"Well," Lindhall settled next to Numair, clasping his hands and resting his elbows on the banister. If the older man had intended to say anything it was unnecessary with the scene that lay before them. Slaves worked frantically on the terrace below to clean up the remnants of the once-magnificent cake. Nobles, the ones not bold enough to have already left, talked in hushed voices and cast furtive glances at one another.
"Hm?" Numair murmured, searching the crowd. "Oh," he nodded to the antechamber, where the obviously distraught blonde was being led away by a slave and a young kitchen witch.
Lindhall chuckled softly and Numair turned away from his search to raise an eyebrow at his former teacher.
"Oh, just that there was a time when your sun rose and set by that girl."
It was Numair's turn to chuckle. "That was a long time ago, Lindhall. Thing's change." Numair turned away again, standing straighter to peer at the terrace to their left.
"Apparently not so long ago that you've broken all your habits. I think she assumed you would have accompanied her." He tugged at the hem of his robe, pulling at a loose thread.
He smirked when his friend didn't reply and nudged his elbow. "Across the lake," he motioned. Numair followed the gesture until his gaze fell upon a couple retreating across down the lake-path—one glinting with specks of gold, the other topped with brown curls.
Numair relaxed, leaning forward and resting on the banister once more, but his eyes remained fixated on his student and her companion.
"It's different. It's not—" Numair ran a finger along the bridge of his nose, a habit he'd picked up from his present company. "It's nostalgia if anything. She knows it."
"You underestimate her." Numair sighed, still distracted. "Kaddar, he's—"
"A good lad." Lindhall interrupted, sensing Numair bristle. "You have my word. He reminds me of you actually."
"I don't know if that's reassuring."
"Fair enough," he shrugged. "He reminds me of you but more focused, more organized, and more helpful." He smirked.
"Appreciated." The younger man replied sourly, but cracked a smile despite himself. "Thought I can't say that's a tall order."
"And you underestimate me if you think I underestimate Varice."
Numair sighed, finally looking away from the lake.
"Anyone who has watched her develop and survive here would be a fool to underestimate her. Her chosen pursuit may not be," he paused, searching for the words and running a hand through his fly-away hair, "to my personal taste but she's a capable woman."
"You won't hear me arguing that."
"On the contrary, you're the one who first convinced me of it." Lindhall turned, leaning his back against the railing and crossing his arms over his chest. "Of all of your indecision during your time at the University you were always sure about her. There was a time when you were sure she would be your wife, if I'm not mistaken."
Numair laughed, bitterly. "Do you have an aim besides making me feel foolish?" He sighed. "There was a time, yes, but I was sure of a lot of things that never came to be." Numair turned away again, eyes drawn back to their original focus. "A whole life, really."
"Your flair for dramatics has certainly remained." He couldn't help but laugh and Numair shook his head but chuckled despite himself.
"It's nice to see that your sensitivity hasn't changed either."
"I'm just saying that you hardly have a foot in the grave, Numair. Just because things didn't go the way you planned doesn't mean your life is over. Do you think this is where I saw myself when I was a teenager?"
"Holed up in your study with a personal menagerie and a generous budget? Yes, actually." Numair smirked. "But in all seriousness, I never meant to imply that I was not happy with where my life has led me—despite some of the events that have brought me here." He sighed again, tugging at his collar and loosening it.
"It brings me happiness to hear you say that. I may not be sensitive," he scowled, "as you so kindly put it, but I do care."
"I know," Numair said quickly, nodding. "And I haven't let go of my past desires altogether. I would still like a family—someday. I just need to meet the right woman." He shrugged.
"Surely you already have," The older man raised an eyebrow and turned once more, his gaze joining Numair's and watching the couple across the lake finally begin to fade from sight.
Numair sighed. "Varice is a lovely woman, but I already said that things between us aren't what they used to be."
"Oh, Numair." Lindhall shook his head and patted his friends shoulder. "You're still focusing so much on the larger picture that you're missing the little things right in front of you." He laughed at the consternation on the other man's face as he moved away. "Don't worry," he waved behind him, "you'll get there! You always do!"