1965-08-15 - Concentrating the hour
Summary: In a room full of stuff, a conversation, about more stuff.
Related: None
Theme Song: None
elmo halgrim 

The first day of the fall semester is fast approaching, and that means anything Halgrim wants to get done which isn't related to making a syllabus and prepping his classes is quickly running out of time. His office — which is really an exalted closet — is in a state of barely contained chaos; both of his visitors' chairs labor under stacks of criss-crossed papers, the desk is a series of carefully arranged piles which won't survive contact with a healthy sneeze, and the bookcases are double and in some cases triple stacked with texts signed out from the library.

At least summer session is done, which means he doesn't have to dress up, and can settle for a simple henley in dark blue and plain, dark brown khakis. He's proof-reading something, going quickly and making comments with swift, draftsman-like precision. The door to his office sits propped open to keep it from becoming an oven in the late summer day heat; under the bold black number stenciled on the glass a piece of paper has been taped to the door, with his name and departments scribbled on it.

Elmo has discovered that Halgrim isn't on any of the official placards or directories. He's resorted to asking on campus, while towing around his dolly with the theodolites' case strapped to it. "Hey, pal! Where's Archeology? Thanks!" And "Hey, this Archeology? Lookin' for Halgrim. Yeah, he's a professor here. …What's he teach? I dunno, ain't it archeology? There's more than one KIND?" And "Lookin' for Professor Halgrim's office, got a delivery. Great, thanks pal." And eventually he gets there. He knocks on the doorframe, leaning in and hoisting his eyebrows wearily at Halgrim. "Hey, delivery. Got your girls here."

Halgrim glances between the papers and organizers on his desk and ahs, softly. "Excellent," he says, getting up and extricating himself from the maze with more agility than someone his size has a right to. He pauses at the door to his office, looks back behind himself, frowns. "Probably best to take them to the equipment storage right now…" He raises his eyebrows at Elmo. "If I tote them there, would you want to join me? We can have a look at the back room where we keep the collections that aren't public, and where they prep things, if you're interested."

Elmo's wearing the 'greaser uniform' today. Jeans, t-shirt, steel-toed boots. He looks like a miniature James Dean, if James Dean was a beaky Jewish kid. Without waistcoat and button-down in his favorite bright colors, it's suddenly a lot more obvious how skinny he is.

Pulling out a paisley hanky, he wipes his forehead and grins lopsided at Halgrim. "Love to. Is it cooler there? No, don't tell me, I don't wanna be disappointed ahead of time." He tips the dolly back on its wheels. "Age before beauty," he gestures Hal ahead of him, teasing.

With a small smile and a glint in his eye, Halgrim says, "Mmmm, and grace before youth." He takes out a keyring which is monstrously overburdened and somehow finds the right one to lock the door, turns the dolly around, and begins tretracing some of Elmo's steps. "It will definitely be cooler in the storage area — they have to keep the in good condition. And it's usually what people like the most, in my experience; all the things not current on display in the museums or in the department."

A woman Halgrim's age, or a little older, is coming out of one of the many (considerably larger) offices as they pass; she's small and birdlike, her auburn hair shot through with gray, and has dark eyes in a long, kind face. As they pass she speaks to Halgrim in German; she's clearly using the Berlin dialect, and chastising him for…something about still being in the office. He replies in an assurance that this is the last thing he's doing, though doesn't stop. She says something else, her friendly manner taking on a strident undertone; it's an order for him to go home. He sighs and calls back to her over his shoulder (it's a nice no, but a no). She says one last thing — a threat, something about maintenance and the lock on his door, and he waves a hand at her.

Once they're out of earshot, he says to Elmo, "Apologies — Marta's a brilliant anthropologist, and convinced she's my surrogate older sister. I can only assume Jennifer is out of town and that's why she's harassing me instead of her."

Elmo trots along, steering the dolly expertly (he didn't let Halgrim take it), like any non-mutant, non-vigilante handyman. Marta pulls his attention because at first he thinks she's speaking Yiddish. When he realizes it's German, he huffs to himself in amusement as she scolds Halgrim. "She's right, yannow, you probably should go home sometime. I know because all my friends yell at me for workin' too hard, too."

Halgrim sighs dramatically. "I have things to do, and it's not like I've much else to occupy myself with in the mean time. Also my apartment warms up too fast if I'm in it at this time of day." Spoken like a man well-practied in making a variety of excuses to overwork himself.

They exit the building via a side door, and from there it's a lovely stroll across a linden-lined courtyard to the next building over. Unlike the one they've exited, this has fine marble columns at the entrance, and is clearly made to impress. They don't go into any of those doors, though; instead Halgrim directs Elmo to yet another back door, nearly hidden by ivy crawling all over the wall its set into. Inside it's cool and dim, and remains that way as they proceed down the narrow passage into the depths of the building. The doors in this hall are labeled with various collections titles (Ancient Japan, East Mediterranean, Roman/Etruscan/Greek), most of them shut and locked, though some with lights on inside. The frosted glass panes show vague suggestions of people moving around inside.

They continue to a large set of double-doors which will easily admit the case; these are also locked, and when Halgrim opens them no one is within. He flips on the lights, revealing a large room with several cases of a similar make to the one Elmo is guiding, and a number of racks bearing digging, sorting, and prepping equipment. The other cases vary in shape, suggesting all manner of things needed for unearthing the past.

Halgrim gestures at a plain, dilapidated desk with a series of heavy notebooks sitting on it. "Just set them there — I'll fill out the paper work before I go home today."

Elmo shrugs, one-shouldered. "Yeah, right? I got too much to do to slack off." He's happy to enable a fellow workaholic. And he is, in fact, impressed by the marble columns and the beautiful courtyard. "This is SO COOL!" he breathes as they pass inside. He particularly likes the ivy-covered door, like a secret passage. "Almost makes me wanna go to college."

Unstrapping the case, Elmo eases it off the dolly. He sets it down next to the desk — and then he's over at the racks of equipment, getting into everything. "Look at all this gevaldik stuff!"

The storage room is a stuff-lover's dream, and what is Archaeology but the discovery of old stuff, and what else would you undertake that practice with but…more stuff?

Halgrim laughs and leans against the desk, giving Elmo as much time as he needs to look through things. There's the more mundane digging equipment one might expect (pick axes, shovels, trowels), collapsible mapping frames, sifting screens, and drawers of smaller pieces like fine-haired brushes, leaf and squares, scales, picks, and photographic scales. One wall hosts a massive collection of ropes and twine of various lengths and sizes.

Elmo sticks that big nose of his into every drawer and cabinet and slide-out he can get his hands on. "Look at that! Wow! I bet you can get microscopic with that!" For him, this is just as good as seeing the artifacts which such tools tease out from the earth's grasp. Maybe better. "Oh man, I could spend years here. That's why you get a job like this, I guess, so you can." He pushes a drawer shut and looks back at Halgrim with a brilliant smile. "Almost makes me wanna ditch the mutant life and come here and help ya dig stuff up."

Halgrim mmms quietly in response to some part of what Elmo has said. He sets that reaction aside, shifts against the desk. "Well you know, plenty of people don't enter undergraduate work until they're over twenty. I won't lie and say it's easy, but it can be done." He raises his eyebrows. "It's a lot of living out of the backs of trucks, with dirt and sand in places you never thought it could reach."

Elmo flicks a hand in an eloquent little gesture — 'heck with that', it says. "Enh, I ain't actually gonna ditch my team. We're workin' on the present. You work on the past. We'll hold both ends down." He lets his gaze wander back over to the equipment, though, and he sighs like a yearning lover. And this isn't even the science department's equipment. If Halgrim showed him that, he might really never leave.

He looks at Halgrim, and folds his arms, suddenly nervous. "Hey. Uh. While I got you here, can I ask ya something?"

Fortunately for Elmo and his team, the sciences buildings aren't close enough to be within comfortable walking distance in the current weather (and anyways, Halgrim won't have keys to them). He nods, entirely accepting of Elmo's reasons. Everyone looks at the other ways it could be and wonders, don't they?

Halgrim, maybe to counterbalance Elmo's crossed arms, sets his hands on his knees. "Certainly." He's not exactly braced himself; it's Elmo, after all. There's not much he could be planning to ask which would be too shocking.

Elmo takes a breath, looking away from Halgrim, finding something really interesting in the ropes on the wall. "You, uh, you're queer. Right? I mean. I'm pretty sure," he adds with a nervous laugh. "And I am too. Obviously. Probably. You're older, though. You done a lot, with other guys?" There's that blush, reddening his face. "Had, yannow. Relationships?"

Halgrim, through sheer force of will, doesn't smile at Elmo's blushing. Not too much, anyways. "Yes and, yes. Though…" He gestures, makes a face. "I never tended to stay in fixed relationships for very long. It's just never sat well with me, and I didn't gravitate to peopple for whom it did either. So we were together, or we weren't, as we wished, when we wished." He shrugs. "It's fine, for what it is, though I wouldn't say it's for everyone. Certainly it's easy to hurt someone if you're not clear about that from the beginning."

Elmo does look at Hal while he's talking, nodding along in interest. "I think…I might be like that. Maybe. I'm datin' two guys. They're seein' other guys too. And I, shit, I dunno, I like it like that." He shrugs, spreading his hands. "But I dunno too much. You know when I went on my first date, ever? December." He gives Halgrim a hangdog look, like 'can you believe that?' "Was with a guy who already had other boyfriends. So I ain't ever actually ….done it like everybody says, yannow?"

Halgrim's expression is entirely sympathetic. "That's entirely alright, you know, to not be romantically involved until you're older," he says. "I know books and films and songs would have you thinking otherwise, but, especially for," he gestures between the two of them, "people such as ourselves, who society isn't invested in accepting in the first place, it's common to reach adulthood before having even a chance to explore yourself properly." He glances aside. "I was very fortunate — my parents both are as well, so, they taught me from the beginning how things were, and how they could be. They prepared me in ways a lot of others aren't so lucky to have experienced. It made things much easier for me. But I watched many of my friends struggle as, I expect," he rasies an eyebrow, "you did, until they were old enough to leave their family homes and start fresh."

"No kidding?" Elmo's thick eyebrows go up. "Your parents are both queer? And they just…told you it's okay?" He really has to think about that one. "Wow. That's different." He says it admiringly, like Halgrim is fortunate to have had an experience so far off the norm. Someone else might have said it ironically. Not Elmo. He grimaces, when Halgrim suggests he struggled. "Struggle. Yeah. S'one way to put it. Struggled with that, and with bein' a weirdo, too. Never been a nice Jewish boy, yannow? So, okay. I thought maybe Lindon's guy — Lindon's who I, uh, you know, with — " he gestures vaguely, "anyway, his guy Lamont, maybe he knew how to, kinda, do this. Lindon didn't know," he sighs with a glance at the ceiling. "Loved him, but he didn't. But now I broke up with him and I don't got nobody to show me how to do this stuff. I'm lost at sea here, Grim, you know what I'm saying?" He looks at the older man with worry, hoping he does know what he's saying. "I'm bad at gettin' along with people in the first place and I got myself in this situation and I'm scared to death I'm gonna ruin everything."

Halgrim leans back, folds his arms. The names aren't familiar to him, but he takes them as part of Elmo's explanation, nodding and looking thoughtful. And, wincing in yet more sympathy (he's not the hugging sort, nor does he think Elmo is, which is a shame right now because Elmo obviously needs an older brother type hug). "Ah, Elmo, I don't know that I would call myself a mentor in this area, but I'm happy of course to listen, or, talk to you about anything."

He rubs at his upper arms, and his eyes get a distant look. "I can say that, when I was first exploring who I wanted to be with, and how, there were plenty…plenty," he emphasizes that with a firm nod of his head, "of mistakes that lead to yelling and crying and," he waves a hand, allowing Elmo to imagine emotional meltdowns of truly epic proportions. "As to how to avoid those, my first suggestion is, to be honest — with yourself, and with them, about how you feel — and to communicate. If you need to let some of them go, then you do. There's no shame in that, not every relationship is forever. People change, and the world changes, and they don't always do it at the same time or in the same way. That's not anyone's fault. The only blame lies in refusing to accept it, and not talking about it."

Elmo rubs his eyes with forefinger and thumb. "Oh, boy, have I done a lot of yelling and crying." He wanders around the room for something to do, revisiting things. "You met Jay. I'm seein' him. Oh man, when Amber told him to quit picking on me." He buries his face in his hands for a moment with a wordless noise — 'rrrg!' "Thought I was gonna arc flash. Anyway, I almost wrecked everything with him. Twice. Once for fightin' with Jeb. Once for…I dunno, just not getting it. He's so amazing, he's kind and he's talented as hell and he's so beautiful, you saw him, and he's fantastic in bed — uh," Elmo coughs, "nevermind, anyway, I really messed up with him. He kept going out with me, which I didn't deserve. And I'm tellin' you because…" He whooshes out a sigh and finally looks back at Halgrim. "Not gettin' it is kind of my thing. I wanna be good for him. I want it so bad. And I can hardly get a grip on how to do it."

"Well, there's good news — you're aware that you have to work on it." Halgrim smiles, ruefully. "This is going to sound impossible but it doesn't occur to most of people, especially at your age, that we might be the ones making the mistakes." He huffs a laugh, shakes his head. "I was particularly awful — gods," he runs his hands through his hair, "I don't really want to think about my graduate years." He shakes his head to dispel memories of his rambunctious mid-twenties self, who ran roughshod through relationships and probably had more than a few discussions at the top of his lungs from a window at three in the morning.

"Understand, you're going to make mistakes. A lot of them. That's because we all do. So don't beat yourself up too hard. That can just lead to entirely new problems. You might find yourself in a whole new behavior that will worsen the situation." He sits forward again, hands on his knees. "If Jay is, as you say he is, kind and talented and a good young man, then he will be able to forgive you if you, in turn, amend what you've done wrong and improve…and talk to him about these things." His mouth twitches. "And me, if you want, first. To make sure you're not about to say or do something particularly gauche." He's only teasing a little bit with the last part.

Elmo laughs when Grim does, a with-you-not-at-you kind of laugh. "You probably got around pretty good, huh? Good-lookin' guy like you." He grins at him, with a certain appreciation. "Why wouldn't I beat myself up, I got lots of practice." He runs his hand through his hair, too, unconsciously mirroring Halgrim's body language. "He's forgiven me, and maybe he shouldn'ta, you know? I'm gonna find all new ways to fuck everything up. I'm a jerk, Grim. That's the whole reason I'm on the team, is I'm an asshole who likes fighting more'n he likes talking things out all nice-like." He tips his eyebrows up, wry. "So if I could maybe run stuff by you sometimes, I'd sure appreciate it."

Halgrim grunts in a 'maybe I was, maybe I wasn't' sort of way, at least as it regards his looks. The getting around part, of that there can be no denial, so he doesn't bother trying. "I can relate, to preferring to argue and fight than discuss things like rational people." There's something odd about how he says it, like it means more than their current conversation is implying, and he didn't intend it to, but now it's said and he can't take it back. He clears his throat. "You may find new ways to make mistakes, but I'm perfectly happy to talk with you about it on the off chance I can prevent them before they happen. Or, if nothing else, suggest how to rectify them. And I'm," he pauses, sighs softly, "honored, that you chose to ask me."

Elmo shrugs, smiling winsomely. "You're a good guy. I watched you turn down damn near every queer guy in Mutant Town because we're all too young. You didn't have to do that. Plenty of us woulda slept with you, probably wouldn't a thought anything of it. But you don't think it's right, so you don't do it. That takes guts. That makes you," he glances away, embarrassed, "somebody I can trust. So. Thanks."

Halgrim's jaw tenses when Elmo looks away, and he has to do the same. Of course he'd like to agree with Elmo that his reasons for not sleeping with the various young men he's come across have been that honorable, but can he, with a much more important reason hanging over his head? There's no way to know, of course; it is what it is. The dig site in Skjold continues to pay dividends.

He clears his throat again and gets a grip on his expression. "You're weclome," he says, and though his voice is low it remains steady. "And, thank you, as well. It's good to have…" He sighs, rubs at his eyes. "It's good to have someone else to talk to who is, and has been, in a similar place as myself."

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