[Please read the Instructions before jumping in]
“Thanks, Ran,” Lucien says gently. He doesn’t have the power to send them on break or give them the rest of the night off, and can’t imagine that he himself would be capable of going back to work the same night he met a Lord. But he at least knows someone who would have the ability to make that call for poor Ran. “Can you go let the Director know where I am, in case someone needs me?”
Ran nods, gazing at Lucien as if they had fallen asleep on the spot and are startled to wake to find themself here. “Yes, of course.” And they head out, walking like a sleepwalker.
“Was that wise?” Shuni asks dryly.
Lucien sighs. “Hopefully he’ll see the state they’re in and decide it’s better to be down an usher for the night than keep them on their feet right now. Anyway, if I don’t come back from the booth by the curtain call, the director knowing where I am will keep a panic from starting. Make it easier for you to search if they’re not tearing the place apart looking for me.”
“Fair enough,” Shuni says, his mouth in a bit of a sour twist.
“…I’m sorry,” Lucien says. “I feel like my hands are tied here. I mean, I could blow off a Lord, but…”
“No, no, I entirely understand,” Shuni says airily. “I’m going to head out myself and look around. If she doesn’t kidnap you to the stars, try to meet me after, right?”
“Of course. I still plan to help you look.” Lucien squares his shoulders. “Be careful, Shuni.”
Shuni laughs softly. “Aren’t I always?” he asks.
Lucien wouldn’t usually consider him careful, no. He doesn’t say that, though, just heads out.
It’s strange to be in the front of house areas while a show’s still going, let alone while still in costume. He feels like some sort of ghost like this, walking behind the audience unseen, a room away, as he heads up the stairs that allow for mortal access to the box seats.
He walks the length of the corridor at the top, checking the doors to ascertain which one she’s in. They are marked by cards to warn the crew back here which booths are occupied, and by whom; one card with a pictograph of a crow, one card with an hourglass with both bulbs full, and one with a crescent moon. The fourth has a solid black card. He isn’t that familiar with this system, as theatres he’s performed at in the past usually simply had no card, but he supposes it makes sense—this way, it can be confirmed empty. ‘No card’ could just be a door that got missed.
For a moment, he’s tempted to open the crow-marked door. What would Lord Crow say to that, if he just slid right in, said they needed to talk? Would he laugh, or find it presumptuous? But, no, the lady is waiting.
He knocks lightly on her door, then braces himself as he opens it. Pale light spills out around him, and he closes his eyes into it, but hands with too-long fingers pull him into the booth and cover his eyes. “It’s all right,” she says, and it’s the same voice as in his dream last night. “I won’t blind you.”
Lucien still isn’t entirely sure, but he opens his eyes regardless as her fingers draw back. “Moonlit Lord, you honor me.”
“Do I?” The box is pulsing, humming, the edges of it foggy and seeming to fade in and out of reality. Her elongated body is curled in here, bare legs bent against the velvet seat. She guides him in to sit next to her, her eyes blinking in a lazy off-rhythm that changes the color and intensity of the moonlight. From here, he can sort of see the performance continuing, and Revelle’s descent into tyranny begin—he really has to find some sort of explanation to give Katarin later, maybe even the truth—but his view of the stage isn’t the one he’d expect. It’s lit in heavy contrasts that are hard to interpret, light and shadow playing with odd inversions. He feels as if he is falling asleep.
He can’t remember who spoke last, and opens his mouth, struggling. “My Lord—”
“You rescued me. Thank you,” she says. “I think I was intended to be the first to go. Dreams are in my portfolio, after all. It would be dangerous if I were left alive.”
Lucien draws a sluggish breath, head nodding. The moonlight is so bright, and he finds his head resting on her bare shoulder. She wraps an arm around him to steady him, and he struggles through exhaustion to find words. He wants to cry, he’s so tired. “I need to ask you some things,” he manages. “And then, please, if you will, I must be released from you without sleeping. I have things I need to do tonight. I’m trying to prevent that end we both saw…”
“If you wish,” she says. “You have not had a restful sleep of late, and if you desire, I can give you better dreams here and now while I stay by your side, dreams until you have slept your fill, ones that can give you other true premonitions and insight into more than just that dry, empty world. But… you are right that if you do so, you won’t get this night back for you to do other things with.” The Moonlit Lord gently brushes his hair back, a remarkably human gesture—albeit one done hesitantly, as if she is badly out of practice. “…What do you wish to ask me?”
[Please leave suggestions for Lucien in the comments.]