Books!

Who: Esme and Leo
Where: Their house
When: Morning

Leo was up early, half expecting Christmas tune again, grateful when there was nothing. The paints he'd been given yesterday were still there. He'd decided that today, was painting day - that was going to be this afternoon. But, first, he'd made a promise to a lady, so he got up, got dressed in a pair of jeans and a red poloneck t-shirt and headed downstairs, finishing off a breakfast bar on the way, the uneaten chocolate bar from yesterday still shoved into his back pocket, and knocked on her door.

 - ..

Esme had just put her hearing aids in after determining that the Christmas music had, in fact, died when the knock came at the door. She was still getting used to these new, stronger, slightly bulkier ones and it wasn't easy, but she managed. She was very happy to see Leo there- for all she knew, it could've been someone new randomly knocking on doors. That tended to happen these days. She smiled at him. "Hey, Yeo, come on in. Wecome to Bawnesh n Noba," she said with a little bit of a giggle, shuffling out of the way.

 - .

"Thanks," Leo said as he stepped inside and whistled softly as he saw the lines of books on shelves around the room. "Damn - you really weren't kidding,w ere you?" he asked, surprised, as he turned back to her. "You really are the local library," he added with a wide grin.

 - ..

"Tow ya," Esme said, a little proudly as she showed off the shelves of books- all with little bows on them. That hadn't been easy to deal with but she'd managed. "Shome of dem aw betta dan odersh, but dash nowma fow womanshe." She looked over a shelf and handed Leo one, featuring a barechested man and a woman in red standing on the deck of a pirate ship. "Dash one of my favwite auforsh."

 - .

Leo listened carefully, trying to get through what she was saying - he found it hard, and he knew that he didn't catch everything she'd said, but, he got the last sentence and he took the book, turning it over to look at the back. "Yeah? You read this one? It any good? Or just more by the same author?" he asked her, sounding genuinely interested. It'd been years since he'd read trashy romance, but there was always a time and a place - plus, it was a cast iron excuse to get out and tlak to people, and he really needed that.

 - ..

Esme looked again to make sure she'd given Leo the one she'd intended to. "Ish not one of heh besh, but ish petty good. One of huh fusht. Good shtawtah to heh shtyuh." She was a little frustrated. She'd talked wonderfully with Leo on the computers, but knew she sounded ridiculous talking to him in person. "You have any favwitsh?"

 - .

"Well, I'll take it on your recommendation," Leo told her, tucking it under his arm and looking along the shelves for anything familiar. "Have to admit - it's been a while..." he said, musingly, until he saw a name he recognised. He pulled out a blue-spined book with a picture of a woman leaning over a balcony on a windswept night, her hands held out for something. "Ahh, this one," he said, handing it out to her. "Read it in Bali a few years back. Absolute tripe, but hideously entertaining. One of those 'so bad it's good' types - completely overblown and overly dramatic. I loved it," he told her with a wide grin.

 - ..

Esme had to laugh a little at this big strong man getting so excited over bodice-rippers like this. "You know you shmut," she said with a giggle. "Don't fink i eva wead dat one. I have to gif it a twy when youah done!" She looked over the collection, still in shock. "I don't know why I wead dish shit," she laughed. "Guessh I chusht yike ta yive vicawioushy thwoo dem."

 - .

"Ahh, I'm done - I read it before, so, well, it's your book anyway," Leo told her, pressing it on her. "And as for the whys and wherefores of us reading this crap, well - it's easy, isn't it? I mean, they're not hard to get lost in, and everything comes out right in the end. It's escapism. Plus, all the guys are rippling torsos - and all the girls are insanely beautiful. What's not to like?" he teased, his blue eyes sparkling against the remains of a tan which still hadn't entirely faded, despite the long months inside. But then again, it had been the product of many years. "Everyone enjoys a bit of vicarious living every now and again."

 - ..

Esme laughed at his commentary on the genre. Leo was so different from a lot of men, it seemed. Especially at his age. "Weh, fanksh," she said, blushing a little as she accidentally spit while talking. "Oopsh, showwy," she said, taking the book a little self consciously. "Ann fanksh fo bein sho fyendy wif me. I've awaysh kinda had twouba wif dat."

 - .

Leo looked away, glancing at the shelving and pretending to be engrossed in the book and that he hadn't at all caught the spittle or anything - that seemed the kindest thing to do. He picked a book out of the shelf at random and looked at it, before turning back to her. "Trouble? Really? I, er... That's no problem, I guess. I... like people. And it's good to be able to talk again."

 - ..

"I yike peopa too," Esme said, waddling over to her bed and sitting down. "Ish jusht a matta of peopa takin da time ta get ta know me. An dey ushyayee don't." She busied herself by looking down, her slightly curled fingers doodling on the bedspread. "Day jusht shee da chair oh da shpashynesh an don't bovver." Her legs kind of kicked as they dangled off the side of the bed. "Even onshe I came heah, to da Eshpewiment, I had a hawd time weayee gettin ta know peopa."

 - .

"Well, that's their loss then, isn't it?" Leo said, looking down at her. "But people can't see past the outside a lot of times - it doesn't take a wheelchair or a disability to cause that. Some people are just... they see something that's a little different and they can't accept that," he said, a trace of bitterness entering his tone. He still got twinges from his old break from time to time, right in the bone, where it had fractured, where he'd been beaten up because of his sexuality.

 - ..

"Yeah, eshactyee," Esme said, brushing her hair out of her face. "Ann if ish not da dishabiyity, ish dat I'm Meshican or shomefin yike dat." She sighed and kind of plopped backwards on the bed. "Shometimesh I wonda if my pawensh aw wight. Dat I'm jusht not weady to yive in da 'weah wood'" She sighed, a little bitter herself. This experiment had proved that she might be okay as long as everything was perfect, but once the shit hit the fan, she had no clue. "Showwy bout dat. You didn't come down heah to yishen to me bish, I know." She forced a sort of half-smile onto her face.

 - .

He was getting a little better at figuring out what she was saying, he thought. Or maybe she was just being clearer now, he wasn't sure - but it was good that he wasn't having to pick his way through as much. "You can bitch all you want," he assured her. "And I don't think anyone's ever really ready to live in the real world - and come on - this is hardly the real world. It wouldn't surprise me if people were at each other's throats all the time. High stress and all. I know when I was on my own, there were days when I really just wanted to take it out on someone - but there was nobody there to do that to," he added.

 - ..

Esme smiled again, this time a bit more real than before. "Ish not aw bad, I guesh," she said, sitting up with a little difficulty, accidentally brushing against Leo as she did. Not that she minded. "Fow shome weashon, dey deshided dat dey wanted to teash me to wawk betta. Sho I guesh I shoud be fankfuh fo dat. But I fink I'd twade it aw. I'd even take bein wooshe, nnot be abuh to do anyfin fo myshef, if it meant bein abuh to go home again." She looked up at Leo, still smiling a little, but tears starting to form in her eyes.

 - .

Leo caught sight of the tears and sat down next to her. "Hey - don't be like that!" he said, trying to be consoling as he set the books down between them. "Look at it this way - the year's not up yet, is it? And we signed up for a year and that was all. So, maybe this is all part of that." He wondered if he really, actually believed that. Maybe he felt like he had to.

 - ..

Esme looked at Leo as he sat down. "I'd yike ta beyeive dat," she said, knowing that the tears and blubbering were probably only making it harder to understand her. "But I'm jusht sho shcayed shometimesh day deya neva gonna yet ush out." She leaned over towards Leo, clumsily placing her hand on his and leaning onto his shoulder. "Ash mush ash I twy to hide it... I'm shcayed, Yeo. Shcayed weah neva goin home again."

 - .

Leo extracted his hand from under hers so that he could give her a one-armed hug. She seemed to need it right now, upset as she was. "Hey, it's okay. We all get like that sometimes, but it's not been so bad recently, has it?" This probably wasn't the best time to be ignoring the fact that some guy had been tied naked to a tree in the snow yesterday, but - he was trying to think positively here! And they'd got him down and someone had taken him to the hospital, so that was okay. Maybe. Hmm. "And you'll get home again, I'm sure you will."

 - ..

She reached around him and returned the hug. He had a very nice smell to him. She liked it. "I guesh not," she said, reaching up with her free hand and wiping her mouth again. She was getting emotional, and that never did her any favors when it came to her spazziness. "But datsh alwaysh how it wash before. Dey'd yet fingsh jusht shit dere for a while, yet you get compyashent, and den dey dwop anover bomb on you." She squeezed him a little harder when he tried to comfort her about going home. "Fanksh. I neva fought I'd mish my pawensh dish mush." She looked up with a crooked smile. He had pretty eyes, too.

 - .

Leo let her go after the comfort hug and sat back, picking the books back up again and holding them in his lap. "Sorry," he apologised, feeling bad for her feeling bad. "But - at least you have reading material to take you mind off things?" he suggested, trying to give her something rather more positive to focus on. It wasn't much, but he'd always been an optimist and at least he could try.

 - ..

Esme smiled a little. "Yeah, at yeasht I have dat." She glanced briefly at the shelves upon shelves of books she'd been given. "Dat'sh what I've alwaysh done- fingsh get bad, go hide in a book!" She giggled, then pointed at the books in Leo's lap. "Hope you enjoy doshe, an come on down anytime you want a new one. Oh, you know, jusht wanna tawk."

 - .

"Thanks - and I really appreciate the loan. I'll take care of them - promise," he told her, standing up. "I'm not a particularly fast reader, so I might have them a while - let me know if I'm hogging and you want them back. Y'know - if you get through all of these in the meantime," he joked, his blue eyes twinkling.

 - ..

She laughed, staying on the bed. "Don't wowwy. I fink I got a coupa yearsh worf of weadin heah myshef." She gave him a smile. "But I yet you know, kay?" God, he's cute. Too bad he'd never give me a second glance outside of here.

 - .

"You do that," Leo told her, hefting the books, before heading out of the room, planning the rest of his day in his head. Journal, food, painting. And he'd maybe go for a run or something this evening - hopefully that would stop him from freezing in the snow, but he should probably make sure to get it done before the sun went down, just in case.