When they were finally through with their investigating for the afternoon, the Hoxian carefully extricated himself from too much awkwardness through the glorious excuse of pure hospitality. He said his polite farewell to Gosselin-vumein, promised Lilanee he'd meet her at dinner, and volunteered to escort the Incumbent to catch a rickshaw to wherever he was staying—the Stacks, probably. Once free of all three very living, very emotional, very different bodies, the dark-haired boy all but crawled his way to his dorm.
He was tired. He was sweaty. He was as desperate to decompress as he was to filter through all the various accounts of the East Garden and restless spirits on campus that they had miraculously managed to compile today. Travel was hard. Making mistakes was harder. Dealing with so many people at once was shockingly difficult for the Hoxian who had just spent almost half a season among people who knew how to properly control their expressions and their emotions.
Ezre knew he had more to say to Lilanee.
He knew he had more to say to Tom, too.
He wouldn't be surprised if Madeleine never wanted to talk to him again.
Oozing into his sweltering dormitory room, so very grateful all three of his suite mates were gone for Summer Break—one in Vienda on internship, one back home in Muffey, and the last probably gambling his life away in Old Rose Harbor—the dark-haired boy peeled off his outermost layers of clothing and opened his window as wide as it would go. He stood in the center of his tidy room and his still mostly packed luggage and his carefully wrapped packages for his friends, and he let his satchel droop off his shoulder to the floor.
Dark, linen outer coat held in tattooed hands, he sighed, lighting incense before he chose to process everything through productivity by sorting his clothes. He unpacked, setting presents on his bed: two bright cloth-wrapped gifts for Lilanee as well as his stack of letters he was too cowardly to send; one small wooden box for Madame Exudus, lacquered and intricately carved; and a leather-bound stack of old and definitely forbidden books accompanying wooden case of scrolls for Tom Cooke. There were new teas and chan for anyone to share, and several varieties of snacks he'd missed for years from home. His mother had spoiled him, really, and he hardly deserved the generosity of his cousins in the clothing they sent him back to Anaxas with.
Once everything was efficiently tidy again, he checked the clock—pebbles and stones! he still had half a house before dinner—and chose to wash away the sweat from the humid Roalis weather, secretly hoping that a bath would be refreshing when really it all just seemed to soak into his bones and make him more tired.
Finally, clean and dressed in more casual linen layers in anticipation of a mostly empty Cafeteria for the evening meal, Ezre sat on his floor, barefoot, shoulder-length still-damp hair pulled upward in a smooth bun, and began to lay out notes from the day. He set things in piles. He tore out a couple of pages. He shuffled things on the floor, writing down possible connections until his eyelids felt heavy and his mind swam with not simply the garden mystery but all the things he'd let go unsaid between himself and Lilanee, himself and Tom, because of how this investigation had simply gotten in the way.
Maybe if he just closed his eyes for a few moments, he'd be able to better deal with all the accusations and questions and unexpressed feelings he knew would be waiting for him in the Cafeteria. He'd wanted more than just a hug and he was acutely aware that both of them had tenuously held so much inside for the entire course of their unusual and awkward afternoon. He had so much to say, but he also knew it would be difficult for Lilanee to let him get all the words in. Much of what he had to say—much of what they both had to say, surely—was more suitable for a private conversation. How angry was Lilanee, really? What would she have to unburden from the past sixty days apart over their meal?
She had been hurt as well as been hurtful.
He was both guilty and afraid. He had struggled with how to define their relationship in front of strangers. He had struggled with the flood of desire and longing in her company under the judgmental presence of their companions.
Ezre had perhaps made poor choices before he left for Hox, and he had definitely held back too many parts of himself out of hesitant fear, out of a deeply-rooted need to protect the secrets of his people, out of a respect for those he called family, and out of a worry that once Lilanee knew all of his truths, she would no longer desire to be his friend. He had also never felt these more than platonic sorts of things before for someone else: he'd never missed anyone other than his family as much as he had missed a particular Hessean while away, and the regrets of his parting had weighed him down for so much of his traveling, even if he had been quite busy while in Kzecka with his family proper.
Eventually, curled up on the thick wool rug, surrounded by paper, quill still in one hand, the Hexxos Guide was sound asleep, heavy with emotional burden and exhausted by travel.
He slept through dinner, time slipping away behind his eyelids, totally unaware that he'd most likely made a difficult situation even worse.