The awkward tension in the cozy little room was palpable. Jer thought he could almost taste it in the air, a certain thickness, a scent just on the edge of perceptible. It was as if someone was steaming oysters two rooms over, that kind of humectant salty reserve.
Certainly, a glance at both Cole and Orin's faces indicated that one could quite likely have cooked oysters on either of them. Both were varying shades of pink, with Orin's normally pale skin glowing a vibrant red that seemed just shy of setting his hair on fire. Cole made a valiant, if stilted, attempt to derail the conversation and redirect it, clutching at a pale shadow of the grace and elan Jer had witnessed over the years--but the youth was not quite ready to move on.
"M-maybe you ought to see about getting your coin back, Mr. Harper..."
Jer let out a gust of a sigh, followed by a silent wince. Any pretense at eating or drinking was thoroughly abandoned, though he'd tucked in with such gusto at the start of the morning that there was little left on his plate to toy with in the first place. Getting up and walking down the stairs with a light heart and pleasantly weary body already felt like it was a week ago. The events of the night before felt as if they were from another lifetime, if one with reverberating repercussions.
He sought out Cole's eyes once more, holding them as he spoke, watching carefully for signs that he was speaking out of turn--but he couldn't imagine this man, who he knew better than anyone else in this world, choosing the other option.
"If social faux pas were sufficient to disqualify one from this journey, we'd all have been eliminated quite some time ago."
His fingers reached out for the cup, then faltered and did a nervous dying dance on the table. Surprisingly, his voice came out sounding relatively crisp and confident.
"And if you think Cole would sell anyone back into slavery, you really don't know him at all. Though I admit I am an unknown quantity to you." The joking smile that twisted his face at that last line came through clearly in his tones. "But I'd like to think I'd get the benefit of the doubt."