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It is late, but the Luminaries are still buzzing with energy, literally in Solan's case. A gentle hum of electricity surrounds her, charged in part by the battle, but also by a newfound freedom. The night is a victory for them all, Archons and Luminaries alike, but it belongs to her. It began with her and it ends with her as well.

The Luminaries return to their own world, drifting down from the Halo. A natural, light rain falls and the water seeps into Nymphaea's skin. Though she was alone for the latter part of the night, she retains a dewy glow. Solan stops in midair and turns back to the Halo, patiently waiting.

Phoenix sits on her bed, eyeing the hallway. When Terminus comes into view, she stands and takes the few steps to the corner between her room and his, and then a few more, passing the threshold. She walks to the bed, his bed, and sits on the edge. He looks slightly surprised, but more bemused than anything else.

Solan smirks at his comment. "Cheeky." The other Luminaries float in a semicircle behind her, but in this they are observers, not participants. "Come sit," she says. Her voice rings out melodically and she produces her harp, fingers dancing near the strings. Bold enough to enter without permission, and smart enough to ask a question she already knows the answer to.

"Do you trust me?" Phoenix asks. "Yes." There is no pause, no intonation but warmth.

Solan pulls her fingers back against the strings—too lightly. She sighs audibly at his response and a few of the Luminaries chuckle in the background. This time her fingers rake the strings with more force, but the sound is no less pleasing.

Phoenix takes his chin in her fingers, turns it to the left, and leans in to kiss his cheek.

A shudder courses up Solan's spine at their closeness, but her hand remains steady on the harp as she ends the note.

Phoenix pulls back, greeted by a happy, if exasperated smile. Terminus leans in himself and kiss her forehead in response.

Solan smiles widely. The last move is his, as it rightly should be, but the night is hers. A bolt of brilliant purple white lightning shines in the distance, drawing the attention of the Luminaries. It strikes the translucent dome shielding the forest. The barrier catches fire and pieces burn and crumble into ash. Aura looks to Solan immediately, but she shrugs under Aura's sharp glance.

"We should return to the Palace," Esoterra says, looking critically at the destruction in the distance.

Phobos stands next to the parapet of the balcony. He is unarmed and unarmored, black hair pulled back into a ponytail. He watches the rest of the barrier over his forest burn away in the distance and then his eyes dart to the incoming Luminaries.

"How on earth did you get here faster than us?" Aura asks, landing.

"I've been here. The dome has been weakening ever since," he pauses, eyes flashing toward the Halo, "he made his move. The lightning just finished the job. What steely nerves you have." he jests, grinning at Solan.

"I would ask if you'd like to join us, but it seems you've already made up your mind." Aura motions to the skylight.

When they're all seated around the table, Ignis speaks first. "Alright, I'll bite. What the hell was that? Tonight was outstanding and in response the one thing preventing Phobos from getting involved in our relationship with Terminus burns to the ground?"

"Don't look at me. That lightning was natural," Solan insists.

Phobos smiles, eyes glittering. "The lightning was not caused by Solan. It was an internal reaction, an unseen mandate falling in on itself, the weight of which could no longer be supported."

"The dome was not an 'unseen mandate,'" Ignis retorts, putting the last two words in air quotes. "It was a blatant measure meant to keep you from interfering."

"I think Phobos is implying that, since the lightning was natural, something changed within the world that no longer necessitated the dome," Esoterra says, looking to Phobos to elaborate.

Phobos was coveting lording information over the others. "I'm not implying, I'm telling. You thought the dome was just a response to Nymphaea's particular love and the upgrade from cloud to halo, but there was more to it."

Understanding dawns on Aura first. She snaps her fingers and the memory of an email is projected before them. Roughly four years ago, Terminus told them he was uncomfortable delving into the sexual realm where it involved him and Phoenix. "That email created a firewall, blocking any outgoing flirtation and sexual references, whether or not they involved him. I'll wager it was a little too effective. His responsiveness tonight, the acceptance of past and present interactions and circumstances, destroyed that firewall."

"You didn't… feel anything?" Nymphaea asks.

"No, nothing until Terminus himself brought it up."

"Not only did it intercept outgoing communication from Solan, it impaired your ability to intuit?" Aura's face falls, but she doesn't respond.

"Great. We subconsciously created the most effective puritanical firewall on our psyches. What does this have to do with the dome over the forest?" Solan asks, tapping her fingernails on the table.

"The firewall was part of the barrier. It kept Phobos out of the connection, but why did he need to be restrained? It should have disappeared after the friendship was rekindled, when we deleted the old conversations. But it remained, not to keep Phobos out, but… as an excuse. For why Solan couldn't engage, for why any inclination on his part wouldn't be noticed by Aura unless it came unbidden and unambiguously from his mouth," Esoterra explains.

"So the dome's destruction represents…?" Ignis asks.

"Well," Esoterra purses her lips and then smiles, "I imagine that Aura is no longer disillusioned into imagining him an infallible creature, nor is she unwilling to believe in his velleity. And I think Solan more than proved her self-restraint."

"Ugh, don't remind me," Solan says in disgust, resting her forehead on folded hands.

"Barely," Phobos sneers. Solan reaches over and clamps down on his wrist, sending a small current through it. He jerks back, surprised but not angry. "But the raaaiiinnn," he mocks, standing up and dancing out of her reach.

"We still could've gone out between romps."

"But what if you were still at it?"

"Gods, how long does…"

"He last? Quite right. That is the question. I guess you'll never know."

Solan whirls in her chair and stands to face Phobos, lightning crackling in her open palm. She looks ready to fling it at him when Nymphaea sighs. "You're letting him get to you." She shakes her head in amusement.

Solan narrows her eyes and huffs as she falls back into her chair.

"I hope I haven't dissuaded you from wearing your intended attire tomorrow evening for dinner," Phobos says.

Solan perks up, a gleam in her eyes. She recognizes this is a challenge, not an affront. "Not a chance."


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May 2017

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