Lucette opened her eyes to the sight of him by her side. Birdsong filtered in through the open window and there was the sound of leaves rustling. She watched the way light morphed on Varg’s face, his amber eyes so much like her own. They shimmered how hers never did, almost like the world could see how much better this man was compared to herself.
Varg, or Fritz.
Moments like these they seemed to be one and the same; Varg reached out and tucked a strand of hair behind Lucette’s ear, the back of his gloveless hand brushing against her cheek. She leaned into the touch, and Varg pulled away.
He sat up from the bed like some thought had possessed him. Lucette gazed at the small scars across his back and remembered seeing them before, when she watched Fritz in the courtyard washing and towelling himself in the fountain after an intense training session. The same scars in the same places. She would sit up and kiss them now. She wanted to, but she did not.
“Shall we go somewhere today?” Varg asked.
And it was certainly unusual of him to offer although Mythros was nowhere in sight. Perhaps Lucette was in a dangerous situation here. Perhaps this was a test, of consequence. But a distant memory flashed in her mind and it compelled her answer, with an emergency of too much significance for her liking:
“I know just the place.”
“We shall have you lead the way then,” was Varg’s smooth reply. Lucette caught the quirk of his lips as he stood and walked to the chair where his clothes hung. She had asked it of him: to take off his shirt, because some nights the anxiety wrangled her heart and burned her mind far too greatly for them to be in the same room. The idea that Varg was foreign, that he wasn’t Fritz- it took a lot to remind herself otherwise.
“I hate when you wear the mask,” Lucette said. She hadn’t intended for the words to slip.
Varg had taken it from the table. He stared at it in contemplation, and then put it on anyways.
“You seem to hate a great many things about me.” He smirked. “Yet we slept in the same bed.”
Lucette did not indulge in humor. She went to her dresser and brushed her hair, ready to tie it the same way she had done many days for many years, an almost sacred ritual her mother left her.
“Same bed,” she echoed, tasting his words on her lips, remembering his mouth relentless on hers. It would be a point of riposte, but she did not follow through.
They made their way through the city square by foot. Varg attracted attention with his mask but Lucette remained largely of no interest to the citizens of Angielle, a respite she was grateful for. Within minutes of their walk out the palace gates, Varg began to pull her aside, away from the common crowd and through narrow alleyways, and where dead ends seemed to lie ahead Varg somehow managed to find that one bend, that one climb, one after the other.
“I apologize,” Varg said, his hand held out for Lucette from his position atop the edge of a roof. “For the escapades. Their gazes unnerve me.”
“Aren’t you the showman though?” Lucette took his hand and brushed her skirt next to him. It had caught on many hooks and jagged ends and tore in places, but she never complained of them. Not to him. “The showman who basks in attention?”
“Only your attention,” Varg replied, that mischievous look upon his face again. Lucette rolled her eyes, but found herself smiling when he turned around.
They got to the bakery after a rather flashy jump down from a high platform, one which Varg had to perform with Lucette in his arms, a task of manipulating limbs in ways which Lucette did not wish to ponder upon. The baker stumbled backwards at their appearance but Varg tilted his head just slightly to ease his mind. Lucette was perusing the stock on display for the day. There were only a few other townspeople doing the same; business was strangely slow.
“Two croissants,” Lucette said, and she enjoyed the fact that she could pay for them without the need to count or fuss over funds. They were warm in her hands as she handed one over to Varg and bit on her own.
“We came all this way for croissants?” There was an incredulous lilt to Varg’s voice though he ate it all the same.
“The best in town,” Lucette answered, remembering these same words through Fritz. She felt like crying then and there, with a mouthful of chewed starch and the sun casting warm rays upon them.
Varg must have sensed the tension building in her for he kissed her then and there, in broad daylight though there were very few around to spectate. It was not like it had been. Varg kissed her with a softness to him, the softness that Lucette had come to expect from Fritz. She kissed him back. This seemed to shock him, for the half-eaten croissant in Varg’s hand slipped between his fingers, falling to the grimey cobblestones. They shared the taste of butter mingled with rusty iron.
“It appears we shall have to share,” Lucette said, as if they were wed and had kissed a hundred times before. It brought glee to her that Varg could only stare, shock upon his features.
“That it does,” he responded, weakly. “That it does.”
“Are you bleeding?”
Lucette was referring to the strange tinge of blood that still lingered in her mouth. Her grip on the croissant tightened though she did not look at Varg. He was looking away at the buildings as well. “I did not take you for the nervous type.”
“I didn’t bite myself. You did.”
Lucette paused. “I did?”
And pain struck him then, when Lucette looked and the awning of a flower shop concealed him in the shadows, she felt acutely aware of the two of them separated by the light. The crease under his eyes and the smile he mustered tore at her.
“To be fair, I should not have forced it. I should have figured you would hate me regardless.”
“I hate the things you do,” Lucette said. “I don’t hate you.”
The croissant in her hand was all but forgotten by then. Just as Lucette reached out for him he stepped back, and with his cowl he disappeared into the shadow of an alleyway. Clamor ahead caught her attention. She looked up and saw the royal guards running towards her, firing a litany of questions. Lucette could only stare at the alley where there was nothing but darkness and the vague notion that someone had been there, just a brief moment ago.
When she got back to the palace flanked all around by the guards, in a carriage, she did not make an active effort to find Varg. She went to the dining hall instead where it was empty and there he was, standing still as a reptile next to the curtains of the floor-to-ceiling window that shone on his face, basking in the light.
“Humans are strange,” Varg said, when she came up to him. He had his eyes fixed on the sun that sat above the mountaintops, so bright that it no doubt hurt him to stare. But he stared regardless. “Feelings are errant. The form in which I took, curses, do not feel. Often than not I have these maddening thoughts that I wish to be one with your Fritzgerald. To love you as him, if only so it would not hurt this much.”
“You talk a lot,” Lucette said, and from her back she held out for him a ring made of flowers. “You know my time with Fritz. We used to make these flower rings when mother wasn’t watching. We sat together outside, in the garden over there, and we never talked about why we were making flower rings when we made them.”
Varg took the flower ring, examined it in the planes of light. He curled his gloved fingers over it. “But I think you both knew."
“We both know,” Lucette corrected. She took the ring out of his palm and put it on his pinky finger the way she used to do to Fritz.
And then there were the tears. Lucette could hardly believe them but there they were, snaking under his mask. Varg took it off to wipe them away. It was not the choking sort of sadness but the brewing sort, like a storm over a desert, and Lucette could see now that it had been with him for a long time.
“You,” Varg said, or tried to, but his voice was broken and he needed to clear his throat to clarify himself. “Are a sly one, princess.”
Lucette found herself smiling as she touched him with the same softness that he had showed her that morning, when he brushed her cheek. “And you are a baby, Varg. An overly sensitive baby.”
“But that is charming?”
“Despite what mother would have you and me believe,” Lucette said, intertwining their fingers so she felt the flower ring against her hand. “Yes.”