Eosphoros had rehearsed and written down the points she wanted to touch on, with the assistance of pragmatic Esoterra… and then deleted them and started anew. Aura was incredibly optimistic when she realized Glaucus felt the same way Phoenix did about their friendship… but then became increasingly cross and out of sorts when he didn't respond to correspondence for three weeks. Finally Ignis, with her new anthem running through her head, set things in motion by sending him a decisive message, calling on him to make his intentions known… and he responded, acknowledging fault and providing a reason for his silence.
Again, after a week of no talk, Ignis moved again, not in anger, but to request they settle things. She specified that if neither was buying what the other was selling, they would be in agreeance going their separate ways. Tomorrow. He really shouldn’t feed into this newfound directness—it might become habit.
The day wore on with increasing nervousness, and yet, confidence. Solanaceae decided not-so-randomly that they should refrigerate a bottle of sparkling red and crack it open shortly before the conversation was to begin. If it went well, they would have wine to celebrate, and if not, well, they could drown their sorrows in it. Regardless, the sense of optimism and enjoyment in life that had slowly built up over the course of a couple weeks could not be denied.
Right in the middle of a bout of hype, the call comes. Esoterra's eyes are the first to notice. They shoot to the sky, where his Cloud drifts to the forefront, highlighted by the white light of the moon. Terra nudges Aura and all the Luminaries take notice. The revelry is cut short and the call answered.
Due to the unexpected timing, Eosphoros begins with minor chatter. The pleasantries: How are you? What's on the menu? Are you going to see the club when they visit New York this weekend? Yes, of course I remember that summer.
Meanwhile Solan picks up on the wine drinking. The monotonous sipping and pouring puts her at ease for when she will inevitably have to speak. The current conversation is not unpleasant, nor an attempt to avoid what must needs be said, but it is certainly not why the talk was arranged.
"Aura," Eos says, after about twenty minutes of catching up and a few glasses of wine, "I think you should take over now. We don't want the conversation to wane."
Aura nods and opens the topic the best and only way she knows how: with the desire for openness, honesty, and full disclosure. Energy flows from her body in the form of a light breeze, with a thread of translucent blue running throughout.
His Cloud responds with acceptance, and a surprising proposal: even if the two agree to go their separate ways, he hopes they might still be friends with a certain niche, able to talk about and share things that might only be pertinent to the other.
Eos cocks her head to the side but gives Aura a short nod. Aura absolves him of guilt for the past several months of indecision and dissembling, but he admits to being unsure if he has indeed done nothing wrong. She breathes audibly. Although the signs are small, they are positive. There is still a lot of night ahead of them, but if nothing else, they have established what they don't want.
She launches into one of the only two questions left over after the original note was destroyed and recreated.
Gleam looks up from her lonely throne in the glittering caves beneath the Palace. His response has triggered her. An aspect of the self previously thought lost on him was actually instantaneously recognized. He saw Phoenix's passion and candor, but in seeing how similar they were in that respect, he failed to give her the chance to establish herself as different from him. He had certain expectations that came with that bluntness, driven by his expression of it in the past, and it frustrated and confused him when she failed to meet them. Gleam's laugh reverberates through the halls, up to the meeting chamber above.
Dark blue energy untangles itself from Glaucus' Cloud solely from the weight of the realization, not from the will of the Luminaries nor the volition of Phobos.
A wisp of translucent white energy wraps itself around Aura's shoulders. She smiles down at the table and slowly raises her head to face her Luminaries. "I think we are not so different after all."
"I suppose being candid and introverted are generally considered mutually exclusive qualities," Esoterra says. Her brow is wrinkled, that these concepts should be opposed in the minds of others.
Aura chuckles. Logic is always at the forefront of Terra's mind, which means her assumptions usually come from a basis of equality. Emotional nuance, and indeed, judgment, is sometimes foreign to her. "Yes, I suppose they are."
One question left: does he have any further reservations similar to his discomfort with Aura's excellent record-keeping? He responds in the negative, but admits he was always cautious that any sexual interaction between them was accompanied by the desire for a relationship.
Though it isn't entirely necessary, Nymphaea uncorks the bottle at her waist and manipulates the sparkling water of the Sanctuary. She bats water from one hand to the other, weaving it between her fingers and around her wrists as she radiates energy in the form of more water to interact with Glaucus' Cloud. She insists a relationship is not currently desired, and admits to recognizing the current reasons against it, distance among them.
At this, Solan flicks her wrist and a crackling strand of lightning joins Nymphaea's water before disappearing into the Cloud. Nymphaea huffs in amusement, both at Solan's addendum and Glaucus' animated reaction. Solan crosses her arms in satisfaction and waves, encouraging Nymphaea to continue.
Aura perks up in her chair. Their major concerns have been addressed, and despite the intoxication-induced rambling, the conversation is going better than they could have hoped. "I think perhaps we could take it further." The Luminaries look intrigued. Aura concentrates, summoning energy and eloquence, and releasing the reason they held on.
A memory forms against the window panes. Glaucus and Phoenix meeting up at the end of a semester. Lying in bed, laughing, chatting idly, wondering why they can't be this way the other 90% of the time. Their Breakfast at Tiffany's—the one, it turns out, neither of them needed. Aura abolishes the memory with a dramatic flourish, replacing it with a clickbait article they read a few days ago. Advice that a friendship might be failing if the friends are nigh-permanently wearing nostalgia goggles, constantly relying on memories to liven up conversation.
Finally she breathes in deeply. Her skin glows silver-white, a color that on anyone else would make them look pale, or faded, but one that makes Aura look ethereal. A slowly rotating funnel of air currents makes its way toward the Cloud. It sways momentarily, taking in the sentiment.
The Luminaries sit quietly, not knowing what to expect. Glaucus despises emotional motivations, though he recognizes their existence, and perhaps now, his inability to avoid them. And Aura has just revealed their thoughts that he makes Phoenix a better person, a more well-rounded individual. That even if he does not do it purposely or directly, Phoenix, in pursuance of her understanding of his personality and thought processes, has sought out advice from others, who helped her comprehend, which, in turn, helped the active side of her empathy.
The Cloud roils for a few long seconds, letting the words sink in, figuring out how to form an adequate response. And then it comes. He believes Phoenix saw his potential and realized it would take him time to become that, but stuck around in spite of it and encouraged him along the path. His intimidating nature, his empathy, his ability to root out the things that are important to other people and target those for compliments, his hidden spare-no-expense romantic.
The first thought that jumps to Solan's mind is she's happy he can't see Phoenix. For she has a giddy smile pasted on her lips, her hands to her mouth, which is barely containing a girlish squeal. And only part of that is due to the alcohol. The resonance is instant. They are all glowing now, basking in what they've always had and what they never knew. It's pleasantly surprising. A piece of them thinks it shouldn't be quite so shocking, but Phoenix and Glaucus have grown into the friendship, evolved separately, together, and sometimes these profound changes drawn from small steps are difficult to contextualize.
It is Solan's turn now. Although she can't interact with him in a sexual capacity, nor even in a physical one for the time being, she wants to make one thing clear. She always desired him. Even when they pushed each other's buttons. Even when she tried to mask that desire in the eyes of others. And she is sorry if she ever feigned disinterest or straight up lied to him. Sparks dance on her fingertips as she finds the words and then a steady stream of lightning pulses outward from her hand. Phoenix's voice breaks at the end. This really is the most honest and direct they've ever been with each other.
Any worry is instantly erased by his warm reaction. Far from scolding her for saying such a thing when he's dating someone new, he thanks her for being straightforward. Better late than never.
Their bonding has reached a height, but the night continues on, fluidly, naturally. They talk about Orchid. They share conversation that only serves to verify their thoughts on one another and compatible personalities. Aura channels her own empathy and Gleam's intuition, which both turn out to be spot on, where his fears in his new relationship are concerned, and his self-deprecating attitude toward tenderness that's come from that same relationship.
The night has ended, at least their portion with Glaucus, and his Cloud has drifted slightly farther away from the Palace, but still hovers nearby, a comforting reminder of everything they just accomplished. Nymphaea stands at the window, staring out as though seeing the sky for the first time.
Aura silently stalks up behind her. "Do you think he has the capacity to be a Halo?" The next words come slowly, as she weighs each one on her tongue before it escapes her lips. "I know we thought he was before, but that was when we were still developing the concept. Now that we have a grasp on it…"
Nymphaea remains silent for several seconds before answering, "What do you think, Luminate?"
Aura breathes deeply. "I think he has a veritable trove of empathy locked away in his mind. But he can't interpret it or use it. And he doesn't have well-developed emotional self-awareness, so his own emotions, when strong, inhibit his ability to analyze even more. But not enough to dull his sense that the information he acquires through that empathy should be analyzed. I don't believe we've ever truly been wrong about him, even though we thought we were.
Nymphaea's gaze flicks to a particular cloud. "I think," she says finally, "We might consider changing the tinge on Terminus' Cloud. Silver suits him, wouldn't you say?" She turns, smiles softly at Aura, and then walks away from the window, through the meeting chamber, and down the hall beyond.