Ash wasn’t one to notice too many little cues—social hints were not his thing, and ninety-nine times out of a hundred he wasn’t even sure of what was accepted as normal, let alone when something seemed off about anyone.
But—the way that Samuel was watching him—Ash could tell something was off with the kid or his interaction with him, or—well, something was off, even if Ash couldn’t identify what exactly it was.
“If I’ve offended you in some way—I apologize. Please, inform me of my misdeed so I can endeavor to avoid offending you in the future.”
Samuel blinked up at Ash in confusion. “Wha?” he asked, wide-eyed.
Ash blinked back for a moment. He needed to “tone it down” as Kinglsey was apt to say. The boy was only seven after all.
If took him a moment to think it through, but he settled on “Are you mad at me?”
The boy’s brow furrowed in concern and for a second he was the spitting image of his older brother. “No. Are you mad at me?”
“No. Why did you ask that? Why would I be mad at you?” Ash asked appalled.
“I don’t know. Why would I be mad at you?” Sam asked back. Ash couldn’t fault that logic. After all, as far as he was concerned, Ash hadn’t done anything wrong.
“Well, then why are you watching me like that?” Ash figured he probably just should have asked that from the start. It would have been a lot less confusion. He made a mental note to revisit the thought in a later social situation if one should arise.
“You’re strange,” Samuel said boldly. Ash knew it was true, he knew everyone thought it, but no one had ever said it to her face before. “You’re different, and different is cool. I like to watch things that are cool. You’re cool.”
“Oh.” Ash didn’t know how to respond to that one, so he remembered Jo’s rule when in doubt, say “Thank you.”
“Sorry if I made you uncomfortable,” Sam said politely, “I can go if you want.”
“No. It’s okay.” Ash couldn’t help but smile. The kid thought he was cool.