1965-09-30 - Accursed in Connection
Summary: At first annoyed all to hell that Halgrim managed to find his hidden abode, Ambrose then learns that he's not alone in carrying the burden of a pithy spell. Everyone leaves Special Collections more informed and without having broken anything. A success!
Related: Tracking Cantrips are Useful Things
Theme Song: None
ambrose halgrim 

It's after hours in Special Collections, before security will kick out the last of the professors to lock things up for the night but well after the students have been ordered out. Halgrim has the floor to himself for the moment, and is working with several copies of historical correspondence, referring between the three large books against a notepad, and writing the final results down in a leatherbound notebook. It's the sort of work that's best done in peace and quiet, and with minimal interruptions, since losing his place means starting over on a particular passage. It's also the kind of work that lets him relax, if one can said to be relaxed by work.

It was a teaching day, so he's dressed for it in black slacks with suspenders, and a white button-down shirt; there's a dark blue tie and black jacket draped on the chair next to him.

And there, leaning in the doorway to Special Collections, is one master-thief and perpetual burr in Halgrim's sock. No telling how long he's been there, silently watching with his arms crossed, but now Ambrose moves to call attention to himself. He detaches himself from the shadows of a pillar cast through the glass, but doesn't take more than one ambling step towards Halgrim. In all black, with those familiar fatigue pants and winter coat zipped up to his chin (and baseball cap to keep that longish hair mostly from his face), he considers the man at his work further.

"…you've got a pair of brass balls, walking into my abode," says the Jackal quietly.

Halgrim glances up when Ambrose moves, his expression dismissive right until he recognizes him. He watches him for several seconds, pen poised and finger marking his place on the right-most book. There's a sense of something rippling through him, a faint gleam of amber in his eyes, there and gone in a second. He goes back to his work. "Oh, you've no idea," he says.

"No, I don't…but I'm tempted to see just how far you're willing to go," Ambrose replies in that same soft, flat tone. Another step towards Halgrim now, not overtly threatening, but there's clearly machinations going on behind his nadir-blue eyes. "How did you manage it? Finding me?" Again, he pauses, as if he were sniffing at danger and making certain to keep a safe distance. His gut is yelling at him that this professor, in his suspenders, is nothing to toy lightly with.

With a heavy sigh, Halgrim says, "There's absolutely *no* chance you're going to let me finish this, is there," and drums his fingers on the notepad once. He glances up at Ambrose, caps his pen, and shuts the notebook. "I'd really rather not reveal my methods." He raises his eyebrows at Ambrose. "Something you can appreciate, no doubt." He leans back in his chair. "And I'll go as far as is necessary to keep you from jeoprodizing anyone on this campus."

Ambrose's lips part into that same thin, chill smile seen not days back in his hidden household. He's amused, apparently, by Halgrim's words.

"As necessary, hmm? And what precisely would that entail, Professor?" He says the title with subtle mocking inflection. "I admit, I can be…chary when it comes to admitting my methods, but I've never seen anyone hunt me to ground with such accuracy. Well…not in many decades," he amends offhandedly. "I would apologize for being the distraction, but I simply can't help it." His shrug is uncaring as a front. Yet another step forwards and then a pause. Testing.

Halgrim tracks Ambrose's approach; there's a subtle rise in the tension around him, though he doesn't shift in his seat. "Well that depends on you. If you insist on taking things without leaving plausible deniability for those who'll be blamed, and using that," his eyes narrow a fraction, his mouth flattens, "vile method of yours, then I suppose I have to sort out a way to keep you out of here entirely." Now he shifts in his chair; the very thought of the Suggestion has bothered him. "If you're willing to steal things more classically, that's a different story." He explicitly doesn't comment on how they found Ambrose.

Those mobile dark brows lift to disappear beneath the brim of the baseball cap. "Ooh…" It's almost a purr. "Allowing me my druthers 'classically'. I'll take you up on that offer, Professor. You needn't worry about my methods, uncomfortable as they may make you. They are harmless and fleeting, like the mayfly. After all, the little bird does have her job still, does she not? Consider my actions akin to…improving the campus security. What failures occur benefit both myself and the vouchsafing of all items here." And yet another step that brings him within ten feet of Halgrim's desk. Ambrose still doesn't seem incredibly concerned, though be certain he's watching carefully for any further hint of yellow eyes.

Of all the things to actually provoke a reaction from Halgrim, it's Ambrose referring to Renata as a 'bird' that gets a proper one; his jaw sets, one hand clenches into a fist, and there's a highly visible ring of amber around his irises for a second. "She has her *job*, because," he takes a steadying breath, "somehow, the scroll was stolen in a very average, expected fashion—from a display case on the main floor. Rather than," he gestures around them, "right out from under the Head Librarian's control in Special Collections. The former is easy to blame on a good thief. The later," his lip almost curls, "not so much."

He sits up, leans forward to rest his elbows on the desk. "It doesn't matter how fleeting it is, forcing someone to do and think anything other than what's in their own mind is disgusting." He manages to get that out without another tremor in his self control, barely. "So take your pick—steal things without doing that, or don't come back on this campus." He considers that, adds, "Or the third option, which is to accept another visit from myself and my friends."

For the lean forwards, a reciprocal step backwards. Ambrose seems to suck on one of his canine teeth beneath his lip almost thoughtfully as he lets the silence linger after the options set forth before him. A muted click of suction being released.

"I'll take the classical option then, since you've…a touch of the uncanny about you, Professor." He touches upon the observation with the first outright caution shown since his relative arrival. "If it's not too much familiarity to ask, are you…cursed?" He watches Halgrim closely for reaction.

Halgrim can't help himself; he chokes on a bitter laugh. "Cursed," he says, visibly struggling to keep a lid on additional laughter for several seconds. Once he's mastered himself, he sighs, studying Ambrose with an expression that's equal parts fierce and exhausted. He looks down at the notebook in front of him on the desk, blows out a breath. "Well I'm sitting here dealing with you, aren't I," he mutters. "If that's not a curse, what is." It's not a real answer, of course. His eyes stay on the notebook while he debates how to respond.

"Since you've so graciously agreed to act like a normal thief," he says, pauses to make sure the unspoken implication he'll be keeping a close ear to the ground for that is heard. Then, "In as much as I'm…anything." He glances away over the room. "I suppose I'm cursed."

In Ambrose's mind, the immediate reaction is almost proof positive that he's hit on something important. He watches with a faint air of concern even as the professor composes himself. A wry pull of lips to one side at the man's comment, but he does not dignify the potential truth of it with an answer.

"Hmph…normal," murmurs the master-thief. However, he nods and continues at proper conversational level. "You must be new to your state of being then, appearing as functional as you are. You haven't reached the breaking point." He sounds almost…knowing.

Halgrim shudders, shuts his eyes. There's a sense of something looming in the room; it takes him a second to get it under control. He doesan't open his eyes until he does, and Ambrose catches a glimps of receding yellow. "Pretty sure that's where I started," he says, almost absently.

Something about Ambrose's tone catches his attention, distracting him from his brooding, and he sits up and regards him. "What makes you say that? Known a few cursed people?"

Another silent, sliding step back for the moment necessary for more composure. He's taking Halgrim's measure all the while, noting minor tells of stress and working out precisely how far he can safely interact with the man. Once under clear focus again, Ambrose straightens in place. Don't let them see you flinch, especially the supernatural predators.

"A few," he allows before taking a hand and placing it to his chest. "Not that you'll care, given your thoughts on my existence, but…" Then he enacts a highly-proper bow, one not seen for nearly a century, from the time of Queen Victoria and courtly gatherings. It runs so completely counter to his current outfit that it might cause a double-take. When he stands upright again, it's with a long-ingrained air of military poise, proud and stiff rather than loose and ready to bolt. "Lieutenant Atherton, Esquire, of Her Majesty's Army. Accursed as you, professor, for nearly eighty-six years and for an uncounted number of decades yet to come." And boy howdy, the man does not look eighty-six.

Halgrim blinks, and for a time just stares at Ambrose with a slight frown on his face. He's torn; of course a good thief would, by necessity, need to be at least a halfway decent liar, and what better way to lie to someone with a supernatural problem than to claim to have one of your own. And yet, the uniform Halgrim had seen in his room, and his interactions with Adam and John…

He discards several comments and questions before settling on, "Cursed with youth and health?" He doesn't sound like he intends to mock Ambrose; he's just wondering at the specifics.

"That's a kind way to put it," Ambrose replies after a small dark laugh, displaying enough amusement to make him flash teeth. Some of the poise melts away in his frame as he returns to that longer-lived state of mild caution. "Mine is more complicated yet, but those are the boons, yes. A long, healthful life — all the time in the world to be reminded of my sins. For that's what a curse is, isn't it? A manner of eternal punishment for a mistake? The pettiness of some people boggles me from time to time…" And for a moment, he looks decidedly weary about his eyes before he makes an effort to regain his aloof air.

"Punishment," Halgrim echoes, nodding in agreement. He gets that distant expression again, eyes moving as he tracks some memory or another. "Pettiness…" He shakes his head. "I think it was just, greed, and thoughtlessness, that laid the trap I fell into." He surveys Ambrose again, confirming that he is, in fact, still here, still very not looking Victorian in age despite claiming otherwise. Raises his eyebrows. "No way to get rid of it, then? I mean," he waves a hand, "aside from the most obvious one."

The master-thief actually looks askance at that line of questioning. "No… I've no interest in going as I would, should I choose to die," he finally replies quietly as he meets Halgrim's eyes again. "I once saw another of my accursed state pass on. It was not kindness or peace. I would rather remain alive, yes, if only to spite the curse's creator. I have not succumbed to madness…that I am aware of." The amendment comes with a small shrug and self-mocking little smirk. "In our ways, I think, you and I, Professor, we are more alike than you might wish. I see, however, that you may still be dubious. I'll ask you another question yet."

He inhales and exhales as if readying himself for something. "That port you drank. On the rooftop. Do you remember the vintage? And I believe the manila folder was…red, yes? That contained the manifests?"

"Cursed, *and* denied the obvious escape?" Halgrim sighs; it's hard not to sympathize, even the tiniest bit, with someone else who's also trapped. He doesn't dwell on it long, though, because Ambrose asks him not one, but two, nearly impossible questions.

"How…" Halgrim thinks back; very far back. What color had they stored manifests in—hadn't it been green? No, that had specifically for the repatriation of the Jewish families' belongings. Red had been for the museum items. At least at first; they've moved to yellow when someone had pointed out too many of the people processing documents were red-green colorblind and that was why so many documents were getting mixed up. So yes, if it was red it had to be 1945, and the port, that had been later that year after the fiasco with the crate from North Africa. But the only people who could possibly know about the port had to have been on the roof with him. One of whom was, of course, now dead; two, actually, Weir had died of cancer last summer. And either way, Ambrose hadn't been part of that little soiree; he was not going to forget the four of them getting plastered on the roof. He and Bran still laughed about it sometimes. Of course, they'd probably all told numerous people about it much later…

It takes him a few minutes to think through all of this. At the end, he says, "I suppose you could have easily come and gone from Munich at some point and I utterly can't remember." There were just too many random faces who came and went; if Ambrose had been in there, he was lost in that sea. Too many nights drunk and arguing with Germans to remember the busy days. He considers Ambrose again. "But how did you know about the port? I specifically know the three people involved in that incident, and you're not one of them."

All through the pondering, the Jackal waits, hands in the pockets of his dark coat. After all, he's got all the time in the world to see the conclusions come to light. Risky, but he does recognize this man and wants to be certain of whom he is. He nods here and there through Halgrim's spoken thought process and eventually appears somewhat content.

"I swept through Munich with relative ease, yes. Bran, his name was…I think. His memory lingers in mine. The port, however…you told me that tale yourself, alongside your fellows. Her name." A pause. "Anna-Lise. She was sweet. I would have courted her had circumstances been otherwise. My name? At the time and for at least another five years afterwards: Fitzroy." He slips into standard German, sporting a small, almost sad smile as he adds, "I enjoyed that talk over beer, Lindqvist." It's a truly bright and fond spot in his life, that little moment.

That memory is recent enough to be, if not fresh for Halgrim, at least clearly recalled with some thought. Painful, though, considering his present circumstances; it's the sort of thing he's been prone to not thinking about on purpose. The needs of inquiry are what they are, though, and he can recall a night of beer on the dime of an overly-generous post doc when he and Rolf and Ishmael had all found themselves in Zurich together working with Anna-Lise on that fascinated set of coins. And the post doc in question…

Halgrim looks Ambrose up and down. It's him, of course, except for the part where he should be markedly older and isn't. He raises a brow. He answers in German; his own has more of Rolf's accent to it than it did back then. "Well, at the time I'd have said she was much too old for you, but now I realize that it was the other way around."

He also answers the question about the port. But English, now. "It was a 1927." He laughs. "Bran was horrified, he was sure we were all going to wind up in jail or worse. Court martialed, I guess, in his case. Until he'd had his first glass, of course, then he was much less worried." He manages to smile at the memory. "I even kept the bottle."

Ambrose's thoughts in regards to being too young for the past miss Anna-Lise are comprised in an insoucient shrug and small smirk. Ah, the relative joys of eternal youth can be partially found in the perpetual under-estimation.

"I'd keep the bottle too, especially of vintage year 1927. That was a good year," he agrees mildly. "Good memories too, attached to it. Whatever became of the young Qureshi then? I remember his dislike of…was it…insects? He wished to teach, if I'm remembering correctly. I haven't thought to look him over over these last years." He looks rather expectant to hear what's come of the promising young man he shared a common tongue and conversation with against all odds.

Halgrim should have expected a question like that, given how overjoyed Ishmael had been to speak Persian to someone for an extended period of time. He'd even mentioned Fitzroy once or twice in the years after Zurich. And Ambrose had just said that night in the pub was a good memory, so of course he was likely to inquire.

He should have expected it, but he didn't, and for a handful of seconds he just stares at Ambrose. He struggles, visibly, to stop himself from saying something, and looks away. The wave of emotion that passes over his face is equal parts fury and grief, and when it passes, he sags in the chair and runs a hand over his face.

"Of course…you haven't looked him up," he says, more to himself than to Ambrose. "You'd have already known then. You'd have put it together yourself."

Beneath the shade cast by the baseball cap, Ambrose's own expression crumples visibly. The implied news takes him as sharply as a blade between ribs and he drops his chin to hide the shocked grief that briefly closes off his throat in turn.

Clearing his throat, he braves, "I'm…my condolences. He was…a good lad." What more can the man say in honesty, not having known Ishmael beyond clever conversation and drinks at a pub? "But…put it together myself? I do not know the circumstances of the lad's passing. Care to enlighten me?" He asks this with a marked circumspection, now watching the professor across his desk again.

"Yes, he was," Halgrim agrees, voice husky and sad. He clears his throat, only to laugh; it's a desparate and hollow sound. He wonders aloud, "Oh, now what—do I let you go and look it up, or do I just, tell you?" He sighs, considers Ambrose for a time, ducks his head. It doesn't matter now; how long will it take him to make a phonecall, look up a newspaper?

Eventually, he says, "They're both dead. Ishmael and Rolf. And Ekaterina, but I doubt you ever met her." It's an exhausting handful of words to get out, and he just sits there after he's said it. Shakes his head. "You said, you didn't think I'd reached my breaking point with this." He looks at Ambrose; his eyes are full of weariness. He repeats what he said before. "I'm fairly sure I started there." It's a request he not be asked to get specific, if ever there was one.

Shifting in place, Ambrose listens in respectful, sorrowful silence. He looks to his boots once more to hear that Rolf too, that red-haired source of pithy wisdom, has also passed. At this point, he removes the baseball from his head and slaps it against his thigh, his lips crinkled in a moue of frustration, of all things — grieving missed chances as much as the people themselves.

His gaze rises to meet Halgrim's eyes and then one can see a facet of understanding click into place, aided by assumptions and knowledge of his own. "You poor bastard," he murmurs in sincere pity. "You did start there, didn't you. As before, if it's worth anything to you…I started there as well — with death as my only companion until I found solace in solitude and the courage to begin anew, as it were. No wonder you're a bloody terror. You've a spine of steel." This he says frankly.

On the flip side of the question about Ishmael being something Halgrim *should* have expected is this, something he wouldn't have ever expected: pity. He can't hold Ambrose's gaze for long; he takes to studying some distant point on a far bopkshelf. "Work hardened steel, at best," he murmurs by way of acknowleding the compliment. He continues in a more conversational tone. "I'd dead or, worse, locked up in a lab somewhere being studied, *wishing* I was dead, if not for—" He stops, makes a face when it occurs to him to avoid using names. Honesty hour or not, he won't put the others at risk. (Well, John handed over a business card, but that's beside the point.) "For some people who found me." He flicks a glance of apology for the secrecy. "My survival is almost entirely their doing."

He turns over what Ambrose has said in his mind."The starting over's the hard part, isn't it?" He raises his eyebrows, meets Ambrose's eyes again. "Once you get something back, even a little bit, you're just…" He shrugs, resgined. "Waiting for it to happen again."

Ambrose nods in sympathy. "I chose not to wait. I chose to make something of it. Perhaps…" and the master-thief reaches up with his free hand to scratch briefly at the scruff along the line of his jaw, uttering of a huff of a joyless laugh. "I dislike using 'lucky', but in a way, I was lucky to have an idea of how to apply what I thought firstly to be nothing but a burden. Granted, it's still a burden, that hasn't changed one bloody bit over the decades, but…I found ways." His voice goes hollow and distant even as his own eyes do the same, reliving some memory briefly.

From the past, he returns after a few heavy, silent seconds and gives Halgrim a small, empty smile. "You've got people. In this, I envy you."

Halgrim grimaces and makes a low, sympathetic sound. "No, I wouldn't call that luck," he agrees. "Perhaps, 'less unfortunate'." It's awkward phrasing, the kind of thing you'd think has a word to itself in German. He licks his lips. "Can't say I'd have made it 80 years like that. So. Color me impressed you're still standing, much less…" He stops short of calling it 'doing as well as you are', because really, what doe she know. He settles for, "Carrying on as reliably as you seem to be."

But now he frowns, considers Ambrose anew. "You don't? It's not exactly…wise, for me to associate with anyone except those who can defend themselves, but that only works for so long. " He narrows his eyes. "Or is it your curse itself that's the problem there?" He smiles, wry but genuine. "As you've noticed, people can tell there's something wrong with me, and not all of them decide it's worth putting up with wondering about whether or not I'm safe to be around."

The man slaps his baseball cap against his thigh again almost unconsciously. In regards to his 'carrying on'? A wry little salute, half-precision, half-two-fingered acknowledgement of the compliment. Ambrose then shifts in place, a resettling of posture to loosen joints and remain ready and able to bolt at the first necessity.

"No, I'm not surprised at all to hear that the public has no idea what to do with you," he agrees. "You've the air of a predator, whether you'd have it or not. I've encountered creatures like you before. I believe I sensed it even before your…" He draws a finger towards Halgrim's face briefly. "Eyes. A trick, that. My own apparently do something similar from time to time, but not during the day and not in unnatural lighting. In the pupils," he explains. "We are marked in this manner. I don't believe that I need to tell you to be wary. There are still those who would call for a witch-hunt over us." He then pauses, thinking. "My…curse is the reason for my need for solitude, yes. No one in their right mind would live near a «Deathstalker»." He says the word in Persian and then clarifies in a flat, emotionless tone, "One who deals death with a touch."

"Ah, yes, the eyes. That's when I'm having trouble keeping my head straight." Halgrim says this like it's a paraphrasing of a far more complicated mechanism. He starts to say something, stops, shakes his head. "I'd figured it was something along those lines, that they could feel it all the time." He gives Ambrose a rueful smile. "I can't risk going to a bar anymore. It angers people as much as it scares them, and if I get into a fight now…" He waves a hand, assuming Ambrose can fill in the ugly details. He sighs, nods his agreement. "Oh yes—bad enough they're trying to make mutants register themselves. You and I, they'd just take us out back. We're entirely unquantifiable."

He scratches his beard, puzzling over the entirety of the curse as Ambrose has described it. Here's an academic question, something to take his mind off his half of this otherwise morose conversation. "So, you're undying. But if you touch someone you'll kill them." He folds his arms, bites his lip. Presently, he says, "Certainly sounds like a punishment for something—or, some sort of trap, to keep you from seeking help, and make you spend an eternity trying to anyways." He blows out a breath. "Well. Sympathies; that has to be the nastiest and pettiest sort of magic I've heard of yet."

The blase and entirely logical approach to his issue is enough to make Ambrose's brows rise. Then comes the first snicker. It turns into a cascade of helpless, almost hysterical and hissing laughter, carefully kept to a minimal volume as not to draw unnnecessary attention. He places a hand against his chest and partially bends at the waist at one point even, apparently taken aback enough by the professor's thoughts. After a good ten seconds or so, he sighs and actually wipes at one of his eyes.

"Oh bloody christ, that was good. Your delivery, I mean. It's the most damned petty thing I've come across in my entire lifespan, yes, and I believe that's saying something. Whomever chose to set down the curse upon the tomb I stumbled upon was not gadding about. I didn't even take a single coin. The cost of trespassing was higher than I expected." He can speak of it now as an old war wound, in a way. Eighty years does that manner of healing.

Halgrim watches the hysterics with mild amusement. He waits for Ambrose to have it out; it's not like he hasn't done the same thing to Adam a half dozen times by now. (Of course, he's usually been halfway into a bottle of something at the same time, but he can make exceptions for people with particularly nasty curses.) "It's my unfortunate task to inform you, this is already the second time in a handful of days I've had to consider nasty magic from an analytical perspective." He holds out his hands. "I'm here all week."

But just like that, he's thinking it over again. "A tomb." Considering where the necklace came from, he can't judge anyone on that front. Really, what's the point. Halgrim runs a hand through his hair. "Unfortunately, that doesn't sound like the kind of curse that would come with a method of removal. Why bother; the whole point is to spread word that no one is welcome." He pulls a face. "Not that, in 80 years, I imagine you *haven't* spent plenty of time looking for a way to do just that."

"Your imagination does not fail you," he confirms quietly. "I have crossed oceans, scoured the globe, spoken to wise women and the eldest of tribal leaders alike. Those who did not shun me informed me that they did not know precisely what was done to me. I never had the chance to ask the other members of my platoon. They either died in the resulting cave-in or of my own inexperienced person, hand or presence alone." That implies that he needn't touch someone in order to cause harm. Yikes. "Thus, I continue to spread the word, if you will, and spite death by living. I can assure you that your coworker was never under any risk. I am no longer the bumbling accursed that I once was. The years have been kind in allowing me the solace of finding a manner of keeping the worst of the curse's influence at bay."

The master-thief glances out towards the hall at an errant sound, but it's nothing to be immediately concerned about, just a distant door closing. His eyes then travel back to Halgrim. "However, it is also nothing to trifle with. The years have also given me the chance to free it from the tangle of my emotions. A snap in temper no longer means a dead body. If you do not meditate, may I recommend you begin working as such post-haste."

Halgrim glances towards the door, listening, shakes his head. They won't be rousted out by the guards, not just yet. He stiffens when he realizes Ambrose's curse is, in fact, not simply tactile, though the reassurance comes before true anxiety can set in and morph into something more dangerous. He relaxes, listens with a distant expression. "Well it's no wonder you can't have people around, then," he says, finally. "Even if you found someone who could abide by a strict policy, that means it wouldn't matter, sooner or later." On that front, he can relate. 'Waiting for it to happen', indeed.

The suggestion of meditation is met with a short, sharp laugh. "Meditate," he says, and rubs at his eyes. "We gave that a try recently. It was," his mouth twtiches in a sardonic smile, "informative." He holds up a hand to belay any insistance. "Not that I intend to stop trying. I'll just have to be more careful." He blows out a breath. "For someone like me it takes on a whole new dimension."

"Indeed, the reason why I live alone," he agrees. Ambrose then tilts his head slightly, plainly curious by the confession by the man. Meditation bringing on an aspect of risk? Something he's never encountered before. An unknown — something to be marked as risk.

"A whole new dimension then. Your curse is…" He thinks, mulling over the various tidbits of knowledge he's gleaned over the decades in terms of the more permanent, potentially darker magics. "There is something about the meditation that prevents you from remaining aware of yourself? This sounds like a possession to me. Of course, I hazard this guess. I am no guru. Simply a student of that which plagues me."

"Well," Halgrim says, tone dry, "it sounds like it because that's what it is." He thinks about what he's said, gestures vaguely. "Or, it started out that way. It's," he mulls over how to describe it, "changing, based on things we've tried. But the entire situation appears to be more complicated than a simple possession, so every step has a varity of effects." He shifts in the chair, which has worn out its welcome; he wonders if they're chosen to encourage getting up and stretching rather than sitting for long hours. He bobs his eyebrows. "And, since I don't know the first thing about possessions, I've elicted the help of several people in untangling it. I suppose between them we'll figure out…something."

"Many minds do make a problem easier to solve from time to time…unless it's more of the old adage about cooks in the kitchen. I would not know." Not at all, given his propensity to remain a singular entity. He moves weight to his other foot, likely an unconscious act of social mirroring on his part. Can't take the human out the man, apparently, no matter how cursed he might be. "Then, rather than a possession, you have something symbiotic? You are at peace with whatever plagues you?"

Halgrim mmmms, expression contemplative. "A symbiote, I hadn't thought of her like that," he says, drums his fingers on one knee. "Maybe that's more accurate, now." He shakes his head in regards to the question. "No, we're definitely not at peace. Not yet." He swallows, because of course to get to that point there is a vast chasm to be crossed. Still… "Maybe, at some point."

He surveys Ambrose, not for the first time tonight. "John—the one who gave you his business card. You should go see him. Not that I think he's necessarily going to be able to resolve your curse where all your prior efforts have failed to. But…" Halgrim spreads his hands. "You never know. His skillset is eclectic and broad. If nothing else, he might be able to help in some way. And if not, well." He smirks. "He could have some interesting work for you."

Ambrose nods in acknowledgement of work to be done; there's always work to be done, after all. He still has that sympathetic cast to his expression and meets that considering gaze with less caution than initially in their encounter.

"I confess myself intrigued at your description of the man's…skillset. What with his apparent refusal to catch afire…" The man wrinkles his nose; that John handled flame without agony spooked him more than he'd readily admit. "I hadn't seen that trick from him before. We've met," he leaves that thought short and continues, pushing it aside; " — and I guarantee you that I am aware of what obscene chaos the man can get himself into. I have only catered once to his interests for good reason."

Something Ambrose has said is supremely funny; Halgrim just manages to choke back the laugh that tries to escape. "Yes, well. My point of view on what qualifies as 'obscene' chaos is likely skewed at the moment." He's hanging out with actual Frankenstein's Monster *and* John Constantine, so that's probably not an overstatement.

"John knows a great many things from a great many walks of life." He pauses, clarifies, "And otherwise. And people to go with that knowledge as well. So, as…off-putting as his interests and his company might be, it's a good connection to have, and make use of."

He glances at his watch, sighs, and closes the large tomes in front of him. "In about ten minutes they're going to come up here and beg me to leave," he says as a warning.

The warning is a good one. For once, he's forgotten to look for hanging clocks on the walls. Ambrose unzips his jacket to reach into an inner pocket. What comes out in his palm, flicked open, is an antique gold pocketwatch, circa easily early 1900s, looking as shiny and pristine as the day it was crafted — blame a certain Jewish electrician. He frowns at the time displayed and clicks it shut, stashes it away again.

"Yes, something to note," he agrees in terms of the guards ushering Halgrim out and away from his books as well as the connection. "I do have the business card. If I find a reason to ring up the man again, rest assured that I will. I have no interest in discussing anything with your campus's security staff, however, so, if you'll excuse me." Another courtly nod on his part and then he gives Halgrim the ghost of a smile, this one not shadowed by any negativity, almost a sense of amusement. "Be well, Professor Lindqvist. You'll see me again, I'm sure."

Halgrim smiles, a little sly even. "I'm sure you don't," he agrees. "And, I'm sure I will." He hefts the three books, moves to the correspondance cabinets. "Be well, Atherton." He pauses in the act of placing the first book, raises his eyebrows. "Don't let me catch you giving the Scandinavian collection so much as a sideways glance."

Having taken a few steps back and half-turned in place, Ambrose pauses. He then indulges in a slow, contemplating look at the books in Halgrim's hands. He deliberately leaves attention lingering on them long enough perhaps to pique a blitz of emotion in the man, but then curls a crooked smirk.

"I wouldn't dare." By the lightly mocking tone, he makes fun of threat, both real and implied. With that, the darkly-dressed young man excuses himself from Special Collections and disappears down the nearest hallway, headed for the side hallways and their quieter, lesser traveled ways.

Halgrim taps one of the books he's still holding. "Lindesfarne," he says, drawing out the name, and gives Ambrose a sharp smile. "But nice try." There's no yellow in his eyes, no other indication he feels a need to protect these particular books. He's less on edge now, and anyways they have an understanding, sort of.

As Ambrose leaves, Halgrim mutters under his breath, "You'd damned well better not," and shut the drawer a little harder than necessary.

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