Logs:Veterans of Different Wars - Joe and Holly

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Veterans of Different Wars - Joe and Holly
Dramatis Personae

Joe, Holly

17 August, 2021

Two members of the Thorpe family become reacquainted.


Thorpe Manor

The Thorpe house always tends to be well-kept and immaculate. You don't get a family this full of service-minded folks without a bevy of cousins, aunts and uncles stopping by on occasion to do this or that. Holly's always been that type, since she was little, and now that she's grown up into her adorable self, that hasn't changed.

The young woman is currently on her knees on the grass in front of a flower bed, happily weeding. And true, this is something most people do during the afternoon, but it's almost a certainty that she's doing this after getting off of a twelve hour shift saving people's lives or just checking out sprained ankles or people letting themselves get dehydrated.

Still, she /is/ happy. The smile gives it away, as does the fact that she is softly singing in a beautiful, if wholly untrained, voice while she digs in the dirt.

He moves like earth-driving equipment. Each step planned, plotted, and allotted a certain amount of energy and expected to achieve a given result in the gain of traction and momentum. Nothing unplanned, always capable. Claiming ground by stepping on it, not simply walking across it. Subdual as transportation. Still, he keeps his head high, moving from side to side, a permanent patrol and control factor, absorbing the world entire, dressed in plaid and khaki. The uniform of the working class, a thing he can not abandon - the final post he'll hold.

Carrying a bag of cement on one shoulder like an article of clothing, he also is equipped with a wire basket, the grip of which would leave a normal man's hand in ruins after a scant hundred meters. To him, an effortless task being accomplished with neither complaint nor concern; sterner stuff, he's crafted from, of this is there no doubt.

At seeing Holly, he plants the basket on the ground, then gently lays down the cement, finally making eye contact with a younger branch of the tree whose roots dug deep into him. "Hello," he says, and his voice is deep, rich, filled with the decades of his apparent age. The wizened, battered man, still standing since his tours through a jungle hellhole ended with a tenure as a POW, or so says the family rumor mill. Joe "Big Joe" Thorpe himself.

She seems to know he's there sooner than she really ought to. Hard to say for sure if she simply hears him, smells him, or some other, more nebulous sense lets her know of someone's approach, but she twists at the waist to look over one shoulder, then smiles, her kind brown eyes lighting up. The young woman hops up to her feet, which are currently bare, brushing her hands off on the denim of the cut-off shorts she's currently wearing.

"Uncle Joe!" she all but chirps, then comes padding over, clearly intending to give him a hug, though there is something gently watchful to her eyes that seems to indicate she'll back off the affection in a moment at any sign it's unwanted. She's always been like that... both nurturing and protective, though that seems to have strengthened over the past two years. Then again, so has her unearthly adorability. Seriously, no one should be /that/ cute.

He's far from emotionless. Just deeply focused on his impact to the world. And as such, he picks up Holly in his hands, not even needing his full arms, and demonstrates that same strength by hoisting her aloft, his smile breaking across his craggy features. "Holly," he says, his resonating tone conveying no small amount of warmth. To his family, he was driven and motivated, sent to the far ends of the world and seemed to never really come back; the curse of the Vietnam-era military culture. As he sets her down, he looks her over, smiling with familial love.

"You've grown," he says, "Gotten taller. Still shorter than me." Then again, at six-five, so are many people. "I brought cement. Figured this place needed some repairs and I could lend a hand or three." He then grins, revealing those tombstone teeth, all pale and chiseled, a wide smile on an old man's face. "Tell me about you. It's been.. a while." Because that what time does - places distance between two points, and people, with no effort. It just happens.

She laughs when he scoops her up, but accepts it as a thing that just happens. Which, frankly, it probably does on a regular basis. She just looks like the kind of person you want to pick up and hug. But her arms go around his neck and an affectionate little smooch is placed on his weathered cheek before he sets her back down again. At 5'6", she's not short, but that's still almost a foot shorter than him.

"I'm not convinced you're not still growing, yourself," she tells him. "But... me? Well, I finished my EMT training in New York. Got a job back here, of course, a couple of months ago. Let's see... bought a house boat, it's about thirty years old or more but it's in really good condition. It has beautiful reclaimed wood on the deck, it's really nice. I mean, it steers like a pregnant sow, but it's a nice home. It's really, really good to see you. Are you back home for awhile?"

"I'm home for good," Joe says, and take a long, strong look at the immediate area, then looks to Holly again. "Proud that you made the cut as an EMT. It's a tough gig, and I think it'll suit you fine." To this, he adds a firm, warm nod, then his smile diminishes slightly. "I'm still setting up my company's headquarters, just outside of town. We've moved from Baltimore. No more steady work for the city, we're.. well, doing our own thing, these days." And he finds a bench within reach, hefting it with one hand, dragging it for a moment before it is set next to the space between he and Holly.

Claiming his seat, he gestures for her to join him. "At the moment, I'm staying in a motel. Despite my best efforts, they're not amenable to taking handiwork in exchange for reduced rent." He smirks, shaking his head. "Whole place is shoddily built." His go-to phrase for anything he can't have immediately improved upon, and is a benchmark of disdain. "Soon, I'll have my office running. No need for a home, after that." As in, he plans to live in his company's headquarters. Because he's strange like that.

Holly grins, watching him move the bench to suit himself, then comes over to sit next to him, drawing her feet up to perch them on the edge so she can hug her knees to her chest. It might be a defensive posture, save that she looks completely relaxed like that, as if she just likes to be curled up whenever possible. "I've got a sofa if you get desperate. Or you could have my bed and I can sleep on the sofa, my legs are shorter than yours. If the motel is /too/ shoddy for you."

As to his choice of living situation, she merely nods. Then again, she's decided to live on a boat. In Maine. Which is probably less fun in the winter than it is right now. "Thanks, though. It was..." Her voice trails off, something briefly shadowing her eyes before clearing again. "Well. Challenging in unexpected ways. Worth it, though, and it all turned out for the best."

To her assessment, Joe gives a firm nod, then draws a slow, even breath, eyes closing for a moment. "And, no, I won't see my niece reduced to sleeping on a couch to fit an old man's issues," he says. "If my good friend Nathaniel Victor saw fit to give me a slab of wet rock to rest on, I can't fault him for the forward thinking." He smirks, then his eyes open again, as cool and blue as always. "Three years of misery and I still can't sleep on padded furniture. I appreciate the offer, though." Then he pauses. "Wait, you said.. 'house boat', didn't you?" His eyes light up a little at this idea.

"It's been.. well, some decades now, since last I smelled saltwater in my sleep. Time was, it was all I could smell, other than sweat and jet fuel." He must be speaking of his tenure as a Navy pilot aboard one of the ships off of the shore of Vietnam. "Would you be against me taking up a roost on deck, soaking up the moonlight a few nights a month?" He pauses. "I'd be able to throw a few hundred your way for the opportunity." Quite a bargain.

When she shifts in a little closer, it seems done without conscious thought. It's just... instinct, for her. He's briefly remembering something difficult, and it is her gut response to move in closer with silent support that is just /there/, but not demanding he do anything about it. Kind of like the better sort of cat will move to rub against you when you're upset or sick.

"I don't need the money, but I'd be absolutely okay with that. I can even take her out to open water if you want. She's sea worthy, just a bit awkward. Oh. Do you mind cats? I'm co-habitating on and off with a stray. I found him injured, took him to a vet to get his leg fixed. Now he's sometimes there, and sometimes not."

"That's how cats work, I had assumed," Joe says, and doesn't seem troubled by Holly's proximity. If anything, he looks to be appreciative of it. "I don't mind them, no. Time was, cats were good luck charms for sailors in port. Kept the rats down, cargo haul clean. Where man has gone, rat followed - and cat has always followed rat." Wisdom or some ancient aphorism. Either way, he shrugs, and flicks his fingernails. "Besides, out on the water, time and law aren't issues. I kind of like that."

He seems to be focused on his hands for a further moment, and then sets them on his knees, looking to Holly. "I'll do my best to be useful, though, if you take me for a spin. Doing.. nothing.. feels like the wrong use of my time." He doesn't look like his days are empty. Difficult to summarize what activities those might be, though it likely isn't without content. "Old boats, like old men, are fixer-uppers. We tend to agree about that part."

There is an odd little grin offered up when he talks about cats. "Mmm. Yeah. Cats on boats. Some people seem to think it's weird, but it's tradition. People think that's where Maine Coons came from, actually. Did you know that? That they're descended from ship cats who bred with local wild cats, which is why they're so big."

Still, she nods. "She's in good shape, but she can always be improved, and I'm sure you'll take one look at her and find at least twenty things to do in the first minute. And I get it, sometimes you just have to _do_ something. Though I've recently found that sometimes I do really like just laying in the sun. But only if I've already been particularly productive."

His laugh is gentle, though deep. "I'm a bit critical, yes," Joe admits, shaking his head, still laughing, one knee slapped firmly. When he wipes a tear from his eye, he smirks at Holly, and says, "It's how I am, Holly. Missing a key element and a thing falling apart, it's.. everything I can't allow again." He goes quiet. "Still, yes, I'll take a peek, figure out something to keep me busy, and not give you the impression that you're on a floating death-trap. There does exist middle ground." Another chuckle, a little less mirth to it, follows.

"Didn't know that about Maine Coons, though." He seems to mull on this for a moment. "I will say this, though. Prettiest creature I ever witnessed was a big old cat. It was hanging out in what used to be a .. well, it was a fast-moving fighter, when it was still in the air." He sounds wistful on the topic. "This was.. oh, a good decade ago, when I toured Vietnam. Saw where I was shot down, met some locals. Anyways, this cat, it's an endangered species. In a way, so was that plane. And this cat, he's all bright golden colors, big contrast to the jungle around us. Just eating a big black bird, and watching me, watching him." Then he nods. "Fluffy little nightmare. Cute. Still, a killer. I respect that." Thus endeth his commentary on jungle cats. Apparently.

Holly turns a little bit, the better to look up at him as he tells the story, her big brown eyes full of what seems to be genuine interest in what he's saying, and when he's done, she smiles. "Cats are very misunderstood. So many seem to think they're assholes. They're not. They're just... not dogs. They're loving, but they /choose/ who they love. Well. Okay. Some just love everyone." Case in point is sitting right next to him. "Some of them are assholes, of course. Kind of like people, I guess. But some just want to be cuddled and loved. That one cat sounds beautiful, though. And also? I trust you to find what needs to be done for my baby without actually insulting her. She's a good old girl. Not pretty, but she doesn't need to be. She's called Serenity."

"It's a beautiful name," Joe says, and smiles warmly. "Been a long time since I named a thing I owned." Then he glances to his boots. They're the sort worn by construction workers the world over, and show signs of hand-made repairs. They may be older than she is. "It was the most beautiful animal I ever saw within the borders of Vietnam, no questions to it, Holly. Tufts of hair stuck out of its ears, little fuzzy beard. Old man cat, old man watching it. And it ate the whole bird, even the feet. Must have been hungry, that cat." And he exhales, sighing with a smile.

He looks down to Holly, kissing the top of her head. "You know, you kind of remind me of a cat, in a way. Warm, friendly, emotional. Maybe you always have." Then he shrugs, unaware of any connection he just might have missed with that assessment. "I'm.. well, not a dog person. May sound silly, except.. I've always like scorpions. Got to know them real good. Live in the dirt, dig little holes, ignored for the most part.. and well, if you tangle with them, you don't forget it soon." Then he winks, ever the impish uncle.

Holly laughs softly at his assessment of her as a cat, hitting that particular nail firmly on the head. One could say he has a talent for that. She leans up against him, laughing still and shaking her head. "I mean. You're not the first person to call me a cat. You won't be the last." Because, well. She is.

She lets her head rest on his shoulder. "Scorpions are underrated. They have their place and their part to play. Doesn't mean I'm going to go looking for one or agitate one if I saw it, I've got too much respect for them to do that, but. They are as important as the rest of us."

Something she says amuses him and he chuckles at it. "The very next time," he offers, "That I run across a scorpion, I will inform him of your enlightened perspective." He smirks a little more. "I'm certain he'll appreciate the sentiment and be ever the gentleman, should it be that your path and his cross at some point." Then he glances to his hands, examining them for long enough he breaks from the reverie of it, glancing to Holly. "You know, I'd like to cook you a dinner. It's been a hot minute since I did that for someone. Nothing special." His dinners were, by most family memories, things of terror or joy. Spiced dishes from the lands of Southeast Asia, served in large quantities. Scorched tongues were the minimum, and some couldn't finish the first course of the dinners.

"I'm still not going to offer him a ride on my back across a river, though," she tells him. "I mean. Aesop had a point, and his nature is still his nature. Not that I'm a fox, but even so."

She /should/ be terrified. She's not. Holly has always liked to eat. Really, were she not so active, she might be more rotund, but between a lot of activity and one hell of a metabolism, she's in excellent shape. But she still loves food. "Oh, that would be fantastic! I mean, I'm an okay cook, but not that great. I love it when people cook for me." She sits up and, in fact, actually bounces in place.

Clearly amused, Joe says, "Well, good to know I won't lack for an appreciative client base," before he wraps a long, strong arm around his niece, squeezing her tight. That arm is decidedly muscular in some way, not quite as much as it should be, for some reason. He must work out often and for a while. Then again, he has been doing construction work for most of half of a decade. "Also, fun fact: Aesop never wrote about scorpions. That little fable dates back to some Russian novelist in the thirties." Strange depths to the weird old man. "He had some strong words about snakes and vipers, though. Similar ideas, in the end." And then he sighs, sounding comfortable. "You know, it's been.. well, close to two decades since I was here, you know, for very long. A couple of weeks, tops, and.. well, there's an anniversary coming up soon. Figured that I might want to be close to family for it." He goes quiet.

"Really?" Holly asks, sounding interested. "I always thought that was one of his. I guess it must have just been tossed in with them, I remember reading it in a book when I was a kid."

She turns her head, though, looking up at him with expressive brown eyes that seem to shade towards concerned as he wraps his arm around her and talks of anniversaries.

"I always wished you were around more, but I knew you had your own things that you needed to do. Still. Family matters, and we're here for you. You know that, right, Uncle Joe? If you need anything, you find me. Looking after people is what I do, and family is right at the top of that list. And that includes having your back, if you need that. I'm... well. I'm tougher than I look." Good thing, too, because while you could say many good things about Holly's appearance, 'intimidating is not a word on that list.

"I will make a note of that, Holly," Joe says and conveys a full, broad meaning to the idea. As if he took her at her word, not her appearance. "Another fun fact - one of the most fierce people I ever met, she was.. well, a little younger than you. Shorter, if you can believe it." He winks, and smirks. "Hated me like nothing else, though. Can't say that I blame her, not.. not these days." He gives a soft shrug, rolling those muscled shoulders. "When they took my bird down, she was with the group that grabbed me and my co-pilot. Marv was.. well, looking bad, and this little lady, she.. refused to let him die. Wanted us to stand trial for the crimes they figured we'd done." And he sighs, closing his eyes. "In the moment, I hated her. We all hated each other, and she saw how Marv was looking, and she hated that more. So, she puts this little knife, maybe as long as your index finger, right up to her commanding officer, starts yelling and screaming. Gets the guy to start signing off on medical care for Marv. Next thing we knew, it was off to the woods we went, and he was on the mend by the time we arrived." Then he smiles, looking to Holly. "She wasn't a medic herself, mind you, though I can see that same.. potential.. in you. Fighting someone, and still wanting them to live, so you can make it fair." And then he nods gravely, yet smiles.

Holly seems pretty content to nestle up against his side. She was an affectionate kid. At 21, she's still affectionate. "I am /not/ short. I am perfectly average. It's not my fault you are just ungodly tall. Still." She purses her lips, and nods. "I'd do the same thing. I've saved the lives of criminals before. I'll do it again. Justice trumps vengeance, any way you look at it."

There is a pause, though, then she adds, a little more softly, "There are times, though, when we are the only ones capable of justice. That should be a last resort, but when it's us or nothing... then I think our duty is pretty clear. I'd kill to protect the helpless. I... have done that, actually, though it wasn't a human person." Which is vague enough that the clueless could think she meant an animal, though it's probably clear that she doesn't mean anything of the sort.

He doesn't seem to have noticed the distinction nor does he comment on it. Rather, he rallies with, "If what you feel was justified, then what you did was necessary." And then he kisses the top of her head, squeezing her a little more. "Killing isn't simple, easy, clean, or even quick, in most cases. Not when it's a gun, knife, bare hands, or bombs. The only way to make it simple, easy, clean, or quick, it's.. it's when we forget. We kill with our memories erasing our debts." And to this, he shakes his head. "Still, you survived. Whatever it was, it's.. best you pulled through it. Try not to focus on it. Do better. Get better." And to this, he nods, smiling a little wistfully. "And you are a tiny, tiny Munchkin. Just barely out of the Lollipop Guild. Reeking of Oz. Just.. barely there, really." He chuckles, and it is filled with warmth.

Holly reaches a hand up and taps his nose with one finger. "I am five and a half feet tall, Uncle Joe. I think your perspective is just askew because you're a jolly green giant or something. But you're good just the way you are. So am I."

She does nod, though, a little more seriously. "We always need to do better. That was all.. well. Probably my worst moment. But it was an important one, and innocent people lived because of what I did who probably wouldn't have. Me included."

Sticking his tongue out at the nose boop, Joe smiles and raises his bushy eyebrows at Holly. "I was the short kid, for a while. Your other uncle, he was a giant. Same for your aunt. A little between half of me and twice of you, I'd say, as far as weight goes." And then he glances to the bag of cement he brought, laying his booted feet on it, one crossed atop the other. "And as I said: if what you did felt justified, then it was necessary. You lived, good. You saved lives, better. And on most days, I can understand what those words mean, as often as I say them." And he shakes his head, a little lost for a moment. "What I've done since the war, I.. usually can walk that line. It's not always so, though I do try." Clearly, he does more than just construction, and isn't elaborating on it.

He's not elaborating, and his great niece, it seems, isn't pushing. She's a damned comfortable person to be around, really, she seems ready to accept him just as he is, oddities and all. "Any time you feel like you're getting too lost, you can always come and find me. I'll help you find it again. It's always there, but sometimes it gets awful damned thin. But you'll always find it again."

She stays as she is, leaning against him, knees loosely hugged to her chest. "Besides, I'm good at finding things."

Artfully, he removes his flight jacket, and lays it around Holly's form; it's large enough to cover her hunched-up form with a little snugness, and it is rapidly warming. Inside of it, it's got some kind of fleece-like liner, and the stitch-work looks to be mostly intact. There's a strange patch on the interior, just over what would be the left pectoral. "So noted, Holly, so noted." His words, they're spoken with a wistful tone. "And if ever something gets, well, out of hand.. try to remember to call me. In days gone by, I.. fixed more than just broken pavement and busted timing gear chains. Haven't forgotten how to fight, you know." And he must be a rather unfortunate opponent, if ever someone squared off with him. Those hands look weathered, ancient, and strong. Very much so.

Holly blinks in surprise as she finds herself suddenly draped in warmth. She drops her chin for a moment and sniffs at the flight jacket, though god only knows why. She also takes a curious little peek at the odd insignia, then makes a purr-like little sound and nestles herself all up in the warmth.

"Promise," she murmurs, looking up at him. "Though you might be a little surprised at what I can handle. Still. If I think it's too much, I will let you know so you can help." She lifts a hand and pats at his hair, absently smoothing it down. Because hey. Social grooming is a thing, evidently.

Accepting the pats to his spiky, short hair, Joe smiles. "Stubborn," he says, "And filled with pride. I remember those being my best qualities." Clearly, no longer the case, and he doesn't seem the worse for it. "Come the day, I think we may surprise each other quite a bit, though." And he glances away, then picks up a small stick, holding it in one hand, and gives it a few bends with a little pressure exerted by his thumb. The fallen branch, on its way to returning to nature, bend a few more times, and soon, it will snap, and as it does, he keeps only half of it. The other, he dismisses, ignoring it, and taps the bench idly with the remnant.

"The jacket, I hope you like it. Try not to focus on the smell." It smells of rich, deep earth, as if it'd been exposed to it for months at a time. Like it'd been worn in tunnels and ditches and causeways. Then again, considering its owner, that may be true. "May have picked up a little diesel smell, I wager." It's present, though not much of it. And that insignia seems unusual - a brass arch, stitched into a circle of blue-white rings. Whatever words may have existed as the upper and lower rockers inside of them, it's a mystery; time has stolen them.

"That's impossible," she notes. She can't turn off her nose, and it's exceedingly sharp. "...only a little bit of diesal, though. Mostly, it's just very earthy. I like it." She sniffs at it again, and moves her hand to trace over the insignia. "What's this?" she asks. Evidently, she can't ignore curiosity any more than she can ignore how a thing smells. "I've never seen this insignia before."

Glancing to where Holly's hand is, Joe raises his eyebrows. "Oh, that," he says, exhaling slowly. "It's an old patch. Picked it up, must have been, oh.. nineteen eighty-seven, thereabouts." And then he rolls those shoulders, his muscles flexing a little more. "It's from some group, called itself, 'the brotherhood of the bamboo box'." There's a pause. "No, wait. 'Order of the Bamboo Cage'. It's, uh.. well, it's for people who were prisoners of war in the same region." Then he pauses. "Up until that day, I'd never met one of them. Only thing we really had in common was our captors knew each other. Kept in different camps. Same region, just.. might as well have been on separate continents." Another sigh. "They seemed happy to meet me. To them, I'm.. important. Never felt it, though." And he goes quiet. No elaboration offered.

"We never do, do we?" she asks, tracing her fingers over the patch. "Feel important, I mean. I think maybe that's not so bad a thing. But sometimes other people decide that we are. And I think we need to at least respect that they feel that way. Even if what they really see as important is more like an idealized version of ourselves."

She shrugs. "I think our family as a general rule runs into that kind of thing a lot. It's a byproduct of being service oriented." She strokes her fingers over the patch again, then leaves it alone and glances back up at him.

"Half-right, Holly," Joe says, and once more, kisses the top of her head, still squeezing her. "When I was in the air, I felt.. like God must feel. Not, you know, the kind God who brings sunshine and puppies. I mean.. the Old Testament God. The one who dropped fire on cities." Then he closes his eyes, sighing. "I felt exactly like that, because I did exactly that. Never made it to the 'bringing sunshine and puppies' stage of being God-like, though. Maybe if I flew ten or twelve more missions, I might have gotten it." Then he smiles, and it seems.. hollow. "Still, I don't fly anymore." Although, word has it, he can not fly anymore. The word choice seems.. strange. "Not like that, at least. No, my.. glory days, they're different now. I make things that endure, not punish. Maybe that's what I'm supposed to do, instead of sunshine and puppies." He looks to Holly, raising his eyebrows at her, curious expression to his features. "Do you think that's so?" He seems interested in her answer.

"I think puppies are overrated. Kittens are where it's at. I also think that a god who only delivered sunshine and puppies isn't a particularly benevolent god. They'd be a god who was only doing things for the sake of getting people to love him. The truly caring god gives people what they need, not what they want."

She turns and looks up at him. "People need things that last a lot more than they need sunshine and puppies. And sometimes, they need fire from the sky."

Her words seem to do well by him and he nods, looking to the middle distance, a faintly wistful expression on his face. "Thank you," he says, "Those.. words make a lot of sense to me." Then he smiles a little more. "Never quite sure who wanted a sky full of fighter-bombers, yet that's what we delivered. They shot at us, we shot back, and it was our good fortune that we had mighty strong replies." Then he pauses. "Then again, so did they, so it's all fair." And this seems to put him at ease, and he leans back on the bench, glancing to Holly. "Hidden depths to you, munchkin. Damned if I know how that happened." And then he nods, looking to the skies.

She wrinkles her nose up at him when he calls her munchkin, but there's a certain look in her eyes that pretty much proclaims that despite her protests, she actually sort of likes his constant teasing about her perceived shortness. "I am full of surprises," she tells him. "Seriously. You just have no idea. As to how it happened... I guess I just grew up. Kind of all at once, in one rather chaotic sort of a night. It happens. I don't regret it, either. I mean, I don't really enjoy thinking about that particular night, but I think that in the end, it changed me for the better, even if it was... fairly awful to go through."

She shrugs, and smiles softly up at him. It hasn't changed her /that/ much, whatever she might say. There is still a genuine sort of caring to her nature, not to mention a frank openness. Holly probably can't lie her way out of a damp paper bag.

"I think that, that one bad night, is what makes us Thorpes," Joe says, and pulls her close, wrapping both arms around her, letting her feel his warmth and presence. "When we stand tall and look beyond the fear of it. To know we serve and help the world, as best we all can." And this seems to be what makes him happiest. Sharing that insight he's got with her. "Someone brilliant said: you never really change - you just become more of who you are meant to be." And then he kisses the top of her head, releasing her again, returning to his earlier position, relaxed and calm. "You were always meant to be as you, then. Kind, protective, strong. Strange." Then he winks. "Short." And he's laughing again.

Holly slides over and up onto his lap, sitting sideways with her side against her chest. Probably something she did as a kid, really, and she does it again now without seeming to think much of it, the better to wrap her arms around him and bestow another hug on him.

"I think you're right. A lot of us seem to have had that one bad night. Or a lot of bad nights. And maybe I am what I was always going to be. That is... almost certainly true." Her mother, the non-Thorpe of the pairing, was after all also a Bastet. And a game warden. Though Joe would know that Holly's folks divorced amicably a couple of years back. "I'm very comfortable with who and what I am, though. I enjoy being me quite a lot. Though I'm no god." A cat who doesn't think she's a goddess. Miracle.

And he's nodding to her words, absorbing them. "The moment you feel like you might be a god," he offers quietly, "Someone will show you the power of humans. They build gods.. and erase them. Losing your wings, it.. hurts your pride, then your heart." He chuckles mirthlessly. "Come on, let's go eat something. I do not know about you, except that I am famished. If you play your cards right, I can teach you how to play card games and lose paychecks." Another wink follows and he's on his feet, one hand held out to her, head angled to one side slightly. "Looks like they've renovated since last time I was here, so guide me around the joint."

Clearly, he looks ready to disembark for the main house and is looking to keep her company further. Casually, he picks up the basket, leaving the bag of cement where it was placed. The basket looks to be filled with.. probably food. Maybe weird gifts from wherever he went. Could go either way, really.

Holly hops up to her feet and nods. "In this family, a year without renovations is like a Maine winter without snow. Which is to say... it is a thing that simply doesn't happen."

She takes his hand and gives it a tug. "Come on. I'll show you around. The kitchen got redone." And she leads him off into the house to show him things that various Thorpes have done to upgrade the family home in his absence.