Lanisen is talking with Danall at the table in the late morning, marking down hunting dates in his notebook.
Megren knocks three times on the door before coming in, a basket over her arm.
Lanisen straightens and starts to get up. “Hi,” he says after a beat, apprehensive. “Sorry, hi, I’ll be just a minute.”
Megren says, “Oh — no, sorry, it’s, I’ll come back later.”
Lanisen says, glancing at Danall, “No, it’s– we’re about done.”
Megren nods uncomfortably and stays out of the way by the door.
Lanisen and Danall do seem to be mostly finished, but the small talk on the way to the door takes a little longer. When Danall has gone, carrying a parcel of small Narnian gifts for his wife and children, Lanisen pulls his lips between his teeth and turns to face Megren. “Hi.”
Megren lifts the basket. “I brought food.”
Lanisen says, “Oh– oh, thanks, here, um–” He stacks the notebooks and the kennel’s calendar and pushes them out of the way.
Megren pulls out a loaf of bread and a handful of raspberries.
Lanisen stands back, rubbing his elbow. “Tea?” he offers, a little lamely.
Megren says, “No, it’s all right, don’t heat up the room.”
Lanisen says, “All right.”
Megren breaks off a piece of bread and pushes it toward him.
Lanisen glances at her and takes the bread, murmuring thanks. He tears off small bites to eat.
Megren blows out a breath and does the same.
Lanisen is almost fidgety with his bread, and he darts occasional anxious glances at Megren from under his shaggy fringe.
Megren confides, “I’m still mad at you a little.”
Lanisen goes still. He swallows and nods.
Megren clarifies, “I’m not mad at you for telling me. Maybe a little for waiting.”
Lanisen looks down at his hands. He draws a slow breath, and nods again.
Megren says, “I just, I–” she screws up her face, trying to sort what she wants to say. “I get, I get being, being afraid of being alone again, when you have been before. But also, I’m not going to, I’m not going to do that to you, and it really,” she releases a breath. “It feels like you’re saying if I’ve got any kind of life outside of you, then I’m abandoning you. And I know that’s not, I don’t think that’s what you mean, but it, it sort of /is/ what you’re saying, and it’s not fair. It’s not a fair expectation of a friend or of — anyone, and it’s also not a fair /assessment/ of me or the way I’ve acted in our friendship.””
Lanisen is shaking his head before she’s even finished, his face twisting unhappily, but he stills and listens and watches his hands fretting in his lap. “I’m sorry for givin’ that impression,” he says softly once she concludes. “It’s not– it’s not what I meant, it’s not what I think.”
Megren pushes her mouth to the side, not disagreeing aloud.
Lanisen glances up in time to catch this, and falters, looking down again. “I’m sorry,” he says again.
Megren says, “Yeah, I know.”
Lanisen doesn’t say anything else. He shifts to sit on his hands and tucks his feet under his chair. His face is confused and afraid by fleeting turns, but he doesn’t look up.
Megren says, “That’s all. I’m, I still love you, and if you… if you think that’s likely to change then you’re still assessing me wrong.”
Lanisen shakes his head slightly.
Megren presses her lips together unhappily.
Lanisen draws a breath. “Thank you for sayin’,” he says quietly.
Megren rubs her lips. “Yeah.”
Lanisen doesn’t say anything else for a moment, still all hunched up. He rubs the side of his face finally and murmurs, “I shouldn’t’ve– I shouldn’t’ve said. I’m sorry.”
Megren says, “No. I wish you would have said sooner.”
Lanisen says, “What… good would that have done.”
Megren says, “We could have talked about it. You could have spent less time making up what it meant in your head. I could have — it would have been better, it’s always, talking is always better, it always is.”
Lanisen shifts where he sits, not disagreeing out loud.
Megren says, “It’s — like you said, I already sort of knew. You can’t, people don’t hide these things, not really, not from the ones they’re close with. Even if I couldn’t have figured out what it was, I would have known something was wrong, and not talking about it would have been worse. It was, it was worse.”
Lanisen’s face crumples. “I’m sorry,” he says miserably.
Megren says again, “I know.” She pauses. “And I know you were trying.”
Lanisen says, “I was, I did, and it came out all wrong anyway.”
Megren says, “That happens sometimes.”
Lanisen draws in a breath and lets it go again, and swipes under his eyes. “How do I fix it?”
Megren breathes out. “Um,” she says.
Lanisen does look up at her at this, bright teary eyes and all.
Megren asks, “Would you — just, um, keep being you? Loving people, and animals, and, and always trying? But maybe just, also maybe, could you trust a little that you aren’t the only one who tries?”
Lanisen averts his eyes at this last and runs a hand through his hair.
Megren says, “It’s, I don’t mind being the one to come to first — I, I like it, I’m grateful for it — but also it’s… really hard to keep hearing that I’m not going to be there when I’ve shown as well as I can that I always will.”
Lanisen shakes his head slightly again, his eyes on the floor. “That’s not what I meant to say,” he says again, his voice just on the audible side of whispering. “That’s not, that’s not what I think.”
Megren says, “It’s not the first time you’ve said it.”
Lanisen looks up at her, startled.
Megren presses her lips together, apologetic but not retreating.
Lanisen asks, “When, when did I…”
Megren takes in a breath. “I don’t, I don’t know, it feels like lots of times, it feels like, maybe not that often, but ever since — lately it feels like its underneath every conversation.”
Lanisen rubs his hand over his mouth.
Megren says, “I almost dropped everything to go with you to Narnia.”
Lanisen whispers, “I asked you not to.”
Megren says, “Sort of.”
Lanisen inhales. “No,” he says, and shakes his head. “I asked you not to. It was hard, it was about the hardest thing I ever did but I asked you not to come just for me.”
Megren says, “That’s what I mean.”
Lanisen’s shoulders drop. He looks at her.
Megren asks, “You think I couldn’t see that?”
Lanisen exhales and looks away. “Why’s it important?”
Megren says, “You can’t put me in control of your happiness.”
Lanisen asks, shaking his head helplessly, “What?”
Megren says, “It can’t be hard like that every time you’ve got to follow your heart away from me. It — that would be a rule I’d set even if we were, even if we /were/ courting.”
Lanisen says, “I was–” He blinks a couple of times. “I was going toward /Myrd/, Meg.”
Megren takes a breath. “No, I, yeah, I know.” She pauses. “That’s, you’re right.”
Lanisen says, “I was goin’ to make friends with /Myrd’s son/, and I was gonna bring him away with me if Jana asked me to, that’s– I had nightmares the whole way there, and the whole time there, and I’ll prob’ly have ’em again the next time I go but I asked you not to come for me and I meant it?”
Megren closes her mouth and drops her eyes, nodding.
Lanisen says, “Just because I’m scared doesn’t– doesn’t mean I don’t mean it.”
Megren says quietly, “I didn’t mean you didn’t mean it.”
Lanisen looks down and says, just as quietly, “No, you did.”
Megren blinks, her chin drawing inward.
Lanisen draws a deep breath. He bites his lower lip hard and doesn’t look up.
Megren’s lips part, making a small sucking noise against her teeth. “No,” she says decisively. “I meant that– sometimes it feels… sort of like a, like a competition for who can sacrifice better. And then every time I choose to step out of it, I feel guilty and small, even when I know it’s the right thing.”
Lanisen’s shoulders drop a little again and he shuts his eyes for a second, frustrated and tired. “I asked you to stay,” he says finally. “I don’t know what I was supposed to do. It would have been wrong to ask you to drop everything and come.”
Megren says, “Yeah.”
Lanisen scrubs at his eyes. “What should I do next time, then?”
Megren shrugs one shoulder unhappily.
Lanisen looks at her, bleak. “What’re we talkin’ about, then?”
Megren says, “We’re… talking about… you told me how you feel, now I’m, I’m telling you how I feel.”
Lanisen says, “I mean– I mean… you brought it up because you’re unhappy with me for, for how I left, I think? But I don’t know what I should have done differently, and you don’t either, and I don’t know if it’s– I don’t know how to resolve it.”
Megren rubs her forehead.
Lanisen says, “I don’t know; I don’t know; I don’t mean to be competing with you, I didn’t…” He stops and looks down unhappily. “I didn’t think we were.”
Megren looks tired and a little teary and she doesn’t seem to have any answers she thinks are worth voicing for him.
Lanisen rubs both hands over his face.
Megren says to the table, “I just want you to be happy for me.”
Lanisen’s mouth opens slightly. His eyes well over again and he wipes the moisture away with the heel of his hand, not looking up.
Megren’s lips press together unhappily. “I’m –” she draws a breath and says helplessly, “It’s not fair to ask you to feel something you don’t feel and that’s all I want; I don’t have any other solutions.”
Lanisen rubs his eyes and draws a shuddering breath. He shakes his head. “I am, though, I am– it’s… you love him, and he loves you, and you’re– you /fit/ each other and it’s, I see how you are together and it /hurts/ because it’s so right and good, I can’t–”
Megren screws up her mouth, not lifting her eyes.
Lanisen stops. He pulls his lips between his teeth and closes his eyes, turning his face slightly away.
Megren sucks in her lower lip and finally says, “You’ve got to feel how you’ve got to feel maybe, but then I think I should be allowed to be mad for a little while.”
Lanisen’s face twists, and new tears leak from the corners of his eyes, but he nods quickly to accept this.
Megren presses her lips together again, struggling between comforting him and letting herself react.
Lanisen keeps his eyes down, leaving her her space.
Megren says, “In the meantime, I’m not sure what to do.”
Lanisen goes still, then moistens his lips and nods. He rubs his thumb along the ridges and planes of scar tissue on one wrist, then stops himself and curls his arms around his stomach.
Megren asks, “What do you want to do?”
Lanisen looks up at her, startled.
Megren lifts her brows.
Lanisen says, “Um.” His eyes dart to the side, and he lifts his eyebrows briefly. “Run away?”
Megren snorts softly, and a little wetly.
Lanisen looks back at her with a tiny painful shadow of a smile. He averts his eyes quickly and lowers his head.
Megren says, “I’m sorry.”
Lanisen says, shaking his head, “It’s my fault, it’s my fault.”
Megren says, “May– maybe. I think, I could have maybe done better.”
Lanisen is quiet for a moment. “You shouldn’t have had to.”
Megren lifts a shoulder. “Um, maybe, that’s–” she takes a breath and rubs her mouth. “I don’t know, I don’t think friendships can be built on should or shouldn’t have had tos.” She pushes her hair behind her ear and examines a whorled knot in the table surface, mouth working. “I guess you just have to do your best by each other as often as you’re able and you can’t — if you, of you dwell on the blame or the compromising it stops being a friendship.”
Lanisen hesitates and looks at her sidelong, but closes his mouth without saying anything.
Megren says apologetically, “I don’t know; I’m, I’m trying to be councilor on my own problems; it’s not a very good position to take.”
Lanisen nods and looks down.
Megren rubs her brow and says, “I think you should find someone else to talk to about this.”
Lanisen closes his eyes briefly and nods.
Megren says, “I’m, I’m sorry, I wish it could be me, but I, I really think you should talk to someone about it, and I don’t think I’m them.”
Lanisen says, “No, it’s–” and shakes his head several times to indicate that it’s all right.
Megren pushes her mouth to the side.
Lanisen hesitates. “I– I have, I did,” he confesses finally.
Megren’s brows lift with mild surprise. “… Danall?”
Lanisen says, “No– Jana.”
Megren says, “Oh.”
Lanisen twists his hands in his lap and draws a breath. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, it was– I didn’t tell her, it, she guessed it.”
Megren rubs the back of her forearm, shaking her head. “No, it’s… um, I’m glad you can, I’m glad you’ve got somebody else to talk to.”
Lanisen says, “She said to… she said to tell you.”
Megren purses her lips a little and concedes, “That’s… yeah, that’s probably what I would have told you, too.”
Lanisen says, not looking up, “She said you might like to be able to tell me no properly.”
Megren says, “Well, talk about it properly, yeah. Do you, do you need me to say that, say no?”
Lanisen says, “You already– you already did. I already knew, anyway.”
Megren says, “All right.”
Lanisen nods a couple times, looking at the dried coinroyal sticking out from beneath the rug without seeming to really see it. His arms curl around his middle again.
Megren asks, “So then what made you decide to say?”
Lanisen says, slightly unsteadily, “Um,” and pauses for a long moment with his head down before he answers. “Because it– didn’t go away like I thought it would, and I could see you knew, and she was right.”
Megren pauses, and then nods.
Lanisen rubs his eyes and shakes his head mutely. “I’m so…” He stops there, and seems to not even have the words to finish the statement, or else too many words. He looks worn and overwhelmed.
Megren presses her lips together.
Lanisen says finally, “It doesn’t feel like it’s helped things.”
Megren says, “Well — I don’t have to pretend not to notice when you’re making faces when you think I’m not looking anymore.”
Lanisen’s shoulders slump and he covers his face.
Megren reaches out to tug his hands gently from his face.
Lanisen doesn’t resist, but he bows his head and turns his face away from her to try to hide how it twists and contorts. He doesn’t make any voiced sound, but there’s a strangled intake of breath and a sniff.
Megren says. “I’m sorry.”
Lanisen shakes his head helplessly, unable to speak. “I’m sorry,” he manages after a moment. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry…”
Megren nods quietly.
Lanisen says, “I didn’t mean for this, I never did.”
Megren rubs her forearm again. She drops her hand after a moment and breathes a sigh. “Well, anyway. Maybe write her then, or else find someone who lives here and knows better the people involved, and talk to them.”
Lanisen takes a deep breath and nods.
Megren sucks the inside of her lip and then says, “So do you… know where I’m at better, now? Did I say what you need?”
Lanisen rubs his eyes. “I wasn’t– I’m not, I’m not needin’… I knew how you’d, I knew what you’d say, I only wanted for you to be able to say it.”
Megren frowns, gathering herself. After a marked silence to this end, she says quietly and in a measured tone, “Lanisen, I love you with my whole heart, but not like that.” She pauses again, and then says, “And if you want us to be able to continue to love each other without hurting each other, you’re going to have to figure out what you need to do to be happy with that.”
Lanisen whispers, “I’m tryin’, I been, I’m tryin’.”
Megren says, “You said you wanted me to say it.”
Lanisen rubs the side of his face. “I wanted– I wanted for you to be able to tell me no, and I wanted to… I wanted to be able to tell you that– I know, and– and I knew, and I don’t… I’m not, I’m not expectin’ or hopin’ for you to change, and I’m workin’ on putting it away. That’s all, that’s– that’s all.”
Megren pulls in her lower lip. “All right. Thank you.”
Lanisen nods several times, not looking directly at her.
Megren takes a breath. “So, I, I suppose we both have work to get back to and thoughts to sort.”
Lanisen says, “Yeah. Yeah.”
Megren says, “All right. Well, then…”
Lanisen says, “Yeah.”
Megren takes a breath and stands up.
Lanisen gets up as well to see her out, limping.
Megren stops at the door and reminds him, “I do love you.”
Lanisen nods without looking at her and says, “Yeah. You– you too.”
Megren’s mouth pulls down and to the right. She pauses and then nods and passes through the door.
Lanisen rubs a hand over his mouth and sits down again.
Megren can be seen through the window, tucking her hair behind her ear and crossing toward the inner ward.