Scene – Lara sitting in a chair by the fire, which she’s just stirred back into life, in the Karm mansion kitchen, legs tucked under her and mug of untouched tea in her hand. It’s still early, too early for the staff to be up, but the sky is light and it won’t be long before they stir. She’s tried sleeping, but it just wasn’t cooperating.

Lara starts as she hears a noise behind her, assuming it’s the staff come to ready things for the day. She can’t have been here for more than five minutes, just long enough to make the tea and move the chair over to the fireplace. She’d tried, for about 20 minutes only it’s true, to sleep, but it just wasn’t coming.

She hears a chair being dragged over to join her and looks up from her contemplation of the embers to see Edan plonk himself down in the seat, peering at her intently. He’s wearing a robe and his hair is slightly mussed from sleep.

“Oh, sorry, I didn’t mean to wake anyone. I tried to be quiet, but other people’s kitchens, you know?” Lara half shrugs as she continues, “no matter how little noise you try and make, it always sounds like a herd of elephants. You should go back to bed, you must be exhausted.”

He raises an eyebrow at that, “and you’re not?”

“Ha. Touché.”  Lara realises she sounds defensive, “I did try, but, it’s just…” she trails off and stares into the fireplace again.

“Just?”

Lara exhales heavily, “it’s just…,” she swallows and tries again, “just, I’ve never been very good at letting people in, at trusting them, you know? Lot of an orphan I guess. A psychic orphan even worse, nobody wants to get near you so you learn not to rely on them, you learn that if there’s a problem you have to fix it on your own. And I learned to be so hard on myself if I couldn’t.” She gestures with the hand holding the mug and lukewarm tea sloshes over the side, “and I’m getting better at it, I think. I’m learning now that I do have people I can trust, who I can let in. I know I don’t have to do it all on my own, I know there are people who will help, who are helping and I’d be so lost without them, but I still can’t help feeling I’ve failed. I set an army on the town and I know there wasn’t really any other choice, but it’s horrible and people are dying and more people will die and it’s because I failed to fix the curses. Well, I think I’ve fixed the one on Erica for now, but not the Venway and not Arden and that feels like not enough. What if we can’t solve the problem with the Venway curse, or the Arden one, what if Fiona does even worse things next time? And Erica’s made me Regent while she recovers and I don’t know what I’m doing and I don’t know how to fix any of it. And I know that’s ridiculous and we will work it out, but that’s what’s going around in my head and why I can’t sleep.”

Lara glances up at Edan briefly before flicking her gaze back to the fireplace and taking a sip of tea, feeling rather shamefaced at her outburst. She gathers her thoughts and takes another sip before saying, “I’m sorry, that was… I didn’t mean to ramble at you like that,” she huffs and shakes her head, “you’re the only person I ever ramble at. I’m sorry.”

“Oh I don’t know, I kind of like it,” Lara looks up sharply at that. Edan is watching her steadily, his expression concerned, but with a measure of softness around his eyes which speaks to a faint trace of, humour, she’d almost say. He reaches over and takes the mug out of her hands, placing it on the hearth. “Sorry, that sounded a bit…, I didn’t mean…” He takes a breath, “what I mean is, Lara, the fact that you do ramble like that at me, and why I said I like it, is because what I think it means, umm, is that you’re comfortable enough with me to trust me with what you’re feeling. Am I right?”

Lara exhales slowly and nods, “Yes.” The word is said softly but clearly.

“And what is it you’re feeling now?”

Closing her eyes briefly she takes a breath and opens them again, looking into Edan’s clear blue gaze, “I want someone to hold me tight and tell me that it will all be okay.”  She feels her confidence wane and looks down at her knees as she continues, “I want to fall asleep feeling safe.”

She hears Edan move and looks up again. She watches as he gets to his feet and extends his hand to her, his cheeks flushing slightly, saying, “that I…ah…I can do that. Lara, shall we go to bed?”

She rises to join him, clasping his hand tightly, “Yes.”

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