(1940-08-13) The Prodigal Returns
Details for The Prodigal Returns
Summary: After nearly a year, Arthur Nightingale returns to the MLE, and things get slightly awkward when he encounters Rena with a new name and an altered situation.
Date: 1940/08/13
Location: Ministry of Magic: Law Enforcement
Related: Breaking Bad News

It's hard being a desk jockey; but, Rena has no choice but to be one for the time being. She's gotten used to dealing with paper work and reading seemingly endless files. At least following paper trail leads gives her something to occupy her mind.
For all intents and purposes, the petite redhead looks unchanged. However, she is dressed in a loose fitting (though still tailored) black suit - something not as befitting her usual sunshiny demeanor as she usually wears. At the moment, she has paused the flow of MLE business, and is now poring over a Muggle Newspaper article detailing the most recent RAF battle over the channel.

It has been a long time since Auror Nightingale has been to the office let alone his desk. The soft footfall of his shoes against the floor seems to echo in his ears as he makes his way towards his desk. It is almost exactly how he left it, minus the large stack of paperwork that is in the small metal bin labeled 'IN' which dwarfs the matching bin that is empty labeled 'OUT'. He doesn't make eye contact with anyone, he always hates the return portion of this. He leaves on such short notice and then appears again on even a shorter notice. His mind is aware that many of his co-workers would be perfectly fine with him not ever making this walk back to his desk. Pulling out his chair he lets out a small almost exaggerated sigh as he sits down in the chair and begins to pull the top bit of paperwork from the bon and look at it before leaning back in his chair with another sigh.
He doesn't say anything to anyone, just stares at the ceiling for a moment with the paperwork in his hand before picking up the stack of papers and dropping it in the bin labeled 'OUT', looking at it rather satisfied before picking up the file on his desk and sitting it neatly on top. His right hand slides into his trench coat and he pulls out an apple and the soft sound of 'Crunch Crunch Crunch' can be heard as he begins to eat it.

Something in the footfall; something familiar in the scent of the man as he drifts by… Rena loses her focus on the newspaper. Afraid to look up, she stares at the pages open before her without truly seeing any of the words or pictures. Then, closing her eyes, she draws a deep breath and finally lays the paper to rest. Forcing herself to glance in the direction of Arthur's normally devoid desk, her eyes light up momentarily with a skip in her heartbeat. Then she remembers all the pain that lies between them, and the light dims once more.
Scarcely daring to breathe, Rena makes up her mind to at least try to see how he is doing. Swallowing hard, she slides her chair back, rises to her feet and snatches up a large random file folder to carry with her as an excuse to be going somewhere other than her own desk.

"A-Arthur," Rena stumbles a bit, offering a hopeful, if slightly worried smile. "Gosh, it's been a long time… 'Ow - How are you?"

Arthur doesn't look up from the ceiling, even though he hears Rena's footfall as she moves closer. He just takes another bite of his apple and once again, "Crunch Crunch Crunch" as he eats it. When she is finally in front of him, he still doesn't look up right away, til after she talks to him and addresses him. His eyes move to her from the ceiling, "Hoy? Short Stop, yeh looking a bit pale." is all he says at first, before moving to sit up and address her. "Has et? Didn't notice." he says looking around the office for a moment, he can feel the eyes on him, "Been in Ireland, way do green. Dhink I caught ah cold." he says with a small shrug, "Just dandy, not a care in da world, doing great. Better dhen ever ah course." He says slowly, with that cocky smirk on his lips, "How bout ya, how ya been Short Stuff?" he says looking a bit to the right to try and seem disinterested.

It's a good thing that Arthur doesn't bother looking at Rena initially. The moment she hears his voice, something about it seems to leave her stricken briefly. She missed his voice… and he didn't miss anything. Of course, she knows that's for the best - for both of them - but, it still hurts a little to hear. The old fire that used to make her want to hurt him back appears to be gone.
"I… I've not been well." She admits, dropping her gaze as a little tinge of colour rises in her cheeks. "I'm getting better - managing, anyway. I'll be better if… My husband has been missing for nearly three weeks, now. Shot down over the channel." She gets it out in one blow, like ripping a bandage plaster off of a wound.
Realizing she probably shouldn't have said anything in that front, the colour in Rena's face deepens. "Sorry, I shouldn't mention things like that. Not to you. I apologize." She says meekly, holding the folder more tightly against herself.

Arthur doesn't look at her, he just takes another bite of his apple. He wasn't expecting her to say that. He considers for a moment that she is horrible at being British, she always has been, she is more, French he thinks to himself. Curious thoughts, she never does well in small talk, she always just gets it out. "I am sorry da hear dhat." he says simply, looking back at her. His face is straight but he forces a smile, he had half expected her to swat at him, something. But nothing. Now she was standing in front of him acting… like she has grown up and he is still acting like a kid.
"I am sorrah da hear dhat." he says slowly with a small nod, "Yeh know yeh never need da bite yer tongue around meh." he says with a shrug, before looking away again.

Quite possibly, the only reason for Rena's unexpected maturity is the new life growing inside of her. Up until now, she's been holding the file folder before herself, almost as if to make a pathetic attempt at hiding her condition. Now, allowing some of the bound up tension to slip away, she lowers the file with a sigh.
"I know, Arthur, I just… I don't ever want to hurt you, again. I've hurt enough people in the last year or so to make up for a lifetime of goodness. And Lor' knows, I'm not a good girl to begin with." Pausing briefly, she offers a wan smirk: "It were… was about time some of it caught up with me, yea? What goes around comes around. If I end up being a widow, it's probably poetic justice, or something like."

Arthur doesn't say anything for a long moment, so much time has passed he is trying to process all of this. He wonders if Rena really remembers when they last spoke, but just like always when he goes undercover, the world moves on around him, because he is off busy being someone else. He doesn't say anything he just looks at Rena for a long moment, "Don't be sayen dhings like dhat." he says waving his hand a bit, "Hoy! Yeh got a few rough spots, but no more then anyone else." he says nodding, "Yeh deserve da be just as happy as everyun else." he says sharply pointing his finger at her for a moment, before reaching into his coat and pulling out a small box and tossing it at her, regardless if she catches it or not. "Won dhat in a card game in un of da pubs, was going da sell it but figured yeh might like it." he lies, about all of it, every single word of it. He offers a shrug, before taking another bite of his apple as he opens his desk and looks for something that isn't in there and he knows it.

Startled and taken off guard by the little box tossed suddenly in her direction, Rena forgets herself and drops the file on the floor. Papers scatter, but she pays them no mind. Instead, she holds the box against her chest and looks long and hard at Arthur, wondering whether he's being truthful with her or not. She never was clever enough to tell, even at the best of times.
Turning her attention to the box, Rena lifts the lid, trying to stifle the tremble in her hand. An involuntary: "Ooh…" slips out as her eyes fall upon the slender, beautiful ring tucked inside. It is silver, and the band covered with fanciful, delicate vines and leaves which encircle an amber stone - the exact shade of her hair. A determinative watch stem leads her to realize that the stone lifts back, revealing an absolutely precious little watch tucked inside.
"Oh, Arthur… Arthur, it's beautiful," Rena says softly, finding her voice again. Stepping forward, she lays the box on Arthur's desk so that she can slip the ring onto her finger: "And it fits perfectly, too." She adds, smiling, and clearly fighting back sentimental tears. "Are …are you sure you want me to have this?"

Arthur waves his hand a little bit, "Id does?" he says about it fitting perfectly, rubbing his chin, "'Ell I guess if it fits, even better." he says with a shrug, as he closes his desk drawer, "Yeh dropped yer file." he says gesturing to the paper on the floor. Though his eyes move across her wearing the ring for just a brief moment. "Eh?" he says looking at her a bit confused.
"Eh, it's only worth a few pounds." He lies again through that smile of his, "No sense in given it back." he says with a shrug, "Looks good on yeh." he says with a small nod. "Don't forged da wind it." he says pointing his finger at her, "Or have sumun do some magic on it, ain't goin da do yeh any good if it dies, yer always late as it is." he says with a nod, still not touching on the fact she is with child or anything else.

Rena would object to the notion that the ring is only worth a few pounds. It can't possibly be a cheap trinket - not judging by its appearance. However, she lets it go. No sense in arguing with Arthur over something so trivial, anyway.
Reminded of the file and the mess on the floor, Rena looks down, slightly dismayed. This is just awkward and embarrassing… and she doesn't feel right asking him for help. Murmuring an apology, she slips out of her shoes for the moment and, in as lady-like a way as humanly possible, lowers herself onto her knees. She can't exactly crouch as she used to. Everything is increasingly awkward these days. Wryly joking through a blush, Rena remarks as she hastily gathers them up: "Cor, some desk jockey I am if even office work causes me this much trouble."

Arthur leans forward and looks down at her from his desk and watches and listen to her, staying silent for a moment. "Eh, 'ell yeh weren't at a desk, so I dhink yeh can get away with it." She doesn't ask for help and he doesn't offer it, that is just of Arthur is, he doesn't come to the rescue that has never been his part in this play. His eyes silently look over her for a second, before he finally says, "So yeh got knocked up Doll?" he finally says with a nod, "Barely noticed, hardly even look it." he says running his hands across the top of his head as he leans back.

Rena's flustered and hurried movements cease momentarily. She sits back on her heels and looks at Arthur over the desk with a mildly bemused expression: "Yea? How about that…" She answers. "Sure feel it, though. Seems I liked the idea better than the rest of me did."
Returning to her work, the little woman goes on as she finishes the job: "Tied the knot all proper, were lucky enough to get a weekend's leave for him, and… well, few months later, turns out like storybooks do." Except for the part where the husband gets shot down, of course.
Sliding the tidied folder onto Arthur's desk, Rena uses the edge to help herself back onto her feet. "I'm scared as hell," she admits, slipping her feet back into her shoes. "I wanted to be a mum for such a long time, and now I'm just scared. Nothing I can do to stop it, though." A beat, and she chuckles: "Smack in the middle of a war. I've got the best timing, don't I?"

Arthur looks over Rena slowly for a moment, he is forcing the smile on his lips. Everything he is doing is forced. He hates that. It's different right now, it's always different. When he pretends to be one of the creations in his mind, he isn't forcing things, he is just being someone else. But trying to do the same thing, when he was himself, that was always too much. It was different. "I am sure it will all be alright." he says softly, pushing himself off the desk. He always knew she deserved better then him and she would get it, that is just life though. His life was to do what he did and to move forward, "Yeh will be a great Mum." he says slowly as he pushes himself up from his desk, "Better let you get back to shuffling papers, a few dhings I need to check on." he says as he turns around and offers a half hearted wave good bye to her.

And so, Rena is left standing in the office, watching Arthur walk away… feeling very small. Things will be very different, this time around. And yet, some things will probably never change.

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