A red fox in a grey waistcoat is walking along, eyes darting about, taking the forest in, before coming to an abrupt halt under an oak quite like a number of the others and calling up, "Ho! Owen!" There's a muffled crash from above and a few moments later a sturdy-looking bucket descends at a steady pace, the rope going slack upon its arrival on the forest floor. The fox hops in skilfully, tugs lightly on the rope and curls up a little in it before calling up again, "Ready!"
The fox's eyes close as the bucket begins to rise, a bit more slowly than it had made its descent. The bucket and its occupant shortly rise through a floor and a pine marten quickly closes a trap door over the hole before heading over to a pulley system to lower the bucket onto the wooden door. "Hello, Rory," the pine marten says, and Rory opens hir eyes again, uncurls, and extricates hirself from the bucket as the pine marten turns away, talking as he makes his way across the oak floor, "I was just mucking around with the kettle when you called up. Did you want a cup of tea?"
Rory stretches hirself out again as ze follows Owen into the kitchen. "Yes," ze says, and, "How is it coming along?"
Owen waves the kettle a bit as he sketches out something complicated and indecipherable with his free paw. "I think I'm making progress," he says, "I think it will be ready soon."
Rory makes a bit of a dubious face, and Owen says, not turning around from the stove, "You needn't make that face at me. I am thinking of holding a concert in the spring."
"Another excerpt?" Rory asks as Owen turns around.
"All of it, I think, start to finish, and then I will have to find something else to clutter up my kitchen table with," he says, sitting down across from Rory and racking the papers together.
"The end of Duke Special?" ze asks, all mock wide-eyed shock and put-on gravity.
"The beginning, I think, or the rebirth or something. He can be someone else's problem after this," Owen answers, smiling a little.
Rory sobers a little. "I think you may send Azim into shock."
"He'll recover," Owen replies dryly, straightening his papers.
"I might not," says Rory. "You're going to be abstractly horrifying in the months to come."
"I am not quite that bad," he says.
"You are. You frightened a violinist into business school the last time you put on a new piece."
Owen's paws fly up to cover his muzzle abruptly. "No," he says, shocked.
"You did. Her heart wasn't really in it if that makes you feel better."
"A little bit," he admits.
Owen doesn't really yell at people; he's really not an intimidating creature. He doesn't snap or snarl or lash out when he's stressed, the way Rory sometimes will. Instead he's this terrifying ball of nerves and more scattered than leaves in a fall wind. It's riveting. He'll snag his clothes on things, walk into the trees that don't talk and turn his notes into origami. He'll build himself a steam-run machine to distract himself, and forget to eat. He'll also talk earnestly about how much he hopes that everyone likes what he's written, it simultaneously clear how worried he is that they won't. "A composer is only as good as his last composition," he'll say.
"I just hope that you don't manage to set anything on fire this time," Rory says, "My den was not the same for weeks after that."
Owen shifts awkwardly in his seat at that. "I am sorry about that."
Rory flicks hir ears and says, dismissively, "What's a little smoke inhalation and fire damage among friends?" This time ze will just have to confiscate the matches, and the flint, and the oil; Rory makes a point of not repeating hir mistakes. This time ze is rooting for water damage; ze thinks hir floors could do with a bit of a scrub, anyway.
"I'll have to have my niece around earlier this year," ze says, thoughtfully.
A few weeks before the performance Rory will come 'round and demand that Owen move in with hir, for his own safety. He won't really get any better, neither less scattered nor mad nor dangerous until after the concert but this way Rory can keep an eye on him, make him eat and keep an eye on his experiments.
The first time Owen moved into Rory's home before a performance he hadn't been invited. He'd just shown up apologetically on hir doorstep with a bag and his viola. His boyfriend had kicked him out, he explained, and he needed a place to stay until after the concert. Ze had taken him in and learned why he'd been given the boot. He kept erratic hours and kept using up all the cups, tucking some of them away in odd places and leaving others along hir footpaths and the very edges of tables. Ze lost five cups in the first week and gained a hat stand. By the end of the second ze had found six spoons in hir bath and that hir stove needed less wood than it once had. Ze lost a set of sheets to science.
Ze has had him as a house guest each time before a major concert since then nonetheless. For all that Owen's something of a menace there's no one else that Rory would inflict him on; he always replaces what he's broken or appropriated, anyway, and ze usually finds something that works better since he's been there.
Owen flicks his tail as he gives hir a look - there's really no reason for hir to reschedule - and gets up from his table with his score so that he can stash it away in the other room. "What type of tea do you want?" he asks as he comes back. "I've pine, nettle, rosehip, fennel, green, and black."
"Rosehip, I think," ze says and Owen bustles around the counter, pulling down canisters from the cabinet and tapping needles and rosehips into separate cups, asking Rory about hir niece and hir sister and brother-in-law, dinging his claws a little off of metal, wood, and ceramic, tapping out a tune as they talk and he hovers a little over the stove, waiting for the kettle's rumble to turn into a light wooshing sound as steam escapes from its spout and the water boils.
In the spring he will give a concert and conduct his orchestra, wearing his ridiculous bumblebee cufflinks and losing himself in his music. He won't remember conducting afterwards - he never does - only coming out of it and Rory smirking at him from behind hir piano as applause erupts behind him.