[Please read the Instructions before jumping in]
Honestly, he’s glad to have this quiet time until dawn. Going from one thing to another has been rough, and for now he can just sit and think and drink. Mostly drink, admittedly. The think is starting to wear itself out.
Lucien has been making a lot of assumptions about a lot of things, but they’re not things he can come to a conclusion about by himself, either. If what Katarin says is true—another assumption—Shuni is at least having the dreams. He may or may not know more than what Lucien does. He may or may not want Lord Crow the way Lucien does.
Katarin accused him of being easily swayed, and maybe that’s extra reason not to buy everything she said at face value either. He’ll coax out information and form his own opinions.
He is about to pour himself another drink when he hears a light knocking, and he goes down the stairs carefully. He’s not drunk yet, not exactly, but he’s got a bit of fog around him and his legs are feeling weak.
He opens the door to find Shuni muddy—in streaks, and heavier on his hands, as if he’d fallen down at some point. He looks tired, and red-eyed, but remarkably lucid. “You said you wanted to talk to me,” Shuni says. “And here I am.”
“Come in,” Lucien says. “…You look beat. Can I pour you a bath? You can stay over tonight, not have to head all the way back after.”
“Ugh. I won’t say no. Sorry I just about ruined your clothes,” Shuni says, exaggerating the damage. “I’ll be grateful to have mine back after this.”
Lucien leads the way back up the stairs to his flat, sparing a moment to be a little self-conscious about the apparent differences in wealth. Shuni has a whole house; Lucien is renting a flat on the second floor of a house. But Shuni doesn’t seem to mind, sighing, following Lucien into the bathroom as he starts to draw the water and fires up the gas tank attached to the tub to heat it. “I warn you, hot water might knock me out. You’re right. I’m beat.”
“Still, you look in better condition than I expected, after meeting a Lord,” Lucien says. “I wasn’t half so together.”
“You didn’t seem so badly off,” Shuni says. He starts to strip down, lacking any shame. “Anyway, that’s just my curse, nothing gets to me too deeply these days. I’m unshakeable.”
“Hah,” Lucien says softly. “Did you meet him?”
“I met him,” Shuni says. “I suppose you’ll want to know what happened.”
“Fair’s fair,” Lucien points out. “I babbled my story out all over you.”
Shuni is just dropping Lucien’s clothes on the floor, and Lucien resolves to pick them up later to not be rude about it. “I met Lord Crow. He said he hadn’t been sure while we were on stage, but seeing me, he knew I wasn’t you. It was funny to him, I suppose. We talked.”
“A talk put you in the mud?”
“He startled me and I fell.”
The bath is about full, though not hot yet. Lucien gets a towel wet and offers it to Shuni so he can get the worst of the mud off first. “I’d been assuming you were into him, but it’s not sounding like that. Do you favor him in some other way?”
Shuni hesitates briefly, looking at the towel, then begins wiping his arms down. “…Yes. I thought I did, anyway. Something important to me was stolen from me not so long ago, and I’d do anything to get it back. Since Lord Crow is the patron of thieves, I thought perhaps he might be able to give me the power to find the thief and get it back.”
“I wouldn’t say I’m his type,” Shuni says softly. He scrubs at his arms extra hard.
That’s interesting. Lucien puts that to one side for now, trying to get enough information to find where to put that puzzle piece. “…Have you been having strange dreams?”
“Oh, awful ones,” Shuni says. “You too, though, right? It’s just the stress of performance.”
“…Lord Crow asked me about my dreams,” Lucien says slowly. “It was something he, and maybe the other Lords, are aware of. I’ve started to wonder if you and I are dreaming of the same thing.”
Shuni looks at him blankly. “I mean, it seems like a standard stress dream. Empty land with no audience, nobody around, empty sky, cracked land.”
“It’s the same for me.”
“See?” The water’s warm enough for Shuni to at least get in now, and he slides in, spilling a little over the edge with a sigh as he settles, resting his head on the back of the tub. “Performance stress.”
“No, the exact same dream,” Lucien says, unable to hide his distress as he thinks about that dream. But he watches Shuni for a reaction.
Shuni stares blankly back, brows furrowed. “Huh. That’s odd. A scene of total desiccation?”
“Yes. I panic because nothing can live there, not even me, but it’s not somewhere to die in either.”
“Oh, same. I mean, I don’t panic, it’s just depressing to me. I wonder why that is.”
Shuni seems confused about the similarity, perplexed and a bit perturbed, but nothing else. It doesn’t sound like the reaction of someone who knew about it already, but then, Shuni’s an actor. “I wonder too,” Lucien murmurs.
Sinking a little further, Shuni hmmms, the sound bubbling out of the water. He lifts his head again. “I mean, maybe it’s something the Lords are doing. You said Lord Crow asked you about it.”
“Yeah, maybe,” Lucien says. He’s still sitting beside the tub, where it was easier to adjust the heat settings, and he reaches up, putting a hand on Shuni’s where it’s hanging off the side of the tub. “Listen… I like you. I want to be your friend. I don’t want anything bad to happen to you… to either of us. If you know or find out anything about this, share with me?”
“…Sure,” Shuni says. “That’s a little intense, but fine.”
Lucien tries to laugh it off. “I guess I can be a little intense. I don’t mean to come on too strong, especially after yesterday. I know you can put up walls.”
“Can do that sometimes, yeah.” Shuni lets his arm fall further out of the tub, permissively.
“Have you had bad experiences with relationships before? You seem like someone who got hurt.” Lucien toys with Shuni’s hand and fingers, clasping them briefly, then running his fingers up to Shuni’s elbow, back down again. “I don’t want to, you know, bring up bad memories.”
Shuni snorts. “Ticklish. Sure I did. Got hurt bad, but who hasn’t been hurt by a lover?”
“Fair enough,” Lucien says. The water is hot, and Shuni is flushed, but Lucien realizes, as his fingers pass over Shuni’s wrist while he toys with it, that he does not feel a pulse.
[Please leave suggestions for Lucien in the comments.]