Well, my doves, we've reached the final chapter. A lot of closure between our lovely lady and her ex-lover. Lots of awkward. Lots of fun to write.
We also have her fully realizing and understanding what we all know.
Thanks for joining me on this ride. Y'all are beautiful people.
It wasn't for several days, however, that Varice finally acted upon her ridiculous thoughts.
Honestly, she was too afraid to go. What on earth was she thinking? What could she possibly have to say to any of the delegation, Numair in particular? Anything, any sort of consolation for how ridiculously horrific the last two or so weeks had been would sound silly. Even thinking of what she could say sounded silly. Even if it was something that needed to be said, it did not need to be said by her. Nothing needed to be said by her, honestly.
And if she were truly honest, some of her delay was do to a hope that perhaps, perhaps, Numair might come to speak to her. He did not. Which, of course, made perfect sense. How do you tell someone you faked your death and expect it to end well? She wasn't his Daine, she did not know him that well. He couldn't expect her to understand what he had done and be okay with it. In many cases it made Varice feel a bit better to know that he might be scared, too. Arram had never been afraid of much, but he hadn't been that man for a very long time.
But that did not make her want to see him anymore. What had happened between them while he was here had been stupid, stupid and frankly, rather immature. Part of her still loved Arram, still loved him very much, but she had known from the very start that he was not going to be hers again, that he would leave and that he had a life to go back to. But with all the stress and all the fear and the madness that had surrounded he and the delegations trip she'd allowed her emotions to get the best of her – as they often did. Never had it been quite this bad.
Varice supposed what she really wanted was a clean, complete break. When Arram had left her the first time, he had been running for his life with a price on his head. She had had no idea where he had gone, and, indeed if he had even lived for a very long time. She never expected contact, but there had always been some hope that he would return – a hope that had subconsciously kept her from marrying. A hope that had kept her from moving forward.
And then he had returned and she'd fell back into the young eighteen year old she had been when he had left. Everything had changed and she'd behaved as though nothing had. Now he was leaving again, and she refused to let that start the whole cycle over again. If she spoke to him, perhaps to the delegation as a whole, she could accept that he was leaving for good.
But she could not bring herself to go.
In the end, Varice realized it was the day before their departure and for all the gods sakes if she was going to do this she had better just go ahead and do it. She would likely be miserable in either case, might as well feel productive about it.
By this time, however, the address of the delegation had changed, which Varice had to learn the hard way. Prince- Emperor Kaddar had given her the address of his mother, told her they were keeping the sleeping demigoddess and her teacher there.
The princess was visibly uncomfortable when Varice came to call. "They are at the university. It's paranoia, I admit, but I could not sleep comfortably knowing that that girl tore down the Imperial Palace within a night."
Varice refrained from remarking that the girl in question only did that when the former Emperor had had her teacher and love murdered, and was likely too exhausted to raise anything at the moment, including herself, let alone tear anything down. She knew that if she were in the princess's place, she would be just as nervous. Daine had never liked her much, after all.
"Thank you, Your Majesty," she replied, politely before hastily exiting.
She nearly turned back three separate times on the way to the Univeristy quarters where the Tortallans were staying before they set off for their home. She didn't want to do this. She needed to do this. She didn't need to do anything. She had no place in any of their lives.
In the end, she did make it to the guest quarters. Alanna the Lioness raised her eyebrows nearly to her hairline when she greeted her, but made no comment to her immense relief. She only pointed to an exit to an open garden. Varice nodded, and tried to think of a polite way to intrude.
Her thoughts were interrupted by two laughs; a girl's and a man's – Daine and Numair, no doubt, though she had never heard the girl laugh before. She reached the doorway and was able to view the scene without being seen by the pair outside.
The pair sat on a garden bench, talking to each other quietly, watching three creatures playing – mortal, immortal and… dead. Numair had his arm loosely around the girl's shoulder and she had her head resting against his shoulder as she watched the creatures. Briefly, Daine looked up at her teacher and grinned at something he said. He gave her a warm smile in response, and took his hand off her shoulder to brush some of her curls behind her ear.
The whole picture was more telling in how little had changed, how un-shocking it was for Varice to see them behave as such. It was not the first time she had seen them so comfortable with one another. The change that their respective near-death experiences had brought about in them was so subtle it could be easily missed. They knew each other, through and through, and they loved each other. Nothing they could have done would have made it any plainer than it was in that moment.
More than ever, Varice knew she had nothing to say, here. No part in this. She turned to go.
And nearly ran into the new Emperor, being escorted out to interrupt the garden scene by the Lioness. Alanna rolled her eyes at seeing Varice still standing frozen there, and brought Kaddar out to speak to Daine. From her place, Varice could see Numair instantly frown and nearly rolled her eyes herself. Well, at least she wasn't the only one with a jealous streak.
"Here, laddybuck," the redhead told Numair, grinning, "you come with me."
The mage sighed, but allowed her to lead him inside. It all happened so quickly Varice didn't have time to debate escaping, let alone do so.
Numair's eyes widened at seeing her and Alanna retreated before he could say anything to her.
Embarrassed, she looked down, trying to think of something to say to him. "Are you alright?" she managed at last.
"I am," he answered, sounding equally uncomfortable. "And yourself?"
Well, I wasn't the one who was executed. She bit her lip. "Fine," she said shortly - more so than she had intended. To soften it she continued, managing to look away from the floor at last. "I thought I ought to come and say goodbye…"
He blinked, and looked relieved. Varice suddenly realized he had expected her to be angry with him. Somewhere she was, but that wasn't important. After a pause he came to an apparent decision and spoke, "You're welcome to come with us, if you want." At the shock on her face he pushed on, "I meant what I said before; you'd like Tortall."
Truthfully, she didn't even think about her reply, "And I meant what I said, Numair. I'm happy here." She belonged in Carthak, in a way he never truly had. Briefly she thought of Daine's reaction if she were to board the ship to Tortall and nearly laughed aloud. "Besides," she continued, lighter, "you seem to be taking much of Carthak's staff; Emperor Kaddar will need some familiarity."
Numair looked relieved again, unsurprisingly. Varice knew he had been asking her out of some misplaced sense of pity and had been hoping – if not counting on – her refusal. Still, it was likely his way of apologizing for all that had transpired between them. He'd never been good at that. He smiled. "I don't think he'll ever forgive me for taking Lindhall," he admitted with a sigh. He glanced behind him at the garden where girl and emperor conversed.
Following the shift in topic, Varice asked, "How is she doing?"
"She's ready to go home," he answered promptly, still watching the teenagers. "We all are, honestly, but she's had it the hardest."
His voice had warmed considerably, as it always did when Daine was the topic. Varice shook her head. She wondered if he knew. Somehow she doubted it. For all his skills with magic Numair appeared to be as terrible with people skills as Arram had been, if not worse. It would be some time before the mage figured out his feelings for his student were more than that. It hurt her to think of him in love with someone else, and she wasn't sure if it hurt less or more for her to know that it was with a fifteen year old girl-child, who also so happened to be a demigoddess and his student. However, she had seen how happy Daine made him and vice-versa. And she had to content herself with that.
Numair turned to her at last and she realized she had sighed aloud. "Being protective, again," she told him, trying for lightness. Whether he believed it or not, he went with it. His smile grew a bit more genuine.
"Yes, yes. She's going to scold me for that eventually and I can't say I'm looking forward to it."
"I don't suppose it would be enough for you to stop?"
He actually laughed. "Certainly not."
She smiled, feeling a little better. This whole conversation had turned out far more pleasant than she had feared. For the first time in a very long time she had been pleasantly surprised.
Which is why she figured she'd better go. She wanted to leave on a good note, and this was the best she'd get, no doubt. "Well, I'll leave you to it, then," she teased, gesturing toward the pair. "I'm just, I'm glad you're alright, Arram." The name slipped before she could think.
Numair smiled. "Thank you. It was... good seeing you."
She didn't quite know what to make of that, but she wasn't going to ask. "Well, have- have a safe ride home." She smiled at the Tortallan mage that had been her lover a lifetime ago, swallowed past the lump in her throat and fled as gracefully as she could.
And for once, when Varice schooled herself into thinking about anything, anything but the man who was leaving, she found that there was nothing cataclysmic to turn her thoughts to. Carthak had a lot of rebuilding, but it was going to rebuild better. Varice was no good with politics, with magic, with anything in relation to power, but she was willing to help if she were needed. Small jobs and small comforts were her skill and she had a feeling that would be desired more than one would think in this time in Carthak's history. Varice let her mind be caught be caught up in these thoughts, in the pleasurable idea that she could and would be needed.
And that's that. Not sure if I really liked how their conversation went down. I kept wanting them to talk about their affair while he was there but it wouldn't come out right. Too much had happened for that to be something they'd discuss. Not to mention both are embarrassed about it and Numair has horrible people skills.
Again I based a lot of Varice's behavior in this chapter on my own if I were in such a situation. I stated early in this story Varice was like a manifestation of some of my least favorite qualities. Got to play around with that again here.
And she knows that Numair and Daine are in love. They don't know it, but she certainly does. And she's working on accepting that, good for her.
And that's where we're leaving it. Thank you all again for bearing with me and sticking through this to the end. I hope you all enjoyed and let me know you're thoughts!