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zahara Having seen the agitation in Lucent before he had left her last, and considering the subject of their chat along with his propensity to rash action, Zahara waits for a couple hours after he leaves. The fire dies down to embers, and she snuffs it out, making her way up to Varanim's room, first checking for an extra presence in her room before she knocks.

Varanim is standing with arms folded, grimly contemplating the dress laid out on her bed, when Zahara (presumably) knocks after sensing no extra presence. She looks up, flinging one edge of the blanket across to cover the gown, then barks, "It's open!"

zahara steps inside the room, closing it behind herself. "Good evening, Varanim." She lifts one hand, which contains some very nasty booze in a dusty bottle. "Care for a drink?"

Varanim turns her head, clearly about to snap some observation as to the goodness of the evening, then stops when she sees what Zahara is holding. "...yes." She stalks over to the completely cluttered desk, pushes aside papers to make a clear patch, and then finds two mismatched mugs of dubious cleanliness that the maids didn't have time to remove.

zahara left the room.

zahara strides over to the desk, eyeing the mugs' cleanliness for a moment, then shifting her gaze to the booze and deciding they'll cancel each other out anyway. She fills both, then hands one to Varanim and takes hers, appropriating a nearby chair. The bottle she leaves within easy reach of Nim on the desk.

Varanim flings herself into the other chair and downs her cup in one toss, then grimaces after a sharp exhalation. "Dammit, I can't do that anymore. Stupid spider-eyed albino assassin of joy." Then she looks over at Zahara, turning her lips up in a brittle version of her usual smirk. "And how is the empress tonight?"

zahara sips her booze, grimacing at the harshness. "She is rather concerned."

Varanim pours herself another cup and tilts her chair back, kicking her feet up on the desk and half-closing her eyes. "So she's coming to me for advice? She must share the general air of mental derangement that's floating about today."

zahara "Something like that," she admits, taking another tentative sip. She contemplates how to start. "Firstly, she is concerned about her friendship with you," she says bluntly. She shifts her gaze from the mug to Varanim's face.

Varanim slits her eyes open to flash Zahara a wary look before taking another drink, slouching deeper in the chair and closing her eyes again. "No particular reason for that, unless you came to revoke my library privileges or tell me the kitchen is no longer producing those breakfast pastries with the little sugar sprinkles."

zahara "Please, Varanim. I may not be quite as intelligent as you are, but I am not a fool." She sighs. "You walked in on myself and Lucent in what could have been a rather compromising position. I am... rather sure that he has told you this, but I would like to reiterate that we are simply friends, both in need of some relief from the stresses of daily life." She holds up a finger to forestall Varanim's reply for a second, smirking. "And by t

zahara "And by that, I simply mean a swim and a friendly chat."

Varanim waves a hand irritably, then sighs. "Hold on, you brought me the good stuff, so let me translate that. That was, 'compromise all you want, I avoid managing other people's lives' combined with 'even if you were, there's no need to explain yourself to me.' And the little hand flip at the end meant 'thanks for checking, though'."

zahara "You DO know about Lucent's feelings towards you, yes?" She says this drily. "Whether or not you share them."

Varanim snorts a laugh, slouching a little deeper into the chair and holding her cup soothingly against her forehead. "Don't worry, I'm pretty sure they'll sort themselves out without any further disruption of Manse business."

zahara tilts her head to one side, "Mmmm." She sighs. "I'm sorry, I'm not very good at this, am I?"

Varanim winces a little bit, finally opening her eyes to look at Zahara directly. "I'm not entirely sure what 'this' is, but I certainly have at least as little practice at it as you. I am not actually trying to be difficult, Zahara, but after so many years of habit it takes some concentration for me to be otherwise. Is there... something you want to ask me, that you're stepping around?"

zahara "I am trying to be a friend, Offering moral support and suchlike," she says finally, nursing her mug. "It is evident to me that there is something going on between the two of you, and also that you are both so deep in denial about it that it hurts. I know that Lucent is both in love with you and afraid that you do not love him. And I know that the fights you have, have an undercurrent to them. What I do not know is what you want."

Varanim looks away, staring up at the geometric puzzle Zahara encoded in the ceiling on the day her rooms were created. After a long thoughtful minute, she says, "Lucent and I aren't in a relationship, nor will we be. I understand that our bickering has reached a disruptive volume, and I'll take steps to correct that."

Varanim One corner of her mouth turns up in a crooked smile. "I'm aware I probably seem short on patience, but I'm mostly just using all I have for other things. I... usually have no trouble avoiding emotional entanglements like this, so it's been some time since I needed to devote mental resources to the problem. I hope my lack of attention hasn't overly upset the flow of things here."

zahara "It is not the welfare of the nation I am concerned about," she says quietly. "It is yours."

Varanim "Oh, that." Varanim waves a hand, looking sort of uneasy and disconcerted by Zahara's continuing compassion. "Don't worry--I may actually be emotionally indestructible by this point. And if not..." she shrugs, smiling a little painfully. "I have a lot of practice at rebuilding."

zahara refills her glass, sensing her unease, "Well," she leans back. "If YOU ever want to go for a swim sometime, you know where the 'pool' is now."

Varanim "Oh ick, I know you guys totally peed in the pool, don't even TRY that trick on me." Then she tilts her head at Zahara. "I'd never been down there before. It... looks like it's pretty quiet, usually?" She sounds a little hopeful.

zahara "You can always find a stretch of the river that's peaceful down there. If you take two lefts instead of a right at that last juncture, you'll come to a different spot that hardly anyone knows of."

Varanim turns her cup in her hands, looking down at it with something that might be a smile. "That's... a very nice present, Zahara. Thank you."

zahara tips an imaginary hat at Varanim and grins, then rises. "Well then, I should go before I outstay my welcome, and you," she glances around the mess, "can get back to your studies. Or Whatever."

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