "in similar places. Not in the wilderness. Or, not that I know of, or ever ran into." And there's the part where going to any druids would probably not work out in his favor, at least, not if his current understanding of things is accurate. (But he's not going to mention that.)

"I do have people helping me, but thank you. And they're doing their best. Certainly more than I could have expected." He scratches his beard. "I'm still alive, after all, which," his expression tightens, "as we've discussed, isn't a given for people like us."

He breathes, deep and even, as a wave of exhaustion passes over him. "I should probably get home," he says, rubs at his eyes. "Which means you," he gives Ambrose a look, "will need to leave."

"No, not a given," he murmurs quietly in agreement, mostly to himself. It is excrutiatingly odd to find himself having grown even more sympathetic of this man's plight, so similar is it in terms of his own cursed existance.

However, even as Ambrose is gearing up for a mildly smart comment about this presumptive means of shooing him off-campus, he hears a distant sound. A door opening and closing. Leaning backwards a touch as to crane his head and look down the hallway, he then gives Halgrim an annoyed scowl.

"Your bloody security officers are timely to an infuriating extent," he informs the professor. A blown sigh and he takes a step back into the hallway. "At least I can count my check-list notched. You have your wallet and I…" A side-glance to the Collections room holding that of Mesopotamia briefly before back to Halgrim. He looks…questionably innocent now. "It isn't Lindesfarne," he points out in sharp cheek. Another door opening and apparently, that's the impetus to really make him wish to leave. "Don't be an idiot and burn the midnight oil, hmm? You won't make progress on anything at all if you kill yourself over some old book." A flash of nightshine in his eyes even as he winks. "Good night, professor," he says by way of farewell before moving to disappear beyond the lines of the doorway.

Halgrim allows himself a satisfied, victorious smile at the sound of a security guard who is, in all fairness, coming to urge him home. "I suppose that's what happens when rare artifacts go missing," he says in the fakest conciliatory tone he can manage, and gets up, gritting his teeth as another burn complains. He should probably see what the alligator sisters can offer for that sort of thing.

His jaw sets, in pithy irritation rather than any real anger. "Watch yourself, Atherton, just because I'm willing to turn a blind eye to some things doesn't mean I'm going to cover for you." He sniffs at the suggestion that burning the midnight oil is idiocy, doesn't dignify it with a retort. The approach of security is proof enough he won't get to.

Still, as Ambrose departs, Halgrim says, quietly enough that it could be missed, "Good night." He takes a moment to to wait and listen for any altercations before collecting his things in anticipation of being hustled out of the building.

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