While the triplets were staying at Luke’s loft, Crux invites Polaris to have dinner with him at his home. It’s a cool night, and clouds cast a hazy shadow over the desert. Crux’s house is two-stories and contemporary; Polaris is suitably impressed. The interior is largely monochromatic, with the occasional hint of color. Unseasonable rain drums against the many windows, producing an uneven tempo that echoes through the cavernous house.
“I didn’t know you knew how to cook,” Polaris is watching Crux carefully. He’s making a simple dish—autumn salad—but she’s had enough kitchen mishaps to make her cautious. Like her, he’s used to food replicators, not chopping boards and knives.
“I am learning. There is a wealth of information about food preparation at the library,” his reply is slow. He cuts deliberately, concentrating on the lettuce in front of him. “Why are you hovering behind me, Polaris? It is very distracting.”
“You’re using a sharp knife, so I’m supervising. You know, you should ask an adult for permission before you handle sharp objects.”
Crux ignores her comment. “I enjoy cutting vegetables. It is relaxing.” The knife makes hollow knocking noises as it hits the cutting board. Combined with the drumming of the rain, it creates an odd melody.
“Finished,” he says with a smile, obviously proud of himself. He sets two plates on the table and gestures for Polaris to sit.
“Is it good?” he asks before taking a bite himself.
“Yes, it’s good, Crux,” she replies, “though I would like some salad with my vinaigrette.” Crux takes a bite and begins coughing—it’s too bitter. He had used too much dressing.
“It’s salad, Crux. It’s not rocket science. You chop up veggies, put ‘em in a bowl, and add a splash of vinaigrette.”
“Rocket science is easier than cooking for me, it seems. Also, how much is a ‘splash’? Can you quantify that?”
“This is hopeless,” Crux sighs.
Polaris laughs,“Like I said, it’s just a salad; it’s no huge deal.”
They finish eating, both of them cleaning their plates despite they overly-bitter salad. Crux collects the plates and quickly washes them while Polaris makes idle chit-chat. Mostly, she complains about the weather. Crux only seems to half-listen, though, much to Polaris’s annoyance.
“So you don’t seem very interested in my company—why did you invite me over?” Polaris asks pointedly as Crux sits back down at the table.
“…am I in trouble? I always feel like I’m in trouble when someone says they want to talk.”
“Possibly because you are often in trouble. However, you are not in trouble this time.”
“I wish to put the past behind us,” he says bluntly, “and I would like to court you.”
“You’re being awfully direct.”
“I feel I need to be direct. Indirectness has caused many problems. If I had been direct about my intentions, you never would have given a second look to that human with the stupid hair and the intelligence of an Australopithecus.”
“There’s no need to be nasty, Crux,” Polaris laughs.
“I am not being nasty. His hair is objectively ridiculous, and his intelligence is objectively low.”
“And how does one objectively measure those things?”
“I have based those conclusion on careful scientific observation and analysis,” Crux explains, “and you have evaded my proposal.”
“—no talk of the past, Polaris. That is one of the terms of this agreement,” Crux reminds her.
“Fine,” she sighs, “I agree to your very unromantic way of asking to date--I mean, court--me.”
“TV is your idea of courting?”
“You like television,” Crux points out, “besides, I thought you might like a private evening as opposed to going somewhere busy. I know your children often tire you out, and I would like to spend time with you alone.”
“TV it is then.”
“Is this the sort of movie you enjoy?” Crux seems dubious.
“Occasionally,” Polaris shrugs. Suddenly, the movie’s antagonist breaks down the cabin door with a hatchet. Crux jumps. “Mostly, I enjoy your reactions.”
“Are you tired, Polaris?” His heart beats a little quicker.
“A little,” she says dreamily, “but I don’t want to go.” She nuzzles his shoulder. He wraps his arm around her. He feels like his heart might very well beat out of his chest.
“Wake up, Polaris,” Crux nudges her. She snaps up.
“Guess we fell asleep,” she yawns, “Ugh, it’s a long drive back to my house.”
“You could sleep here tonight,” Crux suggests, “I mean…I am not suggesting anything improper. You could spend the night since your children are at the…their father’s house. That way you do not need to be alone.” He’s worried about her being alone. There’s safety in numbers.
“Yeah, that sounds good. Just don’t try anything funny,” she laughs nervously. It’s more a warning for herself than for him.
“Why would I attempt comedy?”
“Oh, you are quite welcome,” Crux looks at her timidly, “I can sleep on the sofa if you would like. Or you could take Lily’s room. I am sure she would not mind; she said she would be out with Lyra all night.”
“Erm…I find you…charming. Quite charming, in fact.”
“Many of your characteristics are charming,” he says softly, staring into her eyes, “your passion, for one. And your sense of humor, although it is quite inappropriate at times. You are adventurous and capricious. You can be tender one moment, and fiery another. It is an admirable quality.”
“Is there such as thing?”
“You know what I mean. You don’t have to put up with me. You’ve put yourself in danger for me, all while I was knocking boots with another man. And every day I think the Commander will find me, and you, and the kids…”
“’Knocking boots?’” he cuts her off, “I have not heard that one before.”
“Copulating. Crux, about ninety percent of Simlish phrases are about sex. Also, I was talking, you jerk.”
“I’m sorry,” she says quickly, “I don’t want to rush our…courting. Relationship. Whatever.”
“Do not apologize,” he says, “I will sleep on the sofa. You may take my bed”
“No,” she says quickly, “please, stay with me.” She pulls him to the bed.
“What are you doing, you creep?”
“Admiring you,” he replies, “You really are quite beautiful when you are not conscious.”
“Of course, you are even more stunning when you are conscious,” he smiles. His eyes unconsciously wander down her body.
“Did you just check me out?”
“What is ‘checking out’?”
“I mean, are you staring at me with sexual intent,” she rolls her eyes. Crux is silent for a moment.
“Yes,” he says softly.
“What?” Polaris is dumb-founded, “Crux, I was just jok—“
“What is it?”
“We don’t have to do this. I don’t want to pressure you,” she says. It’s a half-lie: she doesn’t want to pressure him, but she’s perfectly happy with the direction they’re headed.
“While you are indeed a bad influence, you are not pressuring me.”
“I adore you, Polaris,” Crux says between quick kisses. Polaris hardly acknowledges the comment; she’s struggling to unfasten his pants.
Otis Redding--"Try a Little Tenderness"
Author’s Note: Characterization is really, really hard. It’s been hard getting back into the groove of things, but I finally feel like I’m getting back on track with the story. I re-read my last two chapters and cringed, so I hope I’m improving.
As always, thanks for reading.