1965-09-20 - Panreligious Studies and Arts and Crafts in the Park
Summary: Halgrim enlists Jeb's help in making some ritual implements. He doesn't even get called a Satan worshipper.
Related: None
Theme Song: None
halgrim jebediah 

It's a lovely fall day, and as a non-teaching day Halgrim gets to make of his time what he will, and what he's made of it is to drag Jeb out to the park to help him with a personal project. They're at a picnic table in one of the more secluded areas, mostly because Halgrim would prefer to speak plainly about things which polite Christian society doesn't care for. He's brought a variety of odds and ends with him in a large shopping bag: 3 bundles of horse hair in white, blood bay red, and black; several pieces of deer antler and bone in varying sizes and shapes; a small bag of smooth stones, the sort one might find in a riverbed. "Adam informs me you're still working too hard," he says as he begins laying out a large blanket on the table. It's handwoven, in black and dark gray, with the suggestion of a large tree in the pattern. "So I thought this might be a nice way for you to relax and ply your skills as an artist while also helping me with something."

Jeb, like always is more than happy to accompany Halgrim anywhere. He always acts like Halgrim is offering him the most amazing all expenses paid vacation whenever the older man invites him somewhere. And that doesn't change, even know that his eyes are rimmed with dark circles and framed by glasses, truly indicating how exhausted he really is. He stiffens a little when Halgrim says that Adam says he's still overworking himself, frowning a little but his shoulders relax when Halgrim says that this is the reason that they were here, as a getaway. He picks up one of the bones, looking it over. "What are we makin'? You know Ah always love to help you with anything, Halgrim." Jeb says, so genuinely. "You're one of my favorite people."

Casually, like it's something one says every day, Halgrim says, "And you are one of mine," to Jeb. He arranges everything on the blanket, takes up a piece of antler. "As you've probably heard me mention before," he flicks a glance around them to make sure no one has defied his expectations and come close enough to overhear them, "I'm not Christian. My family did enough for appearances sake, but we, and numerous other families in our community, kept the old ways — our hereditary rituals and practices — in private." He thinks of how to actually describe that in the context of modern, organized religion. "Historians like to call it a folk religion, since it doesn't have a centralized religious body the way the Abrahamic religions do. It's based in the community and the land that gives us life." He shrugs. "I suppose to that extent they're not wrong, but it's also true they use that phrase to diminish its value." He gives Jeb a wry look. "Such is life when your peoples' religion was all but wiped out in favor of another."

He indicates the eclectic collection of items with a wave of his hand. "I wasn't in the best state of mind when I left Sweden, and I didn't bring any of my ritual implements with me." He pauses there, regret flitting through his features. He can't pretend the omission was unintentional or accidental. He was in pain and wanted something to blame; why *not* the forces and spirits and land he'd been sacrificing to all his life. He clears his throat and continues. "Really all I packed was my books and my clothes. So I have to start over, and make new things to work with. It's the sort of task I thought you might be able to help me with." There's a sense he's wary of how Jeb will respond; the United States is, first and foremost, a Christian country, and anything outside of that is taunt to be devil worship at best and the path to corruption of the immortal soul at worst. But it's Jeb, so he's willing to take a shot.

Once upon a time, Jeb might have called this witchcraft, pelted Halgrim with prepackaged holy water and run screaming hail Mary's in the opposite direction as soon as Halgrim brought out bones and talked about hereditary rituals but now, in a world where Jebediah could shoot electricity out of his eyes, two of his brothers could fly and his sister could tear her skin off to reveal newer, cooler skin underneath, Jeb was done deciding that anything was out of the ordinary. He *met* a god once. His brother was dating a guy who could speak every language in the world. His few friends could turn into a chimera, a vampire, literally Frankenstein's monster, a guy who could talk to machines, a guy who could make you do things by speaking into your head and another electricity mutant, Jeb doesn't have any ground to stand on when it comes to saying Christianity is the one and only religion there was to follow in life.

He frowns in empathy as Halgrim talks about how his religion was wiped out. "Ah'm sorry that happened, Halgrim." He reaches across the table to squeeze Halgrim's hand, rubbing his thumb across the side of Halgrim's hand. "A'course Ah'll help you make new stuff, Ah confess, though, Ah ain't got any idea what you need, so you gonna need to describe it to me. Ah was raised real Christian, but Ah mean, listen, Grimmy, you turn into a gol'damn Chimera, maybe Christianity ain't the only right religion, because the bible ain't never cover that or people who shoot electricity out of their eyeballs like Ah do except to maybe say they came from the devil, and you are far too kind and a good a man to have come from the devil."

Halgrim turns his hand and grips Jeb's in turn. There's no denying that he's relieved to hear all of that. "Thank you," he says, quietly, and gives Jeb's hand a brief squeeze before letting go. "And I'm entirey prepared to tell you precisely what I need." He takes a small, leather bound notebook out of his bag and sets it down, touches the three bundles of horse hair. "These are to make a rope. That's how we create a ritual space, we encircle trees with it. I don't have anything fancy in mind here, just a twisted style, but if you know any techniques I'm all ears."

He opens the note book to a page marked by a cloth bookmark and lays it flat, weighting each side with the largest pieces of antler. There's a set of runes on the first page drawn in bold, black lines, and on the second page is a single set of four runes. "I need all of these," he points at the first page of twenty six runes, "on pieces of antler, bone, wood, and rock. They each have to go on a specific material, which I've noted under each rune." He indicates the other page. "These four, in particular, I need on the handle for a knife." He separates out a particularly large piece of antler. "I was thinking this one might work best." Here he pauses, raises his eyebrows. "Have you ever assembled a knife before?"

"We could braid the rope. Might make it tougher to break *and* it would look really cool. Ah don't know if you get like… a better ritual if you're stuff looks more amazing but Ah think you should." Jeb says, indicating how little he knows about any of this in his own Jeb way. He leans on the table to study the runes. "Okay these, I'm gonna do some practice runs on just some throw away wood first, okay? Because they gotta be precise to work right? Ah don't wanna mess it up."

On the topic of a knife assembling, Jeb smiles sadly. "Well, Ah watched my daddy try and teach my older sister once when Ah was little but Ah never got to be big enough while he was alive for him to let me make one with him." He admits. "Ah'm a quick learner, if you want me to find a book on it."

Halgrim taps his chin, looking thoughtful. "There's no proscription against braiding, it just needs to be hand-made," he says, and nods. "If a braid would be more aesthetically pleasing, I don't see how it could do anything but help. As long as there's enough hair." Which there should be — he's brought enough to make several feet of rope, if it's not too thickly braided.

Halgrim indictates the collection of bone, antler, wood, and stone, saying, "I expected you might want to do that." It's clearly in excess of 24 pieces, which is the number of unique runes on the page, by a significant margin. "I brought enough that you could try all of them at least twice, and pick the one you thought was shaped best."

He nods in regards to the knife. "I'm not in any hurry. Today's just to get started — it's fine if you need some time to read up on putting a knife together. I've found someone who can obtain a cast iron blade for me, so really we just need to make the handle and put it all together."

"It will be more aesthetically pleasing and will win you better… ritual… points or something. Will make you a really cool wizard." Jeb says, running his hands over the horsehair, his mind already working on how to braid it.

He looks at the extra pieces and smiles, mind alight with ideas of how to make Halgrim the most amazing 'wizard'. "Can Ah burn bone and rock the same way Ah burn wood? It ain't a material that Ah've used before." He picks up an antler, looking it over again. "What will you use all this for? Will you like. Summon stuff or talk to ghosts or something?"

"Well, not a wizard, precisely, or even a druid," Halgrim says. "I'm sure one must have some manner of magical skill for that, which I don't. But, a seiðmenn, perhaps, Freyr and Freyja willing, and I doubt they'd complain if I put additional effort into how well things appear." He considers the question about the bone and the rocks. "Bone, most likely. Rock you'll want to chisel or engrave in some manner. I can rub yew ashes into the grooves afterwards, to make it stand out."

He runs his fingers over the grooves in one of the antler pieces. "The Sorcerer Supreme has suggested I meditate, to help bring myself and the spirit closer together. To…" He pauses, and his mouth flattens. "Well, honestly I'm not sure what to expect. But I'll need to meditate, and ritual meditation seems as good a way to go about it as any. No reason not to use the religion I know for that — it's one she recognizes, after all."

"What's a druid? I know what a wizard is? Ah ain't never heard of the other one." He picks up one of the antlers, studying the first symbol on the page. He pulls his glasses off and sets them on the table in it's place. Pulling the antler away from the table, he turns himself to the side and starts working on burning the first symbol into it, eyes narrowing to where Halgrim will hardly be able to see the brown slits of his eyes illuminated behind the white light of the electricity leaving them, as he works, Jeb goes completely quiet. He stops to turn the antler and blink his eyes hard. He holds the antler out for a moment, letting it cool before he starts in again.

"Who is the sorcerer supreme?" He looks over at Halgrim, eyes watering a little but he looks like he's trying to decipher whether or not Halgrim is selling him a load of shit or not with that name. "Meditation. That is supposed to help you relax and I think that would be good for you, you're stressed out a lot. I think you should do that in general and Ah mean, if you were on better terms with her, that would probably be a good thing."

Halgrim starts with, "The druids are…" then stops, and reconsiders what he was going to say. "I suppose I should begin with an explanation. The religion my people practiced before Christianity — and if you believe in such things, the magic which went with it, which we call seiðr — was very much a religion of people and our place in the natural world. As a result, seiðr isn't magic like you might read about wizards performing. It's largely used to enact change on oneself, and to commune with our world on a deeper level. The stories speak of how the most gifted practitioners of seiðr bargain with spirits, perform great acts of healing, engage with whole forests…" He gazes at the trees around them, silent for a time. Then, "As a school of thought, it places emphasis on the sacrifices of self one must make in order to wield power." He gestures with the antler he's holding at the notebook and runes, the horse hair, the piece Jeb's working on even now. "All of this that you're helping me create — we're giving of ourselves to make it. That's sacrifice. They also do, more literal, sacrificing." He clears his throat. "The druids are the most powerful cadre of practitioners of this type of magic. I assume they must be born with a talent for it, as wizards are, though I've never met or spoken to one to know. No one in my family is a druid, for example, and though I might use techniques which are seiðr, I doubt they'll have the effect they would if a druid were to perform the same rituals."

He takes out the black horse hair and begins to prepare it for braiding, knotting off a section and securing it at the end of the table on a protruding nail. "The Sorcerer Supreme is a man named Stephen Strange. He's a guardian of our world, a wizard, and quite a powerful one at that." He glances up at Jeb as he makes to tie the red hair to the black. "If you ever meet him, try to be polite. There's no telling what he's capable of when riled." He adds in the white hair, carefully knotting it, makes a mulish face. "Me, stressed? I've no idea what you could mean by that, Jebediah." He's probably teasing. "Better terms—*any* terms," he laughs, quietly but genuinely, "would be an improvement."

Jeb listens while he starts up on the rest of the symbol. He finishes the first one, offering it to Halgrim to look at, still smoking for him to look at. It's pretty good for a first try but Jeb, being the perfectionist he is, picks up another one to try it again just to be sure he had it perfect. "Maybe Jesus was just a druid, he performed great acts of healin'. Ah don't know if he made bargains with spirits or nothing, but the guys who followed him like Moses and stuff, weren't they kinda makin' bargains with a spirit when they talked to God?" Jeb says but his words are impossibly slow as he works on the symbol on the antler once more. When he finishes again, he has to blink hard, looking at Halgrim with one eye, the other closed.

"Sorcerer Supreme, Stephen *Strange*, those both sound like fake names, like he picked them out of a fairytale but…" He looks a little guilty at Halgrim after having said that when Halgrim *just* asked him to be polite. "Ah obviously won't say that to him if Ah ever meet him, Ah'll be a model citizen." He frowns *hard* when Halgrim says that he has no idea what he could mean about him being stressed. "Ah'm gonna tell Adam you said that. He's gonna tell you what for too."

Halgrim runs a finger over the rune once it's cooled, nods in confirmation that it's acceptable. He's not surprised to see Jeb thinks he can do better, though, and sets it down with a wry smile.

"That would be a way to consider Jesus," he agrees. "However, my ancestors referred to him as the Hvítakristr, the White Christ. To be white, to them, was to be cowardly, not," he gestures at Jeb and himself, "racially as you and I would be called now. The missionaries and priests who came to convert the ancient Norse weren't…particularly druidic. There's a lengend in Germany which tells of how Saint Bonaface felled a sacred oak, and when the gods didn't strike him down, the people of that town converted to Christianity on the spot." He makes a face about that. "This is what comes of taking your religion too literally."

"Who are we to judge one another's names and titles, mmm? I'm sure my name sounds odd to an American." He sniffs at Jeb's threat. "Feel free. I'm not afraid of a lecture from Adam."

"Now, Halgrim, you know Ah cain't pronounce that. Ah think you're just makin' up words now." Jeb teases, wide smile when Halgrim uses another word with a funny letter that doesn't exist in Jebediah's brain. "Well, Ah mean, white people generally are pretty cowardly when you think about it, we always the ones makin' places unsafe for other people because we gotta go and be racist and scared 'a anythin' we ain't understand."

Jeb frowns harder when Halgrim just sniffs at his threat as if it's nothing. "Ah'll tell him and Ah'll tell Mister Morbius and Ah'll find your sorcerer supreme and tell him too. Remember, you said that Ah can't work too hard so now neither can you, Halgrim. You have to take care of yourself too. Or Ah'll just move into the Met..Mestropol whatever and annoy you until you do."

Halgrim laughs, and with a glint in his eyes, says, "Jag har några fruktansvärda nyheter för dig, Jebediah — alla ord är uppbyggda." He bobs his eyebrows in a sort of 'take that' manner. "Since Dr. Morbius has his hands full with John, and Dr. Strange is occupied keeping relality safe, I'm fairly certain they'll lack the time to come harass me. But," he leans against the table, "I take your meaning. I'm trying not to…overdo things. It's a tricky balance, you know, I suspected that once I recovered enough to do a proper level of work I'd find myself given a great deal more, and I wasn't wrong." He sighs, indicates what they're working on with a nod. "And, as you said, this should all help."

He focuses on the horse hair once more. He tests the anchoring of the three strands. "This should do," he says. "If you want to show me how to start I can probably work on this while you do those."

Jeb smiles when Halgrim laughs and starts speaking to him with more words he doesn't understand. He picks up an antler, to start on the next symbol and points it at Halgrim. "Some of those ain't even had real letters, Halgrim." He looks over at the older man with so much *care* in his eyes. "You know Ah worry about you, too, right? It ain't just you doin' all the worryin'. You're well loved, Halgrim, even if you don't believe it."

He sets the antler back down when Halgrim asks him to show him how to braid the hair together. Something about Jeb getting to teach *Halgrim* something sent a bunch of butterflies shooting through his chest in excitement, because, of course, he is under the impression that Halgrim knows *everything*. He sits beside Halgrim . "You've already got yourself started well because you got them separated in threes." Jeb says and then holds the two on the ends in his hands. "Basically you're gonna take the right one and pull it over to the left so now it becomes the middle one and the middle one becomes the right one, you see? Then you take the middle one and pull it to the right. Then you grab the left one, lettin' go of the middle one and pull it to the right. You're just rotatin' that middle section and that's what makes the braid."

Halgrim keeps his eyes on the horse hair strands when Jeb talks about worrying and other, more difficult things. He smiles, quick and brittle, runs the dark red strand between his fingers. He thinks about various things to say, discarding them as quickly as he comes up with them. Finally, he settles for a quiet, "Thank you," meeting Jeb's eyes for a moment so he knows it's sincere.

As Jeb demonstrates Halgrim watches each movement his hands make like he's committing them to memory. "My hair's never been long enough for this — it's too curly, it gets unruly. A real mess. And my sister would have never let me practice on her." He laughs, short and genuine, at a memory. "With good reason."

"Ah got a few little sisters and two bigger ones, a lot of hair braiding going on there, to keep it out of their faces while they are out doing stuff at the farm, that's where Ah learned." Jeb explains and he scoots a little closer, so that his arm was pressed against Halgrim's own. His leg against Halgrim's own. "It's not so hard, Ah mean, Ah learned it, didn't Ah? Ah'll show you again." And he does, show and explain the whole thing to Halgrim again. "Did you only have one sibling? You don't talk much about your family."

Halgrim seems to concentrate on watching Jeb do the braid, though in truth he's just trying to figure out a way to response to the comment about his family. Eventually he ducks his head, rubs at his eyes. "It's hard, I think, to talk about them when I miss them so much. I was always," he waves a hand, "out in the field, or at a position in some other country, but I went home for celebrations regularly. I never failed to see them at least once a season." He looks askance at Jeb, then the braid. "Now it's been half a year, I think." He sighs. "I write them, and they write to me, and we talk on the phone for birthdays and such, but…"

He shakes his head, clears his throat. "I have two siblings, Sigrún and Joakim. My sister is the eldest by three years, and Joakim is two years younger than me." He smiles, because it does feel good to talk about them, now that he is. "Sigrún has three daugters. Joakim has a son though he and the mother aren't married, which is a constant vexation to our parents." He gestures at the braid. "Alright, I suppose I should try."

"Is it just money? Is that why you can't go back to see them or… well…. Ah guess your friend might make it terrifying to go back and see people that you love so much, afraid that you might hurt them. Ah know that's why you don't want to be in Mutant Town and why you get scared when Ah start fights because you're afraid that she will come out and hurt me." Jeb says, making his voice soft and reaches over to take Halgrim's hand and pats it gently. "Ah'm sorry if that question made you feel bad, Halgrim. Ah only like learning more and more about you. You don't think it but you're really extremely interesting to me and probably to a lot of us."

"Ah thought you said that your parents were really relaxed about most things, but they're upset that he's not married to the mother? Are they still together just not married?" Jeb asks, getting up and taking the other side of Halgrim, guiding his hands to where they need to go, tapping the top of Halgrim's right hand to show him which one rotates first.

"Money, yes, but…also the rest," Halgrim says. "The children are, children, and it's better now but I still must be careful. I don't dare trust myself with them until I can say, for certain, that nothing will happen." He pats Jeb on the back. "No need to apologize. I think talking about them is good for me." He follows Jeb's guidance in braiding the horse hair strands, and soon they have the beginnings of the bright pattern.

As if to prove his point, he laughs, softly, shakes his head. "My parents being queer — and, being comfortable with me being so as well — doesn't mean they're easy going with *everything*. Certainly they're not happy that my brother has fathered a child and not married the mother." He raises his eyebrows to see if Jeb is following. "It would be the same for me. If a woman becomes pregnant I'd at least be expected to *offer* to marry her."

"Your parents were queer? How did they… did you have a mother and a father or were you adopted? Or did your parents just… also like people of their own gender too? Again, you don't have to tell me, Ah'm just curious." Jeb says, and he continues to tap Halgrim's alternating hands until he thinks the older man is no longer struggling and then he just watches for a moment. "Ah guess there are a limits on every parents' support. Ah'm just amazed, Halgrim, that you haven't fathered any children. You're quite handsome now, Ah'm sure you were even more of a looker when you were younger."

"I don't mind you asking at all," Halgrim says, carefully negotiating the strands. He takes it slow, as this is still a very new rhythm for him. "They do, both, like people of their genders, and others," he pauses, lest he make a mistake, to raise his eyebrows at Jeb, "as do I." He continues braiding.

"I never really met anyone I was inclined to settle with and have children." Halgrim shrugs, as if this is no more or less regretable than choosing archaeology over being a librarian. "The closest I came…" He stops talking a moment, sighs. "Well. That was with another man, and couples who aren't a man and a woman don't have the right to adopt in most of the world. So. I am, as is said, without issue."

Jeb looks down at the table like he's just been told that the world is ending in the next two hours. He takes a moment and then touches Halgrim's arm to touch him. "Halgrim, is that… is that allowed? You don't… have to only like one or the other? You can like them both?" He seems completely floored by this information. And then his expression softens. "Ah'm sorry, Halgrim."

Halgrim ceases braiding and gives Jeb a concerned look; it's honestly not occurred to him that Jeb might not be aware of this. Of course, maybe it shouldn't come as a surprise, given everything Jeb's said until now about his upbringing. "Yes of course," he says. "You can be attracted to whomever you wish to be. The only real strictures are in regards to age, and obviously you shouldn't persue someone who's already declined your advances."

He smiles, pats Jeb's hand. "Thank you. It's…" He swallows. "As much as I wouldn't mind it, it's yet another thing that has to wait until I've figured out a way to manage this. So. All in good time."

"Well, all of that makes sense. Ah thought that once you kissed someone your own gender, you weren't allowed to go back, like you had to pick one or the other forever and you couldn't go back. So when Ah met that guy, Ah thought that was all Ah was allowed to have. Ah never considered that it was normal to like both. Ah mean, Ah knew that you could like your own sex." Jeb explains, with too many hand motions.

Jeb turns on the bench and wraps Halgrim up in a hug. Halgrim gets a lot of these. "You'll have it one day, Ah'm sure of it. Science says we can make babies for a really long time and you're not even old." He promises.

Halgrim does a fine job of hiding his amusement at this idea Jeb had been laboring under. "No, if I'm any indication that's demonstrably not the case. I enjoy peoples' company, and intimacy with them, regardless of their gender, and I always have." His good humor dims. "But I'm also very lucky, my parents noticed early on and prepared me for what society had in store. Without that I'm sure things would have been much, much harder for me — as I've seen them be for so many others."

He returns Jeb's hug, sighs. "Ah, I don't know if I'll have the fortitude to raise a child when I'm fifty, so the clock is, as they say, ticking. But if that's how things turn out then," he shrugs, "so be it." He raises an eyebrow. "After all, I seem to be collecting young men in need of guidance. What does it matter I missed out on all the wonderful blackmail to be gathered in those early years."

"Well, then maybe Ah'll just have a bunch of kids and then you can be their grandpa. Because of course Ah'm gonna have a lot of them. It's my duty to the Guthrie bloodline, you know." He smiles when Halgrim says that he was collecting young men in need of guidance, knowing that was what he was. "Is Elmo one too? Is that why you didn't want me to punch him because you were afraid that would make *her* angry. Ah'm sure with the way that Amber was lookin' at him in the bar, he could definitely make a few of his own too. Later, of course. Same here, but Ah'm not going nowhere, Halgrim, nowhere away from you, Ah mean."

Halgrim resumes braiding the strands of horse hair, arching a brow at Jeb and smiling. "Ah, you have that all planned out, do you?" A few seconds of silence while he braids, then, "I didn't want you to hit Elmo because Elmo hadn't done anything deserving of it." He tone is dry. "And, because he's a friend, and I'd rather my friends not make a habit of hitting one another." He nudges Jeb companionably, though, to emphasize that the event in question is behind them and can remain so.

"I don't know if she'd care one way or another that you're fighting. There's," he pauses, licks his lips, "a great deal about her that I don't know. Not the least of which is how she'll react to conflict around her — aside from violently." He pulls a face, continues to braid. "But that's what this is for. To, bring the two of us closer together."

"You know Ah hugged him recently, twice. So we're gettin' along fine. Ah think.. Ah'm… Ah think that Ah have.. um… well, it's nothing, really Ah guess, nothing to be concerned about. Ah shouldn't have said nothin'." Jeb picks up another antler and makes a big deal of studying the next symbol before he busies himself with burning the symbol into it and using it as an excuse not to speak about whatever he had been trying to get out. "Maybe with meditation you can tell her she can only come out to eat people if the situation truly requires it."

"I don't really think that's how it will work," Halgrim says. His mouth twitches in a small smile. "If anything, I suspect there will be less of her and myself, and more of…" He stops braiding, shakes his head, continues, "More of whatever we wind up being together." He doesn't sound completely comfortable with that.

But there's another topic he wants to hear more about. "What's nothing?" he asks with false innocence.

"Nothin' is nothin' that's what nothin' means. If there was somethin' it wouldn't be like.. allowed… anyway because of existing circumstances." Jeb says, words slow as he burns the symbol into the antler but slips, getting himself and hissing at the burn in his skin, shaking his hand violently. "We was talkin' about you, we wasn't talkin' about me, Halgrim."

"Mmmmm, that's the amazing thing about conversations, they wander," Halgrim says, unfazed and undeterred. "I won't pry *too* much, but I'm curious. What wouldn't be allowed?" Or, he is, right until Jeb burns himself, and then Halgrim drops the subject on the spot. He reaches for Jeb's wrist instinctively, stops just short of grabbing it. "Are you alright? I have some water, if you need it."

"Halgrim, why are you always afraid to touch me? Ah hug you and touch you all the time but you always stop yourself. Except for in the club. You hugged me." Jeb says looking for opportunity to change the subject but he sets his wrist on the table to show the burn isn't too bad. "Also, this is nothing." Jeb's hands after all are a mess of scars. Mostly burns. "Me.. um.. thinkin' that he is handsome in a less than just.. complimentary way. That's not allowed."

Halgrim stares at Jeb, unable to decide what to react to. "I — wait, you…" He pauses, frowns, rubs at his temples. "That does explain some things," he says, finally, and runs a hand down his face. He laughs helplessly at the entire situation, carefully takes Jeb's wrist. There's no hiding how stricken he is to realize the other scars Jeb bears are from similar things happening.

"I, didn't want to grab you," he explains, gently. "And that was my first inclination, which I'm not…it's not something I should do to you, you're not a child." He looks over the burn, glances up at Jeb. "Maybe you need some gloves to this sort of thing? Or will your," he gestures at Jeb's eyes, "power go through them?"

Jeb is looking down at the burn and misses the stricken look on Halgrim's face so he likely just makes it worse when he speaks. "Ah don't wear any on purpose, Halgrim." Jeb admits, "Keeps me from making more mistakes." And could be a sign that Jeb is eternally punishing himself over something. "Ah'm sure Ah could find some or ask Elmo about some, because if anyone would know what to use it would be him."

"Any you wanna touch me, you can. You're allowed. Okay? Ah never feel like you're patronizing me because you're showing concern about me." Jeb insists, patting Halgrim's hand with his good one. "And the stuff about Elmo, don't worry about it. Ah ain't going to screw up anything goin' good for my brother. Ah love Jay more than Ah love anyone or anything in the entire universe. Don't tell my other older brother but he comes second place to Jay. Also, listen, Ah am not what Elmo needs either. A relationship with me it ain't gonna bring him nothin'. It won't better him. Ah can't help him be great the way Ah know he will be. And Ah am also well aware that Ah am eternally inflicted with this disease of fallin' for people outta my league." He smiles a little sadly. "Mostly Ah'm just mad at him for bein' everything that Ah wanna be and wanna have in a partner. He's smart, he's brilliant really. He's kind. He cares so much about just… everyone who walks across the stage that is his life. He's handsome. He's sassy. He's funny. He's full of lava and brimstone, but also sugar and like, I dunno, flower petals." Jeb waves it off in frustration. "Ah ain't the fit he needs."

Halgrim exhales slowly, reaches to tilt Jeb's face up so he can look him in the eye. "That doesn't teach you to not make mistakes. It only punishes you for them, and that's not something you should feel the need to do." He nods, and continues, "Yes, Elmo has a similar ability to yours in many ways. He'll have an idea of how to protect yourself."

Halgrim says, "You might not feel like I'm patronizing you, but that won't mean it's not happening." Just the same, he puts a hand of his own over Jeb's and listens to him go on, at considerable length, about Elmo. He thinks all of it over, contemplating the situation. "It's true that Elmo's relationship with Jay would make it a poor idea for you to persue one," he says, to get it out of the way up front. "And, I've plenty of experience with wanting someone for whom I wouldn't be any good." He bites his lip. "Unlike you, I didn't have the grace or forethought to recuse myself, and made a wonderful mess of things. So…" he rubs the back of Jeb's arm, choosing his words carefully. "It's reasonable, I think, to accept that the timing is poor. There's always hope for the future, after all."

Jeb allows Halgrim to tip his chin up and doesn't jerk his face arm away when Halgrim rubs it. "Maybe Ah do need it though. So Ah don't make any new ones." Jeb flexes his scarred fingers slightly and sighs.

"Recently, there was this other guy, someone Ah wouldn't be no good for mostly because now Ah know you told me not to say this but it applies here, Ah'm way too stupid for him. But he's gorgeous, and he's got that fire in him, passion for mutants and what not. And Ah talked with him, about the guy he was seeing and how they got together and realized that we were just on a completely different plane from each other." Jeb's smile doesn't lose its melancholy. "Ah think Ah'm good at being his friend, Elmo, Ah mean. When Ah ain't hittin' him. And that's good for him and good for everyone and doesn't get me in trouble. Ah think he probably needs friends that he doesn't kiss too."

"You don't. No one does. Scars don't teach us about our mistakes. Many of them even make it harder to go on." Halgrim lets it sit at that, though, because he can always go to Elmo and ask about gloves for Jeb himself. It's Haustblót, he can make an excuse to give Jeb a gift.

"I doubt you were too stupid for him," Helgrim says, narrowing his eyes. The censure doesn't last; he shifts in his seat, says, "But it's entirely possible to be on a different level from another person. Even if your ages are close, your life experiences could be such that there's no mutual ground on which you can meet. And there does need to be *some* of that — not, I think, as much as many others might insist, though I've always been contrary about what I feel is necessary for intimacy." His mouth twitches in an almost-smile; 'contrary' is an understatement of truly epic proportions here. "And that's a healthy thing, to be able to recognize. As is," he llooks at Jeb again, "knowing that Elmo needs friends with whom he's not intimate. Boundaries are good things to have. You can't always have the same conversations with people you're involved with, that you can with people whom you're not."

Jeb watches Halgrim as he speaks, listening, with rapt attention. "Well and sometimes you need to talk about the person you're intimate with too. Not that Ah think Elmo's gonna come to me for any love advice but who knows. Ah think Ah could be a good fit there in his life. And Ah mean, Ah am a resident expert on my brother. So if he ever needs to understand Jay, Ah can help. There is nothing more Ah want in the world than for everyone Ah *love*," he pointedly looks at Halgrim. "To be happy."

"A worthy pursuit," Halgrim says, and smiles so Jeb knows he's heard the inflection. "And it's true, one needs to be able to talk to one's partners with someone. You needn't have experience yourself — sometimes it's enough to be a sounding board. So…" He gives Jeb a Significant Look, "Don't downplay how important you can still be in his life. Not everyone we're close to will be a lover."

Jeb has a collection in his heart of every time he makes Halgrim laugh or smile. And he adds this smile there. "Okay, okay. And really, Ah don't need nobody right now. Got too much to worry about and do. Too many people to take care of too. Ah don't got the time to be good to nobody the way Ah wanna."

Halgrim mmmms. "It's not always a good idea to avoid a relationship because you're too busy. If anything, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. You probably *could* benefit from someone — but don't take this to mean I feel you should hunt someone down." He shakes his head. "On the contrary, I've found it's best to remain open to possibility. To hope, and be patient. People will come along — sooner or later."

"Now, Halgrim, that sounds a lot like you think Ah need someone to keep me in line and make me take care of myself. Ah ain't on the hunt and trust me there ain't a line of people flocking to my door neither… Ah'm not exactly what many people need right now. But if it happens, it happens. Ah am in class after all." Jeb says with a smile and a shrug, this one without the melancholy.

Halgrim ehs, waves a hand. "I wouldn't say it's your lover's job to keep you in line. Certainly," he snorts at some memory or other, "many of them will. But it's as much your job to take care of yourself as it is anyone else's. Those we love are often a great help in *reminding* us to, of course." He taps Jeb's scars to make his point. "And it's true that school may well be a place to meet someone. You'll come across all sorts of people in the course of doing the things you claim make you so busy."

"These are nothing, Halgrim. They aren't a big deal." Jeb insists when Halgrim taps the scars on his hands. "Ah am busy. With the club and school and the projects JP gives me. Maybe Ah'll meet someone in college, that's where everyone meets someone."

"Scars are never nothing, Jebediah," Halgrim says. He lets go, however, giving Jeb's hand a pat, and moves to resume his work on the braid. He'll just have to inflict gloves on Jeb at his earliest opportunity. "It's true I met a great number of people in university, friends and lovers alike. I'm sure the same will be so for you."

"We'll see. Its people you know are interested in the same things you are there. Oh! Speaking of, there is a guy Ah hired that Ah think is neat. He does sculptures with metal. He's real sweet too. Country boy so we speak the same language." Jeb starts up on the second rune again. This time not burning himself. Unsatisfied with the first go at it, he does it again, perfectionist.

Halgrim divides his attention between the braiding and Jeb's work on the rune. "Ah, a new employee? That's excellent to hear. And an artist, too — maybe you could place some of his work in the club." He thinks back to what he saw of the club, trying to decide where metal sculpture might have a place in it.

"Ah told you Ah hired more people but you was still worried because Ah ain't hired no extra manager." Jeb points out handing Halgrim both antlers for him to choose the better one while he blinks his eyes hard to rest them.

"It's true, I do still think you need to hire additional management help," Halgrim says, his tone one of 'well now that you mention it', "but I'll take what I can get." Halgrim looks over the two pieces, and chooses one, offering the other back. "Keep that one for yourself. An example of your work, to show prospective clients." He runs a thumb over the piece of antler he's kept. "This rune is sowilo, for the Sun. To my people she's a woman, Sunna. She flees across the sky each day to escape Sköll, the son of Fenrir, who seeks to devour her." He sets the piece down. "At Ragnarök, Sköll will finally catch her, and his brother Hati will take the moon, Máni, who is Sunna's brother."

"Do you think Ah can make these for others?" Jeb asks rolling the antler in his hands and decidedly ignoring Halgrim's talk of another manager. "Oh so Ragnarok, that's the apocalypse for you guys right? Does everything in nature have a person who guards them? Why does Sk..Sköll wanna eat her? If she's the sun she is way too hot for eating. Gonna burn his damn mouth clear off his face. Mister Morbius almost did that once."

Halgrim swallows his immediate reaction, which is a no, to turn it over in his mind. He starts braiding the rope again to busy his hands. "I think…yes, though…" Several mixed reactions, play across his face. He settles on, "It's important to remember, because these were, in their way, religious symbols, the Christian majority here in the States won't care for them." He grimaces. "And the Third Reich did nothing for the perception of Germanic symbols the world over, much less here."

"Well, they're stupid. I can make more things for you then. And that didn't answer my other question. Why does that guy want to eat the sun? What did the sun do to him?" Jeb asks, deeply curious now. Its *storytime*, Halgrim!

"That's a very appropriate use of stupid," Halgrim agrees, nodding. "At least, as it regards Christians. The reaction to all the symbols the Nazis used for themselves, well…" He sighs, sad and resigned. "Not much to be done for that, I think, except have a care who we show things to." He pauses in his braiding to show Jeb and get an appraisal of what he's done so far.

"I seem to recall there are several different reasons given," he says. "Until the runes were devised our traditions were all oral, so they were always changing depending on who was passing them down and in what part of the world. For hundreds of years these stories were fluid, and while some major points held throughout, many others changed regularly." This explained, he continues, "One version holds that Luku tricked them into thinking the horses which pull Máni and Sunna's chariots would be a good source of meat. Another tale holds that they had spells cast on them which made them chase the celestials." He pauses, adds, "I should have mentioned, Fenrir is the great wolf, a son of Luku and Angrboða, so Sköll and Hati as his sons are wolves as well. This is why the image of them as creatures on the hunt is a unifying visual in this story."

Jeb is literally staring up at Halgrim with eyes as wide as saucers, they would be sparkling if that was possible while Halgrim regales him with the tale, mouth slightly open. Now Halgrim was never going to get out of telling him more stories from his religion. "The sun and the moon have chariots?! Wow! That's so cool! And are they big wolves too? They must be right? What makes Sunna and Màni leave? Like why do they switch places? Do they ever get to see each other? Because you said they were siblings right?" Jeb is distracted and doesn't realize Halgrim is looking for his appraisal of his work, he is *enraptured* in story time.

"Yes, chariots, drawn by horses with bellows attached to them, so that they don't overheat. Though, that's only Sunna. I'm not sure that Máni's steeds are ever named. They're not so different from Helios, in fact, whom the Greeks believed was the sun, also driving a horse-drawn Chariot. I seem to recall both Sunna and Máni were placed in the heavens by the gods out of anger…" Halgrim scratches his beard with his free hand, thinking back to what he learned as a child in front of the fire at winter. "Something about, their father naming them 'moon' and 'sun' was perceived as arrogant, and the gods stole them away to place them in the chariots, where they forever flee from Fenrir's children."

He taps the braid to get Jeb's attention, yet also can't help but continue. Such is the nature of an academic; a question was asked, an answer had to be given. "Sometimes they do — just as the moon is sometimes in the sky during daytime, so do they run together. But sometimes no, and that's when the moon is in the sky at night, fleeing Hati alone."

"Well that's not very nice of the gods, Halgrim. They didn't pick their own names. That's like hittin' someone because they are named James. The gods should have punished their father if they were really that mad about it or just made him change their names. If they were babies, they ain't know their names yet." Jeb complains with a frown. Still not taking notice to Halgrim's attempt at getting his attention on the braid. "Do they meet during the eclipse? Uninterrupted by the dumb dogs trying to eat them? When will they get to talk about anything? Why do they gotta die in the end? They ain't done nothing wrong by bein' born."

Halgrim raises his eyebrows at Jeb, gives him a small, sly smile. "Ah, but are they *not* punishing the father by doing such things to his children?" He doesn't wait for an answer to that, feeling it's sef-evident. "This is something we see in a great number of religions — Christianity has it as well. I'm sure someone with an academic degree in divinity could speak to this better than I can, but I've always assumed it was a reflection of society's need to grapple with the notion of how capricious life can be."

He gestures at Jeb, the braid forgotten for the moment. "As you said, they've done nothing wrong, so why should they die? Why is there Ragnarök at all? I suspect the answer lies in the fact that the lives our ancestors lived were by many accounts as hard as ours are today, but they lacked the decades of scientific endeavors we now benefit from. Maybe, then, this is simply how they explained it to themselves: that it is the nature of the universe for all things to live their time and die, and new things to rise in their place." He resumes braiding, expecting Jeb will, at some point, make him undo it and fix anything he's doing wrong.

"Well Ah guess they *are* but still, children shouldn't have to suffer for their parent's mistakes. Especially ones they had no part in like something as ridiculous as being born. Like, Ah didn't ask to be born. Ah didn't *ask* to be a Guthrie. Ah wouldn't wanna be nothing else, but the Cabot boy that bullied me. That was why he did it. Because Ah was a Guthrie. Stupid." Jeb huffs, clearly this is really riling Jeb up. "Its *stupid* and it weren't fair. And it was a stupid reason to punish their daddy anyway. 'Your names are too pretty. Now you have to run away from big mean wolves forever.' Ridiculous, Halgrim. How do I talk to these gods? Ah'll tell them what for." Tiny Jeb off to fight some gods.

Jeb reaches over almost absent mindedly and lightly holds Halgrim's wrists and then gently moves them back towards Halgrim. "Pull back a little to make it a little tighter." He then looks back up at Halgrim. "Listen Ah don't know what capreshus means but maybe everythin' don't gotta have an end. Ah mean clearly the gods get to survive things right? So why not us?"

"Like, in Christianity, there was already an apocalypse once. That was when God got so mad that everyone was using their free will to sin that he flooded the entire world and he killed everybody who didn't get on the ark. All the animals too like animals have any idea how to *not* sin if they is doing it. But then he felt really bad about it. All of his children and his creations, he murdered because they were doin' exactly what he made them to do." Jeb takes a deep breath and continues to speak, gesturing with his hands. "Now there's tales of signs of the end times in the bible right? Nations are going to go to war with each other, for one, generalized moral decay, false prophets, earthquakes and natural disasters, but some of that stuff, it's always happening and you know, the bible weren't written by God himself, it was written by a bunch of dudes who said God *told* them this stuff. So there's a ton of inconsistencies. *One* is the fact that after God flooded the world he *swore* he would never do something like that again, off all of us in a massive scale like that. But they still say he is going to and plans to in another book."

Halgrim allows Jeb to move his hands and continues braiding as instructed, pulling the strands tighter. He has to work to contain a laugh, because this is obviously quite serious to Jeb. "Well," he says, wondering if he should even be saying this, "I've met Luku — I think here he calls himself Loki — only briefly, but he seems to be about. However, he's a force of chaos, and I expect trying to give a piece of one's mind to him would be a poor idea." He frowns. "So there was a…familial feud, where you come from?"

"Capricious means something that is random and subject to whim, without malice or benevolence. And only some of the gods survive Ragnarök; a great many die in the fighting which ensues." He's quiet a moment, which could easily be mistaken for focusing on the braid but is actually him thinking about Loki's part in all of that, at least as told by the skalds. After a minute, he containues, "It's said two humans will be spared, and repopulate the Earth. So, really, it's a cycle, and in any cycle some things are lost and others gained."

He listens intently as Jeb describes the Flood, the Ark, and the inconsistencies in the Bible, and smiles. "Ah, so my people aren't the only ones whose religion is filled with conflicting tales."

"Yeah, kinda like the.. um. The Montygoos and the Caplits or whatever. That Shakespeare dumb story where the two dumb teenagers fall in love and die. But like without all the dumb romance crap. Can't believe girls out there are that get all weak in the knees over that play." Jeb shakes his head in disgust and waves the subject of girls and their romance novel preferences. "Anyway, yeah. The Cabots hate the Guthries. Ah don't know why. Ah got picked on a lot because Ah had glasses and was skinny and made me easy to punch and stuff in lockers and my brothers were too busy trying to keep food on the table to come to my rescue all the time."

"Yeah, the bible says a lot of stuff that don't make sense too and people take it to heart. And Ah've questioned it a lot lately. Like the homosexuals are sinful and should burn but yet he gave us free will. And people they're just born queer. It ain't a choice. So why would you go to hell for the way you was born. Stupid. My brother is queer. He is the most amazing, sweet and kind person Ah ever met. He ain't belong in hell. You say you is. You are an amazing man. You ain't deserve to go to hell." Jeb huffs a big breath and his shoulders sag. "Religion is confusing. Life is hard. We all gonna die one day. We should just be good to each other while we here."

Halgrim suppresses a chuckle at Jeb's consternation with Romeo and Juliet, which fades into a frown at the description of his school years. "I'm sorry you went through that," he says. "And it shouldn't have fallen to your brothers to protect you; that's the job of the adults at the school. Of course," he checks the braid to ensure it's staying tight, continues, "I know from the other end how difficult that is when parents won't discipline their own children, and teach them to not bully."

On the subject of free will and being queer in general and himself in particular, he says, "Thank you for saying so," and smiles. "There's another way to consider it — even if it was a choice, in what way is it harmful? Setting aside how the majority of people do, in fact, seem to feel they are born queer or not, for those who might decide one way or another, what would make the decision to be queer worthy of condemnation?" He raises his eyebrows, inviting Jeb to think it over. "As you say, our time here is short." Thinking of Adam, he adds, "For most of us anyways. It doesn't make much sense to spend it hating one another over private decisions that in no way impact another person's own life."

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