I step out of the front portal and find the foyer empty, the air still and silent. Luckily it’s not smeared in blood, which is now a fun anxiety I always entertain at the back of my mind when I come over. I slip my shoes off and navigate my way up the familiar stairs…
Down the familiar corridor…
And into the library. I don’t know where Krystoff is, but I might as well offload the books I was borrowing from him where they belong since I’ll be staying here for a while anyway. And I can put away the books I’ve finished reading, though deciding where they should go is a challenge in and of itself…
Maybe I should start reorganizing his library for him. Never mind, I immediately just imagined him disregarding the system and putting books in the wrong place. His lifespan is a hundred times that of mine, he can waste his own precious life on moving books around if he wants to.
I rest the books I’m still reading in a neat pile on a table and scoop the rest out of my backpack to re-home them among their mismatched brethren on the shelves.
Finding myself alone in Krystoff’s library is a first, since I usually follow him around when I’m over. Being alone has always been a game of brain Russian roulette, where there’s a good chance I’ll find it peaceful and use it as an opportunity sort out my feelings, but there’s also a chance I’ll fall into the worst mental pit without anything to distract me. I can almost hear the cylinder spinning as the war wages between thoughts.
I stave off the trigger pull by squeezing the books into a spot that feels appropriate for them. The surrounding books seem roughly similar in subject and size, if my limited reading skills aren’t failing me. I inhale through my nose and try to relax a little. Try to find peace in the mundanity of shuffling books around. Yet I can’t deny this nervous fluttering in my chest, despite everything.
I turn around, and I’m met with an obstacle that wasn’t there before. Krystoff leans over me, one arm propped against the shelving above my head, lips quirked in a small smile.
KRYSTOFF: Hello, Jun.
JUN: Krystoff. Jesus. How long have you been there??
KRYSTOFF: Not the most observant, are you? I’d recommend always knowing what’s behind you. You never know when someone less savory than me might try to get the jump on you.
JUN: Yeah, well, I can’t imagine anyone less—
The rest of the thought gets erased from my head wholesale as Krystoff leans in closer. This is far from the first time he’s gotten up in my face like this, but something about the serious way he’s looking at me sets me off. I do such a poor job tempering my reaction, I’m almost certain he can tell I’m flustered, but he doesn’t comment on it. He just looks at me like I’m something fascinating he’s never seen before.
He smells like cloves. Which I know now is because of his shampoo, but. He’s close enough for me to smell.
KRYSTOFF: Did you always have freckles?
KRYSTOFF: Freckles! You know, like little concentrations of pigment in your sk—
JUN: I-I know what freckles are, dumbass!
But bite is completely absent from my retort, and my voice comes out regrettably soft.
JUN: I always had them, yeah. They, uh, probably got a little more noticeable since I was outside a lot over the summer months.
KRYSTOFF: They suit you.
He keeps looking at me with his enormous, clear eyes, almost like he’s searching for something, but I can’t even begin to guess what that might be. My reflex would normally be to redirect the attention off of me by perhaps returning the compliment in some way, but past experiences have already proven he doesn’t really value the attention unless he’s already badgering me for it.
What do I say? He’s not talking, just breathing quietly, just inhaling and exhaling, some kind of unknowable thought clearly weaving itself below the surface where I can’t see it. But I feel like I’m supposed to know. I want to know.
KRYSTOFF: Let me show you to the room you’ll be staying in. So you can get settled in.
He leans back and unceremoniously drops the mood that was forming between us on the floor, perhaps for the better. I let out a breath I didn’t realize I was holding, formed equally of disappointment and relief.
REGENALD: Hopefully you will find our accommodations to your liking.
Jesus, I didn’t realize Regenald was here. I’m so sorry, Regenald.
JUN: Uh, I’m sure I will. I’m not picky. My room was pretty run down, back on earth.
I grab my backpack from a chair and follow Krystoff out of the library. He glances at me from over his shoulder with a curious expression.