KRYSTOFF: Jun… Jun.
REGENALD: Honorable Jun?
I blink open heavy eyelids and find myself lying on the floor of Krystoff’s upstairs hallway. Krystoff and Regenald are crouched over me, concern written plainly across their faces. Well, it’s plain on Krystoff, maybe a little harder to tell with Regenald.
JUN: What am I doing here…
KRYSTOFF: I was about to ask you the same thing. I just woke up and found you out here.
JUN: Um… hold on…
I rub my face vigorously, hoping some blood circulation will help me think, and as the events of last night slowly trickle back into my mind, I find a burning slowly creeping up my neck. I bite my bottom lip and decide to play dumb, hoping Krystoff doesn’t notice my embarrassment.
JUN: Uhh, let’s see… I brought you home last night to put you in bed, and then, um—but I was nervous you’d get sick again, so I sat outside your bedroom door after you fell asleep in case you needed me. Don’t think I meant to fall asleep there.
There are no windows or natural sunlight in Krystoff’s house, so it’s hard to guess what time it is, though as my senses flood in all at once, my aching tailbone makes it pretty apparent that I slept for quite a while like this. Oh, man, I slept with my keys in my back pocket too. I can already tell that’ll leave a mark.
KRYSTOFF: Okay. That’s more than I can remember.
He pinches his temples.
KRYSTOFF: This energy hangover. Christ.
JUN: The energy is what’s got you hungover…?
REGENALD: I cannot begin to articulate how relieved I am to have stayed hanging on the wall last night. Thank you for tending to my master in my absence, Jun.
JUN: Yeah, no problem. It was fun. Well, except for the part where I had to watch Krystoff vomit in the street, I guess.
KRYSTOFF: Ugh, so that’s what that rancid taste in my mouth is. I’m going to brush my teeth and take a godforsaken shower.
He starts to float past me, but then pauses and grounds himself to back up a few steps.
KRYSTOFF: Jun… Did I say anything, ahh, unusual last night?
JUN: Huh? Oh, uh…
Does he remember? I immediately feel deafened by the sound of blood rushing in my ears, his unexpected declaration of love all too clear in my memory. There’s no way he meant it, right? I decide to spare him the humiliation of having to apologize for his uninhibited mistake.
JUN: I don’t remember anything in particular, no.
KRYSTOFF: Ah, that’s good… I thought maybe… I said something imprudent while I was out of it. But if you don’t remember anything, then that’s good…
His face relaxes with wholehearted relief, and for some reason it makes me sad to see. But I force myself not to dwell on the feeling, something a lifetime of misplaced affections has primed me to be a professional at. I know this isn’t the time or place for such foolishness.
KRYSTOFF: Thank you for taking care of me once again, Jun. I owe you.
His hand is in mine, gentle and firm, and gone just as quickly.
KRYSTOFF: Head home and get some sleep in your own bed, now. I’ll see you later.
He and Regenald disappear into the bathroom down the hall, leaving me still paralyzed where I stand, a ghost of the shapes of his fingers still pressed around my hand. Why was such a small, innocuous gesture enough to stun me like this?
I stand alone there in the courtly shadows of Krystoff’s corridor for a few heartbeats longer before I shake myself out of the trance and pilot my body home.
If Lady gives me a look for getting home past noon the day after the bar party, she’s kind enough not to pair it with a comment.
END OF CHAPTER TWO: THE CORRIDOR.