Lucent had an habit of being where you would expect. He was a king, so he was in the court. He was a priest, so he would be praying. He was a performer, so he would be... well, with an audience. But predictable men are the most unpredictable when they appear somewhere you do not expect - for instance, sat on Varanim's chair when she opens the door to her room.
Lucent Red-armored, arms-crossed, staring at her. "Hello."
Varanim looks at Lucent blankly for a moment, sheaf of papers in one hand and a mug of something in the other. "Hello."
Varanim Her eyes sharpen a bit. "It's a nice chair, I agree, but I recall that your room has some also."
Lucent "I will give it back after I got a few answers out of you, I promise. Is that coffee?"
Varanim moves to the desk, to drop the papers, then leans against it and appraises him with a wary look. "It started life as coffee, yes. I could also answer questions about dinner, if you want to move on to that."
Lucent "Or we could move on to why you did not tell me you went to the Mask of Winters."
Varanim "To answer your real question, why I didn't tell you separately and first: because it was one of several bits I suspected might be relevant to the group, and I hate repeating myself." She folds her arms, then sighs. "It wasn't my intention to hurt you by doing that."
Lucent lets a long, weary sigh. "I understand."
Varanim opens her mouth to say something snide, then stops. "You do?"
Lucent "Yes, I can see how you thought that it is certainly far less hurtful to see it mentioned in an off-handed manner in front of all the Circle, where I can either make a scene in front of everyone, or be silent while a thousand conjectures who are certainly worse than the truth jockey around my head."
Varanim winces a bit. "First, I only did that the once."
Lucent "Well, yes, and now I am waiting to see if the truth is actually better or worse."
Varanim "Second... actually, there's no second point, because I already told you. When I'm doing difficult things--like inviting other people to peer into my business after they threw me out--I really try to only do them once. It's an efficiency thing."
Varanim throws up her hands. "What do you want to know?"
Lucent "What happenned to you after you left?"
Varanim "Went north, sulked in the ice for a day or two, went with an Abyssal to see her boss, learned necromancy from him, came home."
Lucent shifts in the chair, a ripple through her once-coffee as he tasted it. "Awful."
Varanim "I would expect so, since I added enough uppers to keep the dead awake for an extra day." She frowns at him. "Are you exercising your yelling muscles, is that it? Pacing yourself?"
Lucent "Maybe." Another ripple, another face. "Can I be perfectly honest?"
Varanim "I don't know, can you?"
Varanim She lifts a hand. "Sorry. Yes."
Lucent "I would rather we were yelling."
Varanim "Oh, we could do that." She brightens a bit, then catches herself. "Look. Are we... I mean, what's the plan, here? Are we doing that thing where you're obtuse and I'm evasive and no real information passes, or is this one of those important things that really needs to be sorted out?"
Lucent "No, that never ends we --" He stops himself, "Alright, that usually ends VERY well," He says with an almost silly grin, "But it did not END end well. And I would hate to get there again. But, you know... I thought you did not love me. You did, too. Now we know better... right?"
Varanim smirks, then it fades and she looks away. "You only listen at the worst times." Then she looks back, eyes narrowed a bit. "When I came back, you said you were wrong about all but one thing. What did you mean?"
Lucent looks up at her. "You are a nurturer."
Varanim blinks at him. "Not anymore."
Varanim "I mean, not that I was ever good at it."
Varanim She rakes her hands through her hair, looking agitated. "Are you waiting for me to apologize for talking to the Mask?"
Lucent "Yes. You still are." He smiles, speaking with more certainty as she had seen from him in a long time... well, excepting the moments before he threw her out. "No. I am waiting for you to tell me what he was like."
Varanim "Oh. Uh, kind of a jerk, really, but polite about it."
Varanim "Probably smarter than me," she adds with obvious difficulty.
Varanim straightens and turns away, her back to Lucent as she starts to sort the papers on her desk.
Lucent blinks, surprised. "Who are you and what did you do with Varanim?"
Varanim laughs shortly. "It's been a very long month. I expect I'll be back to normal soon enough to comfort everyone."
Lucent There is a ripple around her clothes, this time. "And he helped you open the last gate."
Varanim doesn't turn, even to glare at him. "Yes. He had something I needed and I paid what it took to get it. I'm not... it's done now."
Lucent "It is too much to hope for that the price was me, right?"
Varanim "That would make things easier for both of us, wouldn't it? No, although we did talk about you."
Lucent "Oh? And what did he say?"
Varanim looks like she regrets mentioning it. "He thinks you're angry because he was more successful. But he's still fond of you, very sweet. Look, you remember the part of this conversation where I said he was a jerk, right?"
Lucent "... he thinks I am JEALOUS?" Lucent's eyes become wide golden pools, and there is a spray of coffee from Varanim's mug.
Varanim "That's what I said," Varanim smirks, wiping at the stray drops. "It was probably the funniest talk we had, which admittedly isn't saying much."
Varanim "Is there more? There are lots of fun things I could be doing besides rehashing this, like poking myself with used surgical tools."
Lucent gets up! "... what, you think poking at this makes me HAPPY?"
Varanim "I have no idea what makes you happy, isn't that clear by now? For some reason I thought it might help you to indulge your morbid fascination with my shard history, for once."
Lucent The ripples rush through... well, all of her, and the room, now. "THAT... is a lie."
Varanim "What are you talking about?" She narrows her eyes at the presence from the armor, and steps forward rather than retreating.
Lucent winces, the presence disappearing "YOU do."
Varanim "Oh." Varanim stops, looking faintly unsettled, then regroups. "Are we trying to have some kind of... relationship here? Because I was actually pretty sure the Mask thing would kill that."
Lucent The presence shifts about Varanim, circling her. "I..." His face darkens. "... would like that. If the garden thing did not kill that, that is. Or the coins. Or the kiss. Or..." A long sigh, covering his face and rubbing his temples, "... well, at least, you only have a single thing."
Varanim There's a longish silence, and then Varanim moves forward to lift Lucent's hands away from his face so she can look him in the eyes. "We could... give it a try."
Lucent holds her hands, fingers entwining with hers', feeling like flesh even through the armor. He looks into her eyes... and in the golden pools, it is like she is looking into Haze's eyes, for a moment.
Lucent leans foward, placing a kiss in her lips. "It is so... odd."
Varanim "What?" Varanim asks with a tired smile, leaning back from the kiss. "The not screaming?"
Lucent "Not being angry with you." A little butterfly of a kiss, and then... just enjoying being close to her. Sunlight playing on the corner of her eyes and it is like the entire room ceased to exist. "Kissing you, that is. Without being angry. That is... different."
Varanim "You want to try different," Varanim says with a gleam in her eye, "we could actually make it to the bed this time." She pulls him back, one step, then another, through the wide archway into the bedroom, where the sunset painting now hangs.
Lucent "Well, sleeping into a pile of smeared documents was not bad at al --" His voice catches in his throat as he sees it, smiling. The armor disappears, allowing him to better wrap his arms over her shoulders. "... so he did it."
Varanim twists her head to see what paused him, then looks back at him with a smile. "I understand I have you to thank for that."
Lucent is looking at the painting, smiling bright to it... and then, to her eyes. "You like?"
Varanim "It's lovely." She frowns a bit, trying to place the sense of familiarity about the sunset, then looks at him more closely. "Lucent, what you said the other day about not being a real person. You know that's not true, right?"
Lucent closes his eyes. "How is it NOT? The way I am... remember... react..."
Varanim frowns, her expression briefly suggesting that she doesn't hold with this business of explaining the obvious, but she'll give it a try. "How many years are you going to wait before it counts? People are made up of their memories and the marks they've left on the world. Unless you've found a way to erase all that, you're stuck here, as real as the rest of us."
Lucent "Memories I can barely trust. A mark that may not be mine. And what mark..."
Varanim waves her hands in frustration. "How dense can you be? The Kashaen, who look at you and see the light of a new dream. Your friends, several of whom were fairly cranky with me about what we've done to each other. Me, you idiot. How many people have to listen to your words, recognize your name or your smile before you admit that you're here?"
Lucent winces, as if each count of people hit him like a slap. "I..."
Varanim "You what?" Varanim glares at him, actually grabbing a handful of Lucent's shirt as if to shake him before carefully letting it go. "I came back because of you, idiot. The others, too, but I wanted to try to--make amends for what happened with us. I'm not in the habit of apologizing, or trying to fix fouled relationships, or any of this other bullshit you've pulled me into."
Varanim She jabs a finger at his chest. "But if I can stand it, so can you. I came back, don't try to tell me that you're not here after all."
Lucent smiles. A silly smile, an awkward smile, not knowing what to do, what to say. Looking into her face and seeing... all that. So he placed his lips on hers', the only thing he could think to do. And for a long time, until he broke the kiss, whispering to her lips. "Thank you. So much."
Lucent "I will try to not think that. I will. And it will be easier now..."
Lucent "I always feel real when I am with you."