Megren sits cross legged on a bench in the garden, reading a small sheaf of parchment.
Lanisen follows the path, his footsteps crunching softly on the gravel. It has rained sometime in the night and there are still silver puddles standing in dips in the ground, and a fresh cool feeling hangs in the air. He turns the corner that brings him within sight of Megren and hesitates.
Megren glances up, gives a small smile of greeting, and continues on reading.
Lanisen returns the smile, ducks his head, and keeps walking.
Megren moves so that there is space on the bench beside her.
Lanisen hesitates, glancing at her face, then steps off the path and sits.
Megren keeps working at the letter in her lap.
Lanisen keeps quiet and does not disturb her. He watches a bumblebee tumbling about in a bank of dusty sage.
Megren eventually folds the letter and tucks it away. “Hey.”
Lanisen answers, shifting and glancing at her quickly, “Hey.”
Megren clasps her ankles and considers the garden.
Lanisen faces forward again. An ordinary sparrow lands to wash itself in a puddle, and he watches it splash about.
Megren says, “Sir Darrin said you talked.”
Lanisen says, “Um–” He glances at her. “Yeah, we– yeah, a bit.”
Megren asks, “So I guess that was all right?”
Lanisen says, “Yeah! Yeah, it was.”
Megren says, “Good.”
Lanisen nods. He rubs his palms on his knees and glances at her from the corner of his eye.
Megren takes a breath and releases it.
Lanisen stares at the ground, his face falling.
Megren says, “You’ve got to, you’ve got to do some of the heavy lifting for me here. Please don’t make me do all of it.”
Lanisen draws a breath. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” he says, and straightens slightly, rubbing the side of his face. “I don’t– I don’t know what’s allowed, I don’t know what you…”
Megren says, “You said you wanted it to be normal; what would be normal right now?”
Lanisen pauses. “I didn’t…”
Megren says, “The same.”
Lanisen shakes his head slowly. “That’s not… that cart’s rolled down the mountain, that’s–” He stops, staring at the ground. “I didn’t… want to tell you, because I didn’t want things to change, but I did, and they have, and– it’s not– there’s not any point in, in pretending.”
Megren looks vaguely frustrated.
Lanisen bites his lower lip and shuts his eyes. “I’m sorry for not tellin’ you earlier,” he says after a pause, not looking up. “And I’m– Meg, I’m so sorry for, for hurtin’ you.”
Megren sighs and says softly, “I know, Lanisen.”
Lanisen hesitates again. “I don’t know what to do now,” he confesses matter-of-factly. “I keep, I keep steppin’ wrong, I’m sorry for that too.”
Megren says, “I don’t know.”
Lanisen rubs his wrists and looks at her from the corner of his eye, uneasily doubtful and confused.
Megren says, “I know it’s selfish and unhelpful and I don’t want to not be friends or anything like that, but I also… don’t really want to have to be the one with all the answers just right at this moment.”
Lanisen doesn’t answer. His mouth opens slightly and he bites his lip.
Megren says, “I’m sorry.”
Lanisen rubs his hands over his face unhappily.
Megren says, “I’m really glad you decided to come, though, and I don’t expect it to be like this forever.”
Lanisen nods mutely.
Megren says again, “I’m sorry.:
Lanisen says, “I wish I knew what–”
Megren waits for him to finish.
Lanisen falters. “I wish I knew what you’re… wantin’ from me,” he says finally. His voice is low and regretful rather than accusing.
Megren says apologetically, “Mostly I’m wanting not to have to say what I want I want so much.”
Lanisen puts his elbows on his knees, sort of hunkering down. “Last time you said that it was a joke.”
Megren pushes her mouth to the side. “Um, I’m not… necessarily saying it’s a very reasonable thing to want.”
Lanisen’s shoulders bow. He works a loose thread out of his sleeve.
Megren looses a breath.
Lanisen doesn’t say anything. He drops the thread and folds his arms on his knees.
Megren says, “I don’t… I don’t really know the rules either, you know. And I haven’t for, for kind of a long time.”
Lanisen asks without looking at her, “What do you mean?”
Megren says, “You, you sort of told me but didn’t tell me back, um, back in winter, and I didn’t know if I should –” she takes in a big breath, frowning, and doing some work at maintaining her voice, “I didn’t know what I should do? And I wasn’t — I wasn’t allowed to push which, um, which is what I do when I don’t, I don’t know what to do, but you were so /firm/ about it so I just, sort of, tried to pretend I didn’t feel all unmoored.” She pauses, mouth working, “And um, then you, you waited until I’d decided I could just let it lie and pretend I thought — um — it was just, it was really, s–selfish timing, Lanisen;I mean, it felt like really selfish timing.”
Lanisen goes still. He swallows, and blinks a couple times, and nods without looking up.
Megren says, “I’m sorry, I know you’ve, I know you’ve already apologized for that.”
Lanisen shakes his head slightly and whispers, “It’s, it’s all right.”
Megren pushes her mouth to the side, not really looking comforted in any sense of the word.
Lanisen folds his hands behind his head. “I wish I hadn’t, I wish I hadn’t said…”
Megren says, “I don’t.”
Lanisen drops his hands, his face twisting up with confusion and frustration and hurt.
Megren says, “I just wish you’d, you’d said it better, and a long time ago.”
Lanisen opens his hands. “I /couldn’t/ say it, please, I /couldn’t/.”
Megren says, “Lanisen–”
Lanisen says, “Please– I didn’t… I’m a coward, all right, I was /scared/, you were pretendin’ so hard you didn’t see that I thought you’d hate me if I made you see, /I/ sure hated me!”
Megren rubs her eyes. “I don’t… think, um,” she laughs unhappily. “I don’t think you know me very well?”
Lanisen goes silent and stunned.
Megren says, “I don’t know what you’ve got up in your head but that’s like the, it’s like the first thing anyone ever figures out about me, I don’t like–” she breathes out a soundless laugh. “Do you know what not talking about things has gotten me? A half-remembered lullaby and a family I didn’t know existed until I was twenty-one.”
Lanisen covers his face, then slides his hands up to fist in his hair, his elbows still on his knees. “Please,” he says, his voice breaking, “I’m sorry, I didn’t– I was scared, I was really scared for a really long time, sometimes you, sometimes you don’t think straight when you’re scared, you make mistakes, I made a mistake. I’m sorry, please, I’m so sorry.”
Megren says, “I’m — listen, I’m–” she stops and shuts her mouth and rests her hand on his back, lips pressed together unhappily.
Lanisen’s back flinches and he swallows, breathing shakily. “I was wrong,” he manages after a moment. “I was wrong about a lot of things and I’m sorry.”
Megren runs her hand across his shoulders. “I know.”
Lanisen doesn’t say anything else. He’s painfully tense and still under her hand, as if he doesn’t quite trust it.
Megren says, “I’m sorry I haven’t made it better.”
Lanisen says, “How could you possibly–”
Megren pushes her mouth to the side, hand still moving.
Lanisen breathes carefully, shuddering a little on the inhale. “What do you want me to do?”
Megren sighs regretfully. “I guess not hating yourself would be a start.”
Lanisen’s head bows and his hands slide back to lace together at his nape.
Megren reaches up to loosen his grip there.
Lanisen starts slightly. He lowers his hands and looks away, still folded over where he sits.
Megren squints at his back for a moment and then touches the ends of his hair and makes a disapproving *tsk*ing sound.
Lanisen is confused enough by this to look up at her.
Megren’s lip quirks a little, and though her tone is gentler than usual, she asks familiarly, “When was the last time you had a hair cut?”
Lanisen stares at her, and then lowers his eyes, reaching up to touch his hair. “Um,” he says a little shakily. “Um, when you cut it before I left.”
Megren says, “Getting a little long, don’t you think?”
Lanisen says, “I don’t– I don’t know. I guess it is?”
Megren says, “I wonder if talking beasts ever cut their for. I suppose not. Most of the ones I’ve met are a bit practical for it.”
Lanisen rubs his stomach, as if it’s upset or hurting. “I don’t know,” he says. “I suppose– I suppose it sheds, for most of ’em.”
Megren says, “Yeah.”
Lanisen swallows and says nothing else.
Megren pauses, and then lifts her hand to his shoulders again.
Lanisen shuts his eyes this time and melts slightly, lowering his head. He takes a deep breath, and then asks without looking up, “Can I hug you?”
Megren says, “Yeah, all right.”
Lanisen hesitates, weighing this answer, then straightens and does so.
Megren hugs him in her turn.
Lanisen relaxes. He doesn’t draw away for a moment.
Megren gives him time.
Lanisen straightens and withdraws. He touches his hair self-consciously.
Megren says, “I’ll bet there’s a faun in the castle would touch it up for you.”
Megren rolls her eyes good-naturedly and shrugs back.
Lanisen half-smiles uncertainly, with the sort of expression that means he’s trying to figure out whether or not a joke is being had at his expense.
Megren taps his shoulder with the side of her fist complacently. “Come on. It’s getting cold, and I bet there’s something good to drink in the kitchens.”
Lanisen’s expression clears. “All right,” he agrees, ducking his head to smile.
Megren hops up and waits for him to follow.
Lanisen gets up to follow, his smile turning a little giddy with relief.