She looks past the nightshades and smirks at the nocturnal daylilies surrounding them. They are all in shades of crimson, Tyrian purple, violet, plum, or magenta with various colors on the throat, midribs, and edges. The metaphor is not lost on her—the daylily is the flower of coquetry because they open up briefly during the morning or late afternoon and close roughly twelve hours later. Like a coquette, they have no intention of sticking around.
She hears the sound of swirling water interrupt the active babbling of the fountain in the garden outside and sees she is not alone. Nymphaea sits on the side of the fountain, pale blonde hair untied and spilling down her back. Solan slowly opens the other greenhouse door and walks to her fellow Luminary. "Do you want to talk about it?"
"Hello, love." They use their sobriquets for one another, as they usually do when they're alone. Solan perches on the edge of the fountain and watches as Nymphaea busies herself with manipulating the standing water. "So, Terminus…" she begins knowingly. Nymphaea chuckles. "The rest of them," Solan says with a measure of disdain, gesturing up to the starlit sky, "are our concern. Only you could be bothered by Terminus anymore." She pauses, waiting for Nymphaea to acknowledge it, but when she doesn't, Solan continues: "It was that message, wasn't it?"
Nymphaea finally stops playing with the water and turns her body to face Solan. "The anger came in a sudden flare-up."
"Would you rather it bubble away under the surface until it boils over?" Nymphaea cocks her head, narrowing her eyes and drawing her lips into a pout. "Perhaps it's everything over the past year building up. We never unleashed Ignis on him."
"We didn't want to," Nymphaea insists.
"Because expressing anger to someone you're trying to absorb back into the fold tends to be counterproductive to that goal. That doesn't mean it wouldn't have been cathartic to do so. Maybe we were more loyal to the goal than we were to ourselves."
"We forgave him."
"That hasn't changed. But we always purposefully held Ignis back where he was concerned and let her seethe in a corner."
"Are you suggesting we express our anger for the sake of expressing it and not finding a solution to whatever is triggering it in the first place?"
"No. I'm suggesting that maybe you don't want to write him a fucking love song every time Ignis has a problem with him anymore. We threw her to the wolves while you coddled him, while we all bolstered his pedestal. We should have been chipping away at it, tearing it down, but instead the whole thing exploded at once as soon as he started trying again. The pieces are still there, and instead of letting Ignis deal with it shrewdly, we allow Linnaea to consume us. She could work for us as much as Phobos does now."
"So we allow Ignis to burn him?"
"No," Solan says softly, "you know she won't. She can be artful, diplomatic even, and she has no reason to be otherwise. He hurt us. We ignored that hurt to forge friendship anew and maybe that was fine then, but it's not now."
Solan brings her fist down on the cool marble. "If he uses this as an excuse to let Noxias run rampant, then that's his fault or folly or stupidity, whatever," she sputters. "We fought with him, not just to rid him of Noxias in our relationship, but in every space in his life where Noxias is unfounded. That gaping hole in his chest sure as hell better be a reminder."
"It wasn't really a gaping hole," Nymphaea says smiling, "more just a bullet wound."
Solan stares ahead blankly, her eyes glazing over. "I should have boiled his blood, incinerated him from the inside out. The Lichtenberg figures would have been glorious, black and branching along his skin…" She sighs regretfully.
"Next time, Bel-la."
"What do you say? Will you allow Ignis to take the reins on our next conversation?"
She shrugs. "Why not? She has the best fire extinguisher ever standing by."
"Good, because if we don't, I'm afraid this will be hovering over our heads for the foreseeable future. Like a… a… you know this seems to be a common enough occurrence for us, yet we don't have a name for it yet. These important things that more or less put friendships on hiatus until they're in the open. An elephant?"
"No, the entire point of that idiom is that people want to ignore the issue." Nymphaea pauses, her gaze straying from the water trickling behind her to the surrounding garden. "Fireflies."
"Yes, I see them Nymphie."
"No, that's what we should call it. A firefly. Something that keeps fluttering around, calling attention to itself, and no matter how ambivalent you are during the day, it always comes back glowing with a vengeance at night."
Solan holds out a finger, sending out a pulse of electricity, making her veins glow blue-white. A nearby firefly lands on her extended finger and she considers it. It slowly pulses its chartreuse cold light. "Not bad. But we should definitely call them lightning bugs." She winks at her companion.
Nymphaea shakes her head, but her lip quivers in an attempt to hold back laughter. "If it helps you sleep at night."