Leaving Home Ain't Easy [Closed]

[[OOC: 29th Haring, 9:34, evening, A Likely Story; with ]]

Being released from the Gallows felt like taking a deep breath after years of panic and hyperventilation. Despite the pollution that still choked the city, it was far and away better than the cells.  Night fell over the city like a blanket, draping houses and shops in shades of blue and purple. Although the sky was mostly obscured with ostentatious stonework and foundry smoke, a few stars still gleamed overhead, shadowed by wispy clouds. Hightown was alight with lanterns and torches, and the square containing A Likely Story glowed amber-gold in the darkness. 

Alim was true to his word, granting Alcine the time she desperately needed before they made the journey to Ansburg. While he mentioned something about staying entertained, she didn't press, only promised to meet him at the city gates before it got too late. Until then, there were other important things to do. 

She lingered in her gardens for only a few moments, tracing the wood borders of each bed, committing every sight to memory. For a moment, Alcine just wanted to dig her fingers into the soil, let the smell of dormant plants and fresh earth overtake her. She managed to refrain but hesitated at the trellis, covered with vines of morning glory. Hopefully, the wood would hold through the rest of winter, and the flowers would start to bloom again, framing the door with blue blossoms. It felt silly to still be concerned with her gardens, but she put a lot of work into the beds. Everything living there was a result of her planning and hard work, it still made her proud to think about it. 

Alcine managed to slip inside quietly, using the side alleyway instead of the front door. She would have to come back through this way, in order to retrieve any cuttings or herbs she wanted to take. Judging from the light spilling down the stairs though, Lucien was home. 

When she reached the door, something in Alcine made her hesitate. Would Lucien be angry with her? Was he hurt for leaving him behind or facing the consequences of her actions, whatever they wound up being? She chewed on her lip before rapping on the door. There wasn't time for hesitation, not now. She wasn't sure when she'd see her friend again. 

"Lucien?"
Lucien did his best not to glare at the Templar at the front of the shop. He’d started inviting them in when evening hit. It was cold out and, while he actually would have quite enjoyed waking some morning to find an armor clad ice sculpture, he supposed it would look bad for him. Of course, the longer the Templars haunted his every step, the more tempted he was to do something unwise. Perhaps he would flirt just to see if he could get them to blush straight through their helms. Perhaps he would freeze them and claim it was the weather. Really, there were so many entertaining possibilities. He was just turning them over in his mind when the bell rang to let him know he had another visitor.

It was another Templar. Lucien was immediately on edge. This hadn’t happened once in the week they’d been observing him. He forced his nerves down with a smile. “Staying for tea?” he asked.

Both Templars turned their visored gaze on him before retreating to a corner where he couldn’t see them. Try as he would, he also couldn’t hear them clearly as the newcomer mumbled something to the other. Without a single word to him, they vanished together out the door. Oh. He didn’t like this. He didn’t like it one bit. He smashed the wild impulse to run off to Hawke’s place to see if she was in the mood to help him stage one final fight for his freedom. More difficult was convincing himself he shouldn’t find Anders and see how the Templars might like Justice.

But no. He wouldn’t bring trouble to anyone he cared about and, for all he knew, the Templars had switched their tactics to get him to slip up and do something stupid. So he closed up the shop the way he normally would and made his way up to the flat. Paige was already there, dozing in the middle of the bed. He sat next to her and stroked her plush fur to calm his nerves. Before he knew it, the evening sun had disappeared and the deep hues of night had painted the sky. Paige’s purring had ceased as she fell into a deep slumber and Lucien was left alone with his nervous thoughts.

With all of his senses heightened, he easily heard the side door of the shop open. That shouldn’t be. He’d locked up and he definitely hadn’t given the Templars a key. Lucien looked about frantically and settled on a cast iron skillet as his best mode of defense. He wouldn’t give himself away with magic but he also wouldn’t let the Templars take him without a fight.

He edged toward the door with the skillet held aloft and listened as someone walked up the steps. In a better state of mind, he might have noted they weren’t heavy armor booted steps. As it was, his grip tightened on the handle of the skillet and every muscle in his body tensed. His eyes flicked toward the hatch that lead to the roof. He could still run…

A soft knock eliminated all thought. "Lucien?"

He’d already pulled open the door by the time the skillet fell to the floor with a clatter. The next moment, Alcine was buried in his arms and his ecstatic smile was pressed to the top of her head. “Alcine.” He was surprised to realize tears were falling from his eyes but no more so than he was to have her there. If this was all some cruel figment of the Fade, he wasn’t going to let go so that she could vanish once more. “Are you here?” he asked, as though a dream would actually answer to the contrary. “I mean really here. If you turn into a demon, I’m going to be quite cross.” He gave a half hearted laugh and slid his hands up to either side of her head. He pressed a gentle kiss to her forehead. “I missed you,” he croaked, his voice betraying him.
A loud rattling noise preempted the door swinging open, and within a heartbeat, the world's tightest hug. If almost anyone else hugged her after a week in solitary confinement, Alcine would have frozen up immediately. It was going to take a little time for her to feel comfortable being contained at all, even affectionately like this.

With Lucien, it was the nearest she felt to home. It only took a moment to reciprocate, leaning her forehead in the spot between his neck and shoulder, their arms entangled. She would not start crying, not when they had so little time. Her breath shuddered but ultimately stayed in check. 

“Are you here? I mean really here. If you turn into a demon, I’m going to be quite cross.” Lucien smoothed his hands over her rather unkempt hair, and a strangled laugh escaped her mouth. 

"Nothing quite so exciting, I'm afraid. Just your average tree climbing, garden grown apostate." She sniffled a little, feeling tears building at the corners of her eyes. 

“I missed you,” Lucien said, pressing a kiss to her forehead, a pronounced crack in his voice. Meeting his eyes was an unwise choice, as his tears broke whatever resolve she had not to cry. Streaky tracks trailed down her face, and she disentangled to brush at her cheeks.

“I missed you too. Shit, I shouldn’t-”
She shouldn’t cry, she should pull herself together. After a week of being brave, and not letting anyone see her weakness, however, stoicism was too much to ask. Her walls were worn down by fear and exhaustion, and putting them back up was a Herculean task.  "I'm sorry, I haven't exactly been sleeping well." Or at all, if she was honest about it.

They moved back into the flat, Alcine making a beeline for her favorite chair. 
It wasn't exactly clear when the flat became so comforting, but just the sight of it made threads of tension in her heart ease. Her plants still filled the windowsills and Paige's homemade toys were scattered about the floor. She breathed deeply, catching notes of rosemary and lemon balm, the aroma of mint tea and of course, an undercurrent of kitten fur. For the first time, it felt good to be home. 

The moment she sat down, exhaustion made the idea of sleep all too seductive. Before that idea could be entertained, however, a tawny ball of fluff hopped into her lap. Paige purred loudly, curling into a crescent and exposing her belly for rubs. "I missed you too, your Ladyship. Have you been taking care of the place?"
Alcine assured Lucien that she was real but he could hardly make himself believe it. Even though he’d known there was the possibility of her getting out and joining the Wardens, he hadn’t known if he would ever see her again. But here she was. She managed to keep her composure far better than him, right until he kissed her forehead.

“I missed you too. Shit, I shouldn’t-” She disentangled herself from his tight hug so she could wipe away the tears that were falling freely now. "I'm sorry, I haven't exactly been sleeping well."

Lucien nodded. That was something he understood all too well. He curled his now empty arms into himself. He wasn’t usually one for physical affection with friends but the last few days had proven that he could be with proper motivation. Proper motivation, in both cases, being a blend of grief, loneliness, and a terror that he would lose everyone if he didn’t start holding tighter. He’d have held her, comforted her, done anything she needed after what she had no doubt been through, but it seemed for the moment that all Alcine longed for was space and he would respect that. She crossed deeper into the flat and claimed her favorite chair. She looked like she might have fallen asleep then and there had Paige not decided that was the moment to make her appearance.

"I missed you too, your Ladyship,” Alcine said to the kitten in her lap.

Lucien took up his usual spot on the couch and smiled at the two of them. “I can’t imagine what you’ve been through,” he said in a soft voice.

Which hadn’t stopped him from trying. He’d done little but imagine what was happening to Alcine since she’d collapsed the tunnel behind them all. What he’d pictured only became worse after Cullen came to visit. If a Templar who’d seemed to like Alcine before could come down so hard, call her a slaver and worse, Lucien hated to think how the others viewed her.

“But it’s behind you, for good this time. Or so I assume. Anders told me he’d pulled a favor with the Wardens so that they would consider you for conscription. That’s what happened, then, isn’t it?” Every day that had passed since, Lucien had wondered if she’d already joined them. If she was gone and unable to say her farewells or if the Wardens hadn’t actually come through. “You’re going to be a Warden?”
Lucien claimed his preferred seat on the couch, and for a moment things felt right again as if the last week never happened at all. They could just as easily be discussing new plans for the bookshop or any other mundane subject. Alcine desperately wanted to hold onto the moment, but they didn't have time. A part of her wanted to spill everything that happened between the tunnel collapse and being freed. Whether it was for sympathy, or just to get the ordeal off her chest, she wasn't sure. 

But somehow Lucien already knew about her new circumstances, although once he mentioned Anders, it all clicked into place. It came as a bit of a surprise nonetheless, and she stopped playing with Paige for just a moment. Of course, it would be Anders, he was the only one she knew with Warden connections. Whatever his reasons for doing it, she was grateful. 

“You’re going to be a Warden?” She hoped he wasn't disappointed with her, for choosing something they'd both been warned about, by Anders no less. She wasn't exactly sure what was in store, but it wouldn't be easy, that was for sure. 

"I'm... going to try to be. It's not official until I go through something called the Joining. The Warden who conscripted me, he's Neria's brother. He didn't go into much detail." She shrugged once, although the gesture felt too inconsequential for what she was about to do. 

"It's all a little frightening if I think about it too much," Alcine admitted. Not just the idea of becoming a Warden, but leaving the little familiarity she'd cultivated here. She looked up, smiling a little sheepishly. "But it does mean I can travel. Although if I'm sent to the Emerald Graves, they may not get me back." Paige purred as she ran her fingers over the kitten's stomach, enjoying the silky feel of her fur. 

Before she could think about gathering her things or getting up, there were a lot of questions to ask. "What happened to Neria and the children? Did the others get away alright?" It was a relief when no one else she knew appeared in the cell next to hers, but not knowing was just another method of torment. "I bet it wasn't easy, I'm sorry you were left to deal with everything." Whatever Lucien felt, it was on her, and she would take responsibility however she could. 
"I'm... going to try to be,” Alcine corrected when asked if she'd decided to become a Warden. “It's not official until I go through something called the Joining. The Warden who conscripted me, he's Neria's brother. He didn't go into much detail." Nor had Anders. Not about that. Given all that Anders had told him, Lucien was actually grateful. It came with a small dose of guilt but he was happy for the ignorance. He didn’t need more to worry over. "It's all a little frightening if I think about it too much. But it does mean I can travel. Although if I'm sent to the Emerald Graves, they may not get me back."

Alcine offered a sheepish smile. It was clear she thought he’d judge her for the decision. Judgment was the last thing on his mind. Fear, on the other hand, that was another matter. Already there was Anders with his nightmares, his tainted blood, and other horror stories from his time in the Wardens. Now Alcine faced similar.

He took a deep breath and released it, then tried for a smile. He wouldn’t put his worries on Alcine’s already burdened shoulders. It was easier if he imagined her walking free amongst massive, ancient trees. “I’m sure this wasn’t a decision you made lightly. I think it will be for the best. You were never really happy here.” He held up his hands quickly to amend himself. “Not that you were miserable or anything but I know you always wanted out of the city. And Maker knows anything has to be better than the Gallows.”

Alcine continued to stroke Paige as she turned the conversation away from what awaited her with the Wardens. "What happened to Neria and the children? Did the others get away alright? I bet it wasn't easy, I'm sorry you were left to deal with everything."

“They all got away safely. We managed to get to a boat and the children were loaded on there.” He bit the inside of his lip. What had happened? It was all a bit of a blur. Alcine had mentioned Neria’s brother. He’d been there… possibly. Lucien hadn’t actually been aware of much. He’d gone through the motion, given children a hand up when needed. “I’m sure the Underground had a plan in place after the rescue. I’ve helped move children for them before. But I don’t know the specifics of what happened after. I'm sorry. I don’t even recall what all happened before. It wasn’t- I shouldn’t have let myself fall apart the way I did but I made sure the kids were all safe.”

He scratched at his beard, eager for any distraction, no matter how small. So much had happened on that mission. Even more had happened afterward. “I was a mess. I was so worried for you. Cullen came storming in the morning after. I’m sure he was looking to ferret out if I was an apostate as well but, the things he said- I was terrified. I didn’t know what they might do to you.” He shook his head. “You’d think they’d captured a rabid beast.”

He scrubbed his hands roughly over his face. He didn’t want to start crying again. He hadn’t considered himself prone to crying. Apparently decades of bottling it all away came back to bite you in the ass if you weren’t careful. And, if Alcine was to become a Warden, he doubted they had much time together. He didn’t want to waste what they had left. Of course, that wouldn’t be such a simple thing, no matter how much he wanted it. He let his hands fall down and looked back at Alcine.

“Things have been- I’m just glad you’re safe.” Or as safe as she could be, becoming a Warden. Safer at least than Leandra. Leandra. Alcine deserved to know but Lucien couldn’t even fathom how to tell her. And that was to say nothing of… everything else. He walked over to Alcine and knelt to take one of her hands, leaving the other for Paige. “And I’m happy at least one of us is getting out this city. You’ll do great out there.”
“Things have been- I’m just glad you’re safe. And I’m happy at least one of us is getting out this city. You’ll do great out there.”

Lucien answered her queries as best he could, given the chaos that must have followed the cavern collapse and the aftermath. If their positions were reversed, she would have been a mess. The idea that he felt the need to apologize twisted something in Alcine's heart. He'd seen the mission through when she gave herself up and put up with all the consequences of her impulsivity. She'd wanted to spare her friends from persecution at the hands of the Templars, but that was naïve. They wouldn't hesitate to punish a sympathizer, and she wouldn't put it past Meredith to think up something equally harsh, even if his identity remained a secret. The idea that Cullen took his anger out on Lucien only twisted things further. 

The urge to cry started up again, as she saw Lucien run a hand over his face. "I'm sorry for everything. The Templars, doing what I did on the beach, all of it. I wanted to keep you safe, but it spectacularly backfired. This is all my fault.” She swallowed convulsively, pressing down the fresh wave of tears. Alcine bit down on the inside of her cheek to stop the details of her capture from spilling into the conversation. Right now, she wanted to be a friend to someone who'd been nothing less to her.

At the touch of his hands on hers, she withdrew her free hand from Paige's fur, returning his gesture. It was only belatedly that she remembered the cuts in her palm, made deeper from time in solitary. Hopefully, he wouldn't notice. 

The thought of a Templar appearance reminded her of something that would hopefully take the conversation in a different direction. Fumbling with something in her trouser pocket, she removed a bedraggled sprig of dried flowers. The forget-me-nots had somehow appeared with one of her meals, and she kept the tiny flowers close ever since. Even throughout the cycles of anxiety and exhaustion, they'd kept her grounded to something comforting. "I can't imagine how these got into the Gallows, but I know who I have to thank for it. And really--" Tears started at the corner of her eyes again, in spite of her attempts to stem them. "Everything. You’re a good man, Lucien, and one of the best friends I’ve ever had. I don’t know if there’s a better way I can say that, but I mean it.”

She had few real friends in life and had to make sure he knew that, even if she was leaving. Turning his hand over, she placed the flowers in the center of his palm. “You need me, and I’ll be here. I promise.” 

"I'm sorry for everything. The Templars, doing what I did on the beach, all of it. I wanted to keep you safe, but it spectacularly backfired. This is all my fault.”

Lucien shook his head. “Don’t apologize. I’m still free. Everything turned out alright. Who’s to say any of us would have made it if you hadn’t done what you did.”

Not that he thought she’d done anything wrong, but if there was a price to pay, she’d certainly paid it. She’d spent time in the Gallows. They were both good at shoving aside hurts and pretending nothing was wrong. For her to lose that composure, her week in the Gallows must have been unspeakably awful. She was only free of it because she’d agreed to become a Warden and pay another price altogether.

She shifted and withdrew familiar dried flowers from her pocket. "I can't imagine how these got into the Gallows, but I know who I have to thank for it. And really--" Tears started to fall from her eyes despite obvious efforts to stop them. "Everything. You’re a good man, Lucien, and one of the best friends I’ve ever had. I don’t know if there’s a better way I can say that, but I mean it.” She placed the forget-me-nots in his hand and added, “You need me, and I’ll be here. I promise.”

“Thank you,” he replied, voice thick with emotion. “I don’t know that there’s much I can do for a Warden but the same goes to you. If you ever need me, you only have to ask.” He curled his fingers delicately around the flowers and used his other hand to gently wipe away her tears. “I’m glad these got to you and that they helped. There wasn’t much I could think to do. Although-” He laughed and then laughed more. The sudden levity was so discordant to everything else he’d been feeling that he felt unreal. He pushed up to his feet with one hand so that he could find a safe place for the flowers. Somewhere out of the reach of a kitten who liked to nibble. “I better not let Anders know I sent you flowers while you were in the Gallows.” He shook his head and turned a lopsided, tear softened smile onto Alcine. “Do you know, he thought that I was in love with you?”
For once, Alcine tried not to admonish herself for crying. She spent so long in the Gallows keeping all her emotions under the surface, it was a relief to let them all go. Lucien took her sudden tears with his usual gentlemanly grace.  “I’m glad these got to you and that they helped. There wasn’t much I could think to do."

"You did just what I needed." The fact that he knew her well enough to be aware of what helped was enough. The simple message he'd sent with that dried cutting was part of what kept her going through all those dark hours. She wasn't alone, people out there cared about her regardless of circumstances. With a shaky huff of breath, Alcine used her sleeve to dry what was left of her tears. Paige, feeling left out, meowed softly before butting her head into Alcine's elbow. Clearly, all the attention she received from Lucien wasn't enough. Or maybe the kitten figured something more was going on, that wasn't exactly clear. She scratched at the spot between Paige's ears and heard a rumbling purr for her efforts. 

A sudden burst of laughter filled the flat, pulling all attention towards Lucien, the source of the sound. He got to his feet, still chuckling at some kind of inside joke. Alcine raised her eyebrows quizzically. Whatever the joke, she hoped to be let in on what was so funny. 

“I better not let Anders know I sent you flowers while you were in the Gallows. Do you know, he thought that I was in love with you?” 

The question was so incongruous, it took a moment for the information to properly register. She blinked once, twice, before her brain caught up with the already pink shade of her cheeks. "I-- Are you teasing me again?" When he continued to laugh instead of confirming her suspicions, she knew it wasn't just teasing. 

"Anders actually thought that? But he's seen the way you look at him, hasn't he?" She loved Lucien, but not in that way. It made her feel awkward just thinking about it. "I've seen it and I've hardly been around the two of you." That kiss they shared on the beach, however brief was enough to see who Lucien wanted to pursue romantically. Dropping her head in her hands, Alcine couldn't help but start to laugh as well. 

"For the love of the Maker. I spend a week in solitary and everything goes upside down."

Lucien felt bad for laughing as Alcine continued to cry but once he’d started, he couldn’t stop. He could see the information process through Alcine’s mind. She blinked out her befuddlement, reminding him sharply of his own reaction. Once her cheeks flushed a deep, rosy hue he knew she’d finally put together what he’d just told her.

"I-- Are you teasing me again?" He tried to stop laughing to answer but, as it turned out, his laughter alone was an answer. “Anders actually thought that?”

“Anders actually thought that,” Lucien echoed in confirmation. Whether Anders actually thought it or said it because he wanted to think it, considering it simpler than the alternative, was too much to get into now.

“But he's seen the way you look at him, hasn't he? I've seen it and I've hardly been around the two of you.”


Lucien ducked his head, somewhat abashed at Alcine’s observation. “You’d think so, and yet.”

He knew how obvious he was about it. All the more reason to laugh. Alcine thought so as well, apparently. She let her head all into her hands. The furious pink of her cheeks still shone through her fingers as she laughed. It was a good sound. After everything, they both needed it. Maker knows she wouldn’t have gotten a chance to laugh while in the Gallows.

"For the love of the Maker,” she said when she’d collected herself a bit. “I spend a week in solitary and everything goes upside down."

He put a hand on her shoulder and smiled. “What can I say? I’m a mess without you. Which, I suppose, is where Anders got the idea that I-” He couldn’t. He couldn’t say it again or he’d start laughing and he’d only just stopped. So he opted for a slight shift in topic. “If you already think it’s absurd, you should know, it’s worse than all that. It’s not just the way I look at him. I, uh, actually-” He rubbed the back of his neck and stood to make room between them once more. He could feel the heat rising in his cheeks. If he wasn’t careful, he’d give Alcine a run for her money. It would be easier to not say it but he wanted to tell someone other than Anders, and there was no one else he trusted more. “I told Anders I loved him. The same night that you-”

Lucien groaned. It was his turn to bury his face in his hands. He kept it there a moment before letting his hands fall back to his side. “Feel free to laugh. It was every bit as miserable and embarrassing as I’m making it sound.”
Alcine's laughter faded into giggles, shoulders still shaking. It felt good to laugh, even if it was technically at a friend's expense. She loved her friend dearly, but it wasn't the same as Lucien's feelings for Anders. 

Although not the best at reading people and their thoughts, it wasn't difficult to see his feelings on the matter. It was clear even in the little duck of his head, acquiescing her point. It was good to see him like this, considering what he must have dealt with in the past week. A warm smile curled at the edges of Alcine's lips as Lucien placed a hand on her shoulder. She would have even returned the touch, but something in her shied away. 

“If you already think it’s absurd, you should know, it’s worse than all that. It’s not just the way I look at him. I, uh, actually-” Lucien shifted, almost uncomfortably. The gesture was more akin to something she'd do and it piqued Alcine's interest. Had something else happened? She kept her eyes on him, even as Paige started to knead at the knees of her trousers. “I told Anders I loved him. The same night that you-”

He didn't need to explain further. While she was being hauled off by Templars, Lucien was probably panicking, wondering if he'd be caught next. Their futures were so uncertain at that point, she might have done the same if their positions were reversed. From the fidgeting, he probably thought she would think poorly of him for it. 

"Well. You certainly have a sense of timing?" There was a rueful twist to her mouth, tone landing somewhere between amused and tentative. If it sounded condescending, she would apologize. But on the other hand, she knew a little of Lucien's desire for romance, how difficult it was to attain that kind of love in the Circle. That he'd felt it necessary to admit at all, those feelings were real. 

“Feel free to laugh. It was every bit as miserable and embarrassing as I’m making it sound.”

Alcine tried to look offended, but it didn't show as well as she would have liked, fighting the exhaustion oozing into her bones. "How could I laugh at something like that? You did something brave that night, probably braver than my noble stupidity." She left off petting Paige to reach out, brushing his fingers gently. "I'm glad you said that to him. Did he--? Is everything?--" It wasn't her place, but she still wanted to know. If she was going to leave Lucien behind, she wanted to be sure someone would be there to care for him.
Alcine seemed gently amused by Lucien’s admission, though she did no more than poke fun at his sense of timing. Which was deserved. Thoroughly deserved. Even in the moment he’d know it was an abominable time to profess his feelings. If he could go back and do it again… well, okay, he’d do it all the same way. But every other thing could have had the decency to be different for him.

"How could I laugh at something like that? You did something brave that night, probably braver than my noble stupidity." She brushed his fingers gently and he was infinitely grateful for her particular delicate sort of comfort. Lucien curled his own fingers back up to grasp hers lightly. He wasn’t sure what he was going to do without her. He had other friends but there wasn’t a single one of them he would have been comfortable telling all this. "I'm glad you said that to him. Did he--? Is everything?--"

At least she was glad for him. He knew she would be. Everything else was another matter. He pulled his hands back to himself and rubbed the back of his neck. “He didn’t say it back, if that’s what you’re asking. But it’s fine. He didn’t- I just wanted him to know. I wasn’t expecting anything in return.” Not that it wouldn’t be nice to have Anders- eventually- return his feelings, but that could wait. For the moment he was simply enjoying being allowed the luxury of his own feelings. And they were a luxury for mages. “As for us, we’re…”

That was difficult matter. He didn’t even know where to start. How could he explain something that he couldn’t fully explain to himself. He and Anders were together, whatever that meant. The extent of which or what that really meant was still up in the air. But it was something.

Lucien leaned up against a wall and crossed his arms. “The mole in the Underground put some strain on things.” To say the least. He didn’t need to get into all the details. That alone was enough that he trusted she would understand. “And then there was-” He was about to say Leandra and only just managed to stop himself. Alcine still didn’t know. He realized it would have to be him, he couldn’t leave it to Saoirse to correct her, but not just yet. A moment more for something better. “Everything,” he finished. “But we’re still together. Still trying. I can’t really say much more beyond that. I’ve only seen him once, since I was under Templar watch. For both our sakes, we had to stay apart. I’m hopeful, though. It’s not easy. It was never going to be, between two apostates, but we’re trying. And it’s… good.”

Perhaps he could have tried for more, that night after Leandra. However, he’d slept well for the first time in over a week in Anders’ arms. It was a glimpse of what was and what could still be. He smiled softly. “Thank you. I haven’t told anyone else. It feels good to say aloud. Clearly, well, everything about the situation could be better but I never really thought I’d get even this much, growing up in the Circle. It feels nice. Normal.”
As she was starting to expect, the subject of his undefined relationship made Lucien uncertain, at least when it came to details. He shifted about, until finding a comfortable spot against one wall. Between the Underground's leaks, the mission on the beach, and her personal recklessness, there was a lot of strain weighing down an already nebulous arrangement. Add all that together, and no wonder things were up in the air.

Alcine still listened intently, noting what seemed most important. She winced at the idea Templars were keeping an eye on Lucien, although it made sense. That was her fault, both in letting herself be caught and her friendliness with Cullen. "I'm sorry for my part in that. Things were probably tense enough without being watched." 

"For both our sakes, we had to stay apart. I’m hopeful, though. It’s not easy. It was never going to be, between two apostates, but we’re trying. And it’s… good.”

Good was an understatement in her opinion, both of them deserved even a small measure of happiness. "Agreed. Making things work in spite of everything shows there's hope for the rest of us." A tiny quirk curled one side of her mouth, hopefully indicating she was still teasing. "And it's good to know you'll be looking out for each other."
She didn't doubt Lucien's capabilities, it was more that she wouldn't be there to be a friend. 

“Thank you. I haven’t told anyone else. It feels good to say aloud. Clearly, well, everything about the situation could be better but I never really thought I’d get even this much, growing up in the Circle. It feels nice. Normal.” His soft smile was enough to ease one of the knots of tension currently residing in Alcine's stomach. 

"I'm glad I could do that much to help." Just being there was a comfort, even if she felt she wasn't adding anything particularly scintillating to the conversation. "Even if I can't exactly... be here as much, you know that I'll be a letter away. For whatever comes. And you're not alone, you know? If anything, I have a feeling Hawke won't keep things quiet."
Alcine apologized for her part in Lucien’s recent surveillance but he blew past the apology without acknowledging it. She’d done something good. It wasn’t her fault the Templars didn’t see it that way or that they were a bunch of self-righteous… well, he’d better not think on that too much. He wanted to enjoy whatever time he had left with Alcine, not talk her ear off about the tyranny of the Templars. He could always save a good rant for Anders, anyway.

“Making things work in spite of everything shows there's hope for the rest of us,” Alcine said, offering a small, teasing smile. Lucien chuckled, although not without a tinge of guilt at his response. She didn’t even know the half of it. ‘In spite of everything’ included quite a lot, in this case. "And it's good to know you'll be looking out for each other."

Lucien could do little more than nod at that. If he truly let Anders look out for him- or if he, for that matter, was looking out for himself- he probably would have let the relationship end long ago. He stubbornly refused to believe Anders was as much of a threat as he warned. Which wasn’t to say Anders, or more specifically Justice, was not a threat but he’d meant every word when he’d said he believe in Anders. However, there were doubtless safer and saner options open to him. What they were in a city like Kirkwall, Lucien could hardly say, but he was sure they were there.

Which was all precisely why Alcine was the only person he could talk to about this. Who else would listen without judgment of his choice? Nicolette had clearly been skeptical and while Saoirse might have been fine with them hooking up, so long as it wasn’t in her basement, he cringed to think what she might say of love, especially when she knew things Alcine did not. Not to mention, she was Saoirse Hawke. She could try to be the kindest and most understanding soul in Thedas and still he was sure one of them would find a way to turn it into an argument.

"I'm glad I could do that much to help,” Alcine said, drawing him out of his thoughts. "Even if I can't exactly... be here as much, you know that I'll be a letter away. For whatever comes. And you're not alone, you know? If anything, I have a feeling Hawke won't keep things quiet."

Lucien’s stomach dropped. Not just because of what he’d just been thinking but because of all that had happened to Leandra. Alcine didn’t know. She didn’t know and she was liable to write Hawke. Lucien couldn’t leave it to Saoirse to tell Alcine what had happened and he’d feel awful if Alcine said something that caused Saoirse grief without meaning.

“Ah. About Hawke…” He swallowed hard and shifted his feet. He was torn between a desire to be closer to Alcine in case she needed comfort and to keep some distance as he brought her pain. “While you were gone, something happened. Leandra was-” He squeezed his eyes shut and tried to force away the visions of her murder that floated before them. His eyebrows knit in thought when he opened his eyes again and looked at Alcine, considering how much to tell her. “She was murdered,” he said. “There was a serial killer. Hawke was tracking him and I even helped once but we never found him. Instead, he found Leandra first. It was- you don’t want the details, trust me. But I thought you should know. In case you see Hawke or write to her or…I just wanted you to hear it from me.”
Suddenly Lucien's stance changed discomfort where there was once a sense of ease. Alcine felt herself tensing in response, but tried her best to settle down. If he needed to work up the nerve to say whatever it was, it must have been important. Had something happened to Hawke? That was the only new thing she'd mentioned. 

“While you were gone, something happened. Leandra was-” He squeezed his eyes shut, and the anxiety in Alcine's stomach only rose. That it involved Hawke's mother was already a bad sign. The woman wasn't a mage or involved with any of her daughter's more perilous activities. Who would want to do something to her?

“She was murdered,” he said. “There was a serial killer. Hawke was tracking him and I even helped once but we never found him. Instead, he found Leandra first. It was- you don’t want the details, trust me. But I thought you should know. In case you see Hawke or write to her or… I just wanted you to hear it from me.”

Alcine pressed a hand to her mouth, horror, and shock coagulating in her stomach, rising up to her throat. The matriarch of the Hawke household, a good woman in every right, gone, and by Lucien's insinuation, it had not been a peaceful end. It was a loss for everyone who knew her, but especially her daughter. Alcine thought of all the times she’d chatted with Leandra, over plants or anything else that came to mind. "I can't believe she's gone." As if she hadn't cried enough, tears stung the corners of her eyes. Thankfully she was able to hold these back. 

Her eyes darted towards the window as if her sympathies could cross the square and help Hawke from here. She should go over, offer what little comfort she could, but there was no way to know if Hawke would even see her, or if Alim would give her that much time. "Poor Leandra. Poor Saoirse. Have you seen her since? Is she--" The question half-formed on her lips faded before her voice could reach. Of course, Hawke wouldn't be alright. “I wish I could have done something. To help, or be a friend or... something." One of her hands tightened into a fist, angry at herself for not being there. 

Finally, she looked back at Lucien. "Whoever did that. Did they--" She considered her words carefully. "I hope they suffered for it." Harsh words but if anyone deserved it, it was the murderer of Leandra Hawke.