[Please read the Instructions before jumping in]
Shuni not answering the door isn’t necessarily cause for concern, Lucien reminds himself. It’s far enough past dawn that Shuni might well be in bed by now, asleep or otherwise just ignoring visitors. Or perhaps he’s even still at the theatre, and Lucien simply missed him on the way out. It doesn’t necessarily mean that Shuni is gone.
Still, he can’t help but think about poor Nan, taken by the Endless for what seemed to the cast to be one night only, but was for her so long that it was unendurable by the time she was finally returned.
—No, no good to think of that now. He knocks louder, again with no response.
Well. Shuni might just be out late; he can look for Shuni later, but at this point, he doesn’t even have anywhere to start. He’ll go to Katarin instead, he decides, trying not to feel worried about that decision. No decision feels like it would be right here. But he needs to talk to her now that he knows more, has seen more. Hopefully she, at least, will still be awake and ready to receive him. He doesn’t believe that he himself will be able to sleep any time soon, wide awake after that.
Not that he wants to have to sleep again at all. He thinks about what the Moonlit Lord said about the key and wonders how that would even work. He has a physical key, of course, but it’s been nothing more than a worry stone to him, something to hold onto when times are difficult. He’s not sure how he can use it for anything.
Lucien arrives at Katarin place fifteen minutes later, and is a bit gratified to see that her home is more like his, one of many apartment doors in a row, rather than fancy like Shuni’s. It’s dark in there, and briefly Lucien has a terrible fantasy that he’s still dreaming, or perhaps has entered another sort of reality where neither of them exist anymore. It almost takes him effort to knock, but when he does, a light comes on.
Lucien’s stomach unclenches.
It tightens again a moment later when Katarin opens the door with a scowl, frowning out at him. She’s in what he assumes is her night clothes, with a robe thrown on over it, and he can’t quite keep himself from blushing. “Do you know what time it is, Shuni?” she snaps. “I might be an actress, but you’ll entirely ruin what little reputation I have.”
He hadn’t really considered any of that, and stammers, flustered. “I, that’s—”
The expression slowly clears. “Wait, Lucien? Is that really you? Are you okay?”
“Yes, sorry,” he says. “I know that I didn’t show up for the curtain call, and I mean—I told Ran, so I imagine you all heard about the Moonlit Lord—”
She looks around past him, then opens the door to let him in. “It’s been three days.”
He stands very still on the doorstep, stupefied, and she has to drag him in after that, take him to the couch and sit him down. She boils water, while he repeats, “Three days?” and she says, “Yes, Lucien, three days,” for enough times that he’s sure she thinks his mind has gone.
“I just didn’t realize,” he says, when she shoves a cup of tea in his hands. “She said I wouldn’t get the night back. She didn’t say anything else.”
“That’s how they get you, isn’t it,” she mutters. “I feel like most of them don’t have an eye for little details. You look well, considering.”
“Yes, she gave me… different dreams than the one I was having,” he says. “I’ve been… I’ve been gathering information, Katarin.”
“Is that what you’ve been doing with Shuni,” she says dryly. “It looked like you took the information I gave you and ran it over to him right away.”
He bites the inside of his cheek. “It’s not exactly like that. You’ve just got it wrong about him. He didn’t know anything about a ritual.”
“Ah, yes, he told you that, did he?”
“Yes, he did,” Lucien says. “And I believe him. Listen—”
He takes a breath, and begins to summarize his investigations so far. It’s hard, because he is, at least for now, stepping around Shuni’s personal details—all he says about that is that someone stole something from Shuni and lured him to the play. He describes the dream with the Moonlit Lord dying and him saving her, the discussion he had with the Moonlit Lord as well, and the dreams she gave him.
At one point, Katarin takes out a journal and starts making notes. “So assuming I believe you about Shuni, you think it’s someone else in the theatre. Who?”
“I don’t know. I was hoping to find the stolen item, and get a culprit that way,” he says. “Has Shuni been around while I was gone?”
“Yes, he has,” she says absently. “But Frederik had to fill in for you on very short notice.”
He’s relieved, of course, to hear that Shuni was returned after the Endless—if he even got to see her at all. He wishes he could ask Katarin about that, but doubts that Shuni would have shared that he’d even gone with her. “What else… I feel like there’s so much I should ask you about the last few days, if I can just think of what…”
Katarin is frowning at her notes, tapping her pen against her mouth. “Yes, of course. You know, it feels like you’re leaving something out. Are you?”
[Please leave suggestions for Lucien in the comments.]