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"Would you have given in?" Phobos asks. He, Nymphaea, and Solanaceae lie on blankets on the balcony, gazing into the starry sky.

Solan's lip twitches in response and she is silent for several seconds before answering. "Yes. In that one moment, I think I might have." She recalls the night with disturbing clarity. Every part of her mesmerized reaction and ferocious resistance were reflected in Phoenix. A red flush rising from chest to cheeks and her left hand curled up tightly into a ball. She would only have moved it to cup his hand resting on her cheek, and yet… better to not open that can of worms.


"I thought so. I have to wonder though: I know Aura would have played little in your final decision, but the reason you didn't act was Nymphaea. Why wouldn't she have stopped you had he initiated?"

This time it is Nymphaea's turn to fidget, but proud as she is, she holds her face steady, not ashamed in the least at the truth of the matter. Still, she does not dignify his question with an answer.

"Because of what the motivation would have been. It may not be easy to turn away from lust, but it is a walk in the park compared to when there is deeper intimacy and affection involved. She wouldn't have condoned it, but she wouldn't have been entirely disappointed in any parties involved either."

"She would never have been angry even if you had moved."

"No. But she would have been disappointed. And that is a far richer incentive not to act than anger."

Nymphaea remained silent throughout this encounter but she did not mind that they were speaking of her as though she wasn't there. Everything Solan said was true. She was as much taken as anyone else that night—not with romantic zeal, but love nevertheless.

"It's a dangerous thing to fall into," Phobos warns with a degree of conviction betraying that he is not yet comfortable with being nonchalant.

Solan rolls her eyes. "Neither of us will make the first move, and yet that distinction must go to one of us. It takes two to tango and at least one to invite another to dance, dear" she drawls.

"But if…"

"Then the folly lies on his head as much as ours, if not more so," she interrupts sharply. "And I can't say how far it would go. That I would accept his invitation is one thing. That we would dance through the night is another."

"Does that not essentially leave us in his hands?" There is loathing in his voice at handing the independence and well-being of the world to another.

"This is leading somewhere very droll," Nymphaea says. "The circumstances of that night were unique. If Solan, or indeed any part of Terminus, were at risk of acting, they had a myriad of opportunities based on sexual attraction alone. Say, the following night. Little black dress and plunging neckline ring any bells?" She raises her eyebrows. Her interruption might have brought Phobos to heel anyway, but she makes a good point.

After a moment of silence, Nymphaea begins again: "You felt it too, didn't you?"

"The simultaneous connection, you mean? Flute and harp in harmony?" He lets out a short laugh.

"Yes."

"Of course. Everyone did. It's the closest we've come in a long time, and he's not even a candidate."

"It was uncanny though," Solan remarks.

"Shouldn't we be concerned?" Nymphaea mutters.

Surprisingly, Phobos scoffs and responds: "About what? You and Solanaceae behaved admirably, all things considered."

"But the following night…"

Phobos laughs heartily. "Ah yes, he's already accepted the opportunity won't present itself. There are two possibilities. Either he was careless in his original wording, in which case we are beholden to call him out on it, and I dare say Solan should give him a lesson in meaning what he says, or saying what he means, as it were, or... a defense mechanism. If he's sure of it, then it's safe to say it. He leads with Black Perfection and Black Perfection leads with his head. This isn't new. If it was up to him, the friendship would have been discarded, handily solving the entire issue of meeting in-person and addressing growing guilt. Both logical and easy. Phoenix will always be the one to make these decisions, at least for the foreseeable future, and whether or not anything gets done about them is up to how much he trusts our discretion. There's no need to be upset about his apparent insistence."

"But meeting in-person was something we talked about several times. We were always sure it would happen."

"We were. He wasn't. And if he can speak in carelessness about it, then he can at least consider it for both their sakes." He is silent for a while before speaking quietly: "You know I want happiness for you two and this world as well, right?"

"You know we value lasting friendship at least as much as romantic love and lust and we wouldn't so easily jeopardize that, right?" Solan counters, smiling softly nevertheless.

"Touché. But I mean it. Anything that makes me slack at my day job is worth keeping. Really, I don't know how you ladies get anything done with me around." He sits up and gets to his feet, stretching. "Now, if you'll excuse me, I have other non-Terminus related things to make Phoenix think twice about." He gives them an exaggerated, sweeping bow, and opens his draconic wings.

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May 2017

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