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Eryn’s gauzy sky makes for a poor awning, sheltered by a charm simultaneously intricate and impervious to his layman’s perceptions, and although he once hardly doubted the protection of systems, or clauses far too ancient and byzantine that he should survive his own questions, in this moment he finds himself squinting– eyes half-suspended in a moment of observation, as though the guileless blue will magically track with mud, and with it all of his lost chances surfacing, like stones glimmering in a river weathered and dim.

Any time now. But instead:

“My arm is getting tired.” The umbrella tips itself over dutifully, edgewise, sparkling-wet-plastic-side up, the impact marginally worse than it would have been without Altina’s – questionably incidental – nudging. “Kurt. You of all people should be considerate of my lack of vertical leverage.”

That’s what Claimh Solais is for, isn’t it? He doesn’t deadpan, though he can imagine a smile working its way into his voice, wearily amused. Dulling the edge, or putting one in; with the state they’ve all been in lately, it can be difficult to tell. When he takes the umbrella from her it feels like passing a baton, the cool weight of the handle nothing like a stalk or a sword, though the lopsided spread of its cover seems almost liable to wither at any moment.

“Sorry,” Kurt says. “And thank you. I must have been out of it.”

“Enough to risk jeopardizing your training regimen with a bout of the common cold,” she observes. “It's not a lapse I would ordinarily expect from you."

“...That dream was on my mind,” he says. “It’s as poor of an excuse as anything, so I might as well admit it.” Though even as he says the words he’s remembering Altina’s outburst all over again, the fragile cadence of her shoulders as Juna held her, the older girl's hands still as if cradling a weapon, and though once Altina cited her chassis' limitations when the subject of emotions rippled to the surface, now his deterrence peels away, leaving only stupid questions. How could a blade look so bruised? He doesn't ask because he already knows.

It has been a few days.

From the corner of his eye, her expression flickers, the ghost of pain outrunning the words she chooses to swallow. It seems almost ludicrous, to abruptly recall the rattle of her scream, but twice as far-fetched that his thoughts should wander to the hoarseness of his muted throat, the exhumation of horror in the Gral’s stale air, as though it were His Highness’ hands wrapped around Kurt’s own neck. As though he had any right— to what, he doesn't question.

"I suspect," she says, "seeing the opportunity of your distraction, the prince would not be as merciful as I."

"Fair enough," he replies, nearly wry. The pathway to a change of subject is laid out neatly before them, but instead he says, "It's not like I hadn't expected he would be there, in the fog. I just keep wondering… If I could have…"

"It was a dream," she consoles, or maybe it's just a reminder, nothing to be read in a voice edging wanly, her words washing away like rain fading into fine mist. But when he turns to face her he thinks he sees the blur of movement, of aborted intent; Altina's fingers raised to touch her paper-colored neck, a sight as imagined as Cedric's waiting smile in the shadow of a castle, or the pressure of anger in Kurt's throat, rising up like bile.