A few more days of hiding in the mansion pass before I decide it’s time to finally make my outside world debut. I was right and Lady knew from my one weird text that something was up and has been pestering me nonstop ever since trying to figure out what’s going on. Of course I want to tell her the truth just because she’s my friend who I care a lot about, but also, her theories have devolved into assuming someone might be holding me hostage, and she keeps trying to come up with ways for me to slyly tell her whether or not I need help.
She might be joking, but I kinda think she’s half-serious. So I need to show her I’m alright before authorities get involved.
A knock comes at the door as I’m washing my face and trying to psyche myself up to go meet up with Lady and Calisto for lunch.
KRYSTOFF: Are you decent?
JUN: Maybe. You can come in.
KRYSTOFF: What do you mean maybe??
Krystoff pokes into the room and floats over to my side, folding his arms at my noncommittal promise of decency.
KRYSTOFF: So you are clothed. Boring.
JUN: Yeah, sorry. That was pretty mischievous of me.
I smirk as I rinse cleanser off my face and catch Krystoff rolling his eyes in my periphery. My poor, narrowed periphery. He perches himself on the countertop and crosses his legs primly. Regenald is conspicuously absent, but I wouldn’t be surprised if that was Regenald’s choice.
KRYSTOFF: …How are you feeling?
JUN: Ehh… It feels a little silly to be self-conscious about a missing eye when I’m about to meet up with a life leech and a fish, but I think I’m just apprehensive about Lady flipping out at me for not telling her what was going on.
He hands me a towel for me to dry my face with.
KRYSTOFF: She’s not your mom. You can lose an eye if you want, it’s your life.
JUN: I’m more worried she’ll blame herself somehow, haha. She let me out of her sight for a few months, and I went off and nearly got killed… twice? Three times? I mean, I guess it depends on whether or not you count that secondary scare I had after your mom took my skin.
JUN: And I put a curse on myself. Small in the grand scheme of things, but still not great. I’m just a walking death machine over here. Can’t leave me to my own devices for two seconds.
KRYSTOFF: Sure. But you also kind of helped precipitate the death of my extremely dangerous father in the process. And lived to tell the tale. You should just brag about that.
JUN: Haha. It’ll probably be fine, I’m just overthinking things. I don’t want to disappoint her.
KRYSTOFF: If anything, I feel like you’re going to tell her what happened and she’s just going to want to kill me on sight for getting you wrapped up in my family drama.
JUN: As if you had anything to do with it! Can’t choose your family.
KRYSTOFF: I don’t have to now that they’re all dead and one of them is practically just a concept now!
He’s joking but I still cast him a sideways look, trying to make sure he isn’t covering up Actual Feelings with flippant comments like he is oft wont to do.
JUN: You okay?
KRYSTOFF: Me? I’m fine. I’ve had time to adjust. I’m over it now. On to the next thing.
JUN: Come on, you don’t have to do that. Talk to me. Follow me, I have to get changed.
KRYSTOFF: There’s not really anything to say. I don’t really know how to mourn or be normal about anything, so I’m dealing with my grief by not dealing with it at all. It’s worked so far!
JUN: Try again.
He sighs loudly.
He sits on my bed while I go through my dresser and try to decide what kind of outfit will soften the announcement that I almost died multiple times since the last time I saw my friends. Kind of a lofty task for an outfit, but I think I can manage something.
KRYSTOFF: Truly what precedent has even been set for feeling the way I feel right now? I don’t know if I should be celebrating, grieving, or penning down my firsthand account of the events for historians and psychologists alike.
KRYSTOFF: It’s just a lot. And I’ve spent a lifetime stifling overwhelming emotions so I’m fine right now, but I also know that isn’t actually the correct way to deal with it.
JUN: There you go. Was that so hard?
KRYSTOFF: Please, Jun, don’t make me regret being earnest. Also don’t wear that shirt, there’s a hole in the sleeve I need to fix.
JUN: You don’t even notice it once the sleeve is rolled up.
KRYSTOFF: I’ll know it’s there, and it’ll drive me to madness.
JUN: Okay, okay… Then I’ll just wear my—
JUN: Hey, where’s my shirt?
KRYSTOFF: That’s specific. Which shirt?
JUN: You know. My favorite one. The green button-up that I like wear over stuff.
Krystoff goes pale in a way that immediately convinces me he’s set the thing on fire and blown away the ashes behind my back. I turn towards him, ready to sacrificial-scapegoat a lot of pent up frustration onto him.
JUN: What did you do with it?
To his credit, Krystoff manages to turn an alluring shade of maroon, and it throws his darting eyes into a glittering contrast that almost succeeds in distracting me from my soon-to-be anger.
KRYSTOFF: It’s—in my room. I was mending that as well. The seams were worn down and in need of reinforcement.
That promptly splashes a cold bucket of water across my simmering mood.
JUN: Really? …Huh.
KRYSTOFF: I can be thoughtful when I want to be.
He’d sound indignant if he wasn’t so embarrassed to be caught in his secret act of kindness. I can almost feel the heat on his face from across the room.
JUN: Were you really just gonna mend it behind my back and slip it into my dresser and not tell me?
I nearly give myself whiplash from how abruptly my irritation swerves into tender fondness. In this moment, I realize just how much Krystoff has changed from when I first met him, and I can’t stop the surge of affection I feel at the thought.
I don’t thank him for the favor, because I know that’ll just embarrass him more, but I smile and bask in that warm feeling. I know he’ll feel it too.
An idea occurs to me.
JUN: Why don’t you come to lunch with me and Lady and Calisto?
KRYSTOFF: Huh? Why? I doubt they want to see me.
JUN: Well, first of all, I think it’ll be easier for me to talk about what happened if you’re there to help me out. But beyond that, I think learning to open up to more people might be good for you. I’m not saying tell them your whole family history or anything, but maybe explaining the surface details to a detached third party will help you sort through your feelings.
KRYSTOFF: Ugh. The last thing I want to do is sort through feelings in front of my ex and the one person I admire—who probably already just sees me as a headache.
JUN: Well, your choice. It’s just a suggestion. Plus I figured it might be nice for both of us to get out of the house.
KRYSTOFF: I’ll go. I’m just being difficult.
JUN: You never make anything easy.
KRYSTOFF: I know, I know.
JUN: What do you think of this outfit?
KRYSTOFF: I think you did your buttons wrong.
JUN: Whoops. Totally missed that top button.
KRYSTOFF: Come here, I’ll fix it. Your cuffs are rolled up disgustingly and your collar is crooked, too.
I want to deny it, but the convenience of having him fix my cuffs for me is too tempting, so I give in without much of a fight and let him undo my buttons.