“Master,” said the dark-haired elf timidly, fidgeting with the pages of his spellbook, which he held before him almost like a shield.
“What is it, Dominic?” said Aarindarius, looking up from a book about how to collect herbs that could be used as spell components.
“About last year…” The boy bit his lip, stared at the ground. “The rabbits,” he choked out at last, “I never apologized for what I did. I’m sorry.”
“You did apologize,” said Aarindarius, a little too quickly; that day had come up often enough in his trances that he knew every detail intimately.
“I…” Dominic said, his voice cracking, his usually pale face burning red with shame, “I was not sincere, that first time. Today I am.”
“You are?” said Aarindarius, raising an eyebrow and trying to make eye-contact with the boy.
“When I go adventuring,” his student said, “I think I’d like to be the party healer.”
“That will take some learning,” said Aarindarius, rising from his chair and turning to a bookshelf, running his finger along the spines of the books in search of some medical title, “And it will be difficult learning for you Dominic; so far you’ve only ever taken ranks in Knowledge, and Healing is Wisdom.” He glanced over his shoulder. “Are you sure you’re ready for this?”
The boy met his eyes at last. “Yes.”
Aarindarius smiled as his eyes slowly opened. That had been one of the best trances he’d had in weeks. He blinked a few times, startled, as his own flustered reflection blinked back at him.
“Good morning,” said the blue-haired elf beside his reflection. Aarindarius turned his head away from the mirror on the ceiling.
“Tiberius,” he sighed, shaking his head, “I’ll never get used to waking up here.” But at least I have clothes on this time… he added to himself.
“Pity,” Tiberius replied, sitting up, “And quite a surprise, considering how much you’ve been over here this past month. I do believe this is your eighth visit in the past twenty days. Although, I might point out, it is the first where you actually wanted to just talk.” With a wink he added, “Not that we mind.”
Aarindarius shook his head. “You must be rubbing off on me—don’t.”
Tiberius obediently bit back the obvious joke, instead giggling mischievously. “Are you feeling better?” he asked after a pause.
“Yes,” said Aarindarius emphatically, also sitting up, “Thank you.”
“You’re welcome,” said Tiberius. “You know, it’s definitely for the best that you’re finally feeling like yourself again,” he said casually, “The way you’ve been visiting Aula and me so much right after your student left… Well, what will the parents say?”
“Your shameless!” Aarindarius declared, falling back on the bed and grinning up at his reflection and the upturned blue tassel that was Tiberius’s hair. Rubbing his eyes, he asked, “Where’s Aula?”
“Gone to pay Hortensia a visit,” Tiberius replied.
“I thought she wasn’t her type.”
Tiberius let out a short bark of a laugh. “First of all, friend,” he said, “You know as well as I do that Aula’s ‘type’ is ‘has a body’—”
“I was talking about Hortensia…” Aarindarius murmured.
“Secondly,” Tiberius continued, “She wants to see if she’s pregnant yet, silly. You know we’ve been trying since we got married.”
“Oh,” said Aarindarius, “Right.”
“I hope we’ll have a girl first,” said Tiberius dreamily, lying back down next to Aarindarius, “It’ll be like having two Aulas around the house.”
Trying to put all the possible implications of that statement out of his mind, Aarindarius said jokingly, “If I were you, I’d just hope it was yours.”
Tiberius shrugged. “I just want to raise a nice big family with her; I have for a long time. You know that.”
“Yes, I know,” Aarindarius said solemnly, wondering if Tiberius was about the bring up—
“That’s why Clarissa and I divorced after just twenty-five years, you know,” said Tiberius simply, “We couldn’t have children. She’s had three little girls with her new husband, now.”
The statement hung in the air a long time.
“I’m sorry,” said Aarindarius at last, turning his head to look at his friend.
Tiberius shrugged again. “Aula and I will have a lot of kids. I know we will.” He turned his head to look at Aarindarius, staring into his friend’s shimmering violet eyes. He smiled. “Cheer up,” he said.
Aarindarius smiled back weakly.
“That’s just pitiful,” said Tiberius with a scoff, sitting up. “I guess I’ll just have to cheer you up myself.”
“Get off,” said Aarindarius, rolling his eyes as his friend advanced upon him.
“Give me one good reason,” said Tiberius before ducking down quickly to nip his friend on the ear.
“Hey!” the lavender-haired elf cried, blushing a deep crimson.
“That’s what I thought,” said Tiberius, beginning to repeat the movement before stopping mid-nibble. “I’m hungry.”
“I’ll make you breakfast,” Aarindarius said quickly.
“Will it be chocolate cake?” asked Tiberius with enthusiasm, seeming to have forgotten what he’d been planning to do.
“Yeah,” said Tiberius, starting to slide off the bed, “That way we can finish this up while it’s baking.”
“Fine,” said Aarindarius, sitting up. No matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t stop his petulant scowl from melting into an eager grin.