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Simon searched through the aisles, trying to remember where the applesauce was at this grocery store. This was not his regular store. In fact, he'd only been here once or twice, with Athena leading the way each time, but this happened to be along the way to his house from the prison, so he figured he'd pick up a few things. It's not with the fruit, he thought to himself. Perhaps among the canned goods...

He jolted to a halt as he rounded the corner. Shit. Athena stood several feet in front of him, lazily searching through the sushi. She looks upset, he thought, but no matter how he urged himself to move toward her, he couldn't. Instead, he stood there, mouth slightly open. A woman pushing a child in a shopping cart gave him an odd look as she passed, reaching around him for a bag of sour cream and onion chips.

Athena picked up a box of Tako and a box of Kani and put them into the basket she was carrying. She glanced to her right and did a double take. Simon was standing there, not saying anything... or moving, for that matter. Great, the last person I wanted to see right now.

"Simon...?" Athena managed to ask, looking at him with quizzical eyes. "This isn't where you normally shop."

"I... was looking for applesauce." You dolt! Blurting out the most inane--

Athena looked around. "In the cold section?"

Shit. Somehow Simon managed to compose himself and stood more naturally. "I had been searching the fruits section and couldn't remember where the canned foods were. I thought they would perhaps be there."

Athena sighed and walked toward him. "No, it's by the jelly for some reason. Here, let me show you." She went to grab Simon's arm, but decided against it and walked past him.

This did not go unnoticed by Simon, who furrowed his brow for a split second. Perhaps this is a mistake, he began to think, but his sister's words echoed in his head.

"Dammit Simon, don't make the same mistake I did... Tell her how you feel... so you don't have to wonder for the rest of your life what that would have looked like..."

"Athena..." Simon began, unsure if this was the best time. This may be the biggest mistake I make in my entire life... That was melodramatic, wasn't it?... That was definitely melodramatic.

"Yes?" That was too quick of a response, dammit.

Just breathe. "When I was in the clink, I helped prosecute the murderer of a local restaurant owner's son..." A few moments of awkward silence passed. Surely Athena was wondering what his point was. "When I was released, he offered me a meal on the house."

"That's cool." Athena was not sure where he was going with this. "What restaurant was that?" She bent down and grabbed some applesauce from the bottom shelf, handing it to Simon, who quickly tried to look like he wasn't staring. Athena felt incredibly stiff around him, but she was also still a bit burned from last night. He was definitely acting strange lately, alternating between friendly and almost mean.

Simon coughed slightly as he grabbed the applesauce from her. "Troye Druzey," he responded.

"Wait, really? Troye Druzey is the best restaurant in town! Oh, man, you're so lucky. I mean, not lucky that the guy's son died, but dang, I've heard they have Pelmeni that is just... beyond tasty."

Simon took a step closer, trying not to seem obvious. "I was curious as to, ah... whether you would like... I mean to say, I could take a guest if I so chose, and I thought perhaps... you might be interested in, if you were free, perhaps you might be interested in... coming with me... for dinner, of course." Please let me not be blushing.

"O-oh..." Athena was most definitely blushing, and she looked at the ground. Simon was concerned for a moment, but Widget was green. That was a good sign. Perhaps he was doing something right for once. "I... think that would be nice..."

Internally, Simon huffed with relief. He made an effort to move closer to Athena and gently touch her elbow. This is how they did it in those stupid donated novels the jail gave us to read, right? No, they shoved women against the wall and kissed them fervently. He was not so uncouth as to force himself upon a woman, but the idea was appealing, if he were sure it would be reciprocated... "I was thinking, perhaps..."

"...Yes?" Athena looked up at him, and Simon became very aware of how close they were standing. 

Simon felt torn between staring into those blue eyes forever and taking a huge step back and making his normal haughty fuss of things. Fight the urge to leave. Do not mess this up. "I thought... ah..." He couldn't say it! He couldn't say it, the fool. Do it.

Athena could tell that Simon was struggling with something, but all she could make out was noise. She would need Widget to understand him better, but now was not the time to pull out his console. What in seven hells is going on? Athena tried not to get her hopes up or become overly worried.

"I was wondering if you would be okay with it being a date," he finally blurted out, so fast he wasn't sure Athena understood him. Every muscle in his body screamed for him to run out of the grocery store, applesauce be damned.

"Hell yes!" Widget blurted out, and Athena's eyes widened in horror. She slapped her hands over him, laughing nervously. Why do I even wear this stupid thing? she asked herself, knowing the answer. Athena cleared her throat. "I... I think that would be nice..." Widget's muffled voice fought its way out of her hands, though Simon wouldn't be able to understand it. Athena felt her knees give way a bit when Simon smiled; not the arrogant, playful smile he normally wore, but a genuine smile. 

"When would you like to go?" Simon could tell Athena was searching for words, and he was feeling more confident thanks to Widget's outburst, so he added, "I was hoping tonight or tomorrow, if that fit with your schedule, but any day would be fine. Your company is worth waiting for." That was actually fairly smooth. I'm impressed.

"Tonight." She coughed, looking at the ground. Don't seem too eager, now. "Tonight would work best. Tomorrow is Trucy's magic show." There, let him know you have plans. That your life doesn't revolve around him. Jesus, Athena, what are you even saying? He knows that!

"Ah, yes, she invited me to that as well. Tonight it is, then." Simon suddenly noticed that during their conversation, his hand had found a place to rest right above Athena's elbow. Athena seemed to have noticed it at the same time, as she laughed nervously and looked up at Simon again. It was his turn to blush.

"Excuse me," a man with two children said, as they reached for some crunchy peanut butter behind Simon.

"My apologies," Simon said quickly, stepping out of the way. Incidentally, this put the two of them even closer, and Simon could smell her perfume. Vanilla, perhaps.

"So... Simon... Does this mean you um... Does this mean you like me? Or am I misreading the question?" Athena couldn't believe she was asking the question, but there she was, asking it. Because she can't keep her mouth closed.

This time, Simon couldn't stop himself from falling into old habits. "...............Hmph." He took a step back, and immediately regretted it, as a look of confusion washed over Athena's previously smiling face. He closed his eyes and sighed slightly. "I apologize, I--"

"--no, it's fine. I'm sorry, I misread." Athena double checked her basket and began to walk off. What a stupid question. Stupid, stupid girl.

Shit. Shit shit shit. Shit! "No, Athena, w-wait." Athena kept walking. "Please." 

There was something about his tone that made her pause and close her eyes to hear better, something she'd never heard in his voice before. Was it desperation? She couldn't tell. She felt a hand on her shoulder, and allowed her body to be turned around slightly. Movement. A hand on her chin, lifting it. Lips pressed gently against hers. Athena's eyes shot open.

Simon pulled back a few inches and looked her straight in the eyes. "I apologize if that was too forward, and unwanted." I told myself I wasn't uncouth and yet here I am... Athena's free hand slapped around Widget, and Simon tried to suppress a smile. "I... do... like you, Athena. It has... been a difficult realization for me." Simon's gaze turned downward, and he straightened so he was taller than her again. "This is... difficult for me, as I... have never had a girlfriend." Quickly, he added, "Not that I am presumptuous enough to think we're dating, I just--you know--I mean I've never--um..."

Athena smiled, then began laughing. Simon looked confused, but Athena continued to giggle. "You're... really cute when you don't know what to say."

Simon blushed. "I... will take that as a compliment." Moments of happily awkward silence passed between the two of them, and Simon wondered if she would say she liked him too. She seemed like she did, at least with the blushing and slapping her hand over Widget and calling him cute, but his self-confidence in this area wasn't nearly at the level of his certainty in the courtroom.

"I suppose... we should both get ready, if we want to eat tonight..." Athena offered, and Simon jerked back to reality.

"Of course. Yes, I shall call Aleksei and ask him to prepare our table." The two walked toward the exit, checking their respective groceries, and walked out together. "Shall I come by your apartment later tonight, say, 7pm?"

"That sounds wonderful." Athena smiled, and Simon smiled in response. "Oh, and Simon?"

"Hm?"

Athena reached over and squeezed his hand once before letting go and taking a few steps away from him. "I like you too." She turned to walk toward her apartment, leaving Simon to stare, wide-eyed, at the ground in disbelief for a few moments before turning to walk toward his house.

Both Athena and Simon smiled all the way home.

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Athena Blackquill
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