The door slams behind Crocell with a crash that should be satisfying, but instead just amplifies the throbbing in his head. "When I figure out how to set fire to an entire day," he says, and throws himself into the chair at his desk. "What are you doing here, anyway?"
Juto shrugs, turning away from the portrait of great-uncle Alloces that had apparently been holding his attention until Crocell arrived. "Thought I'd come by and see if you were up for going out somewhere tonight," he says. "The Three Crowns is hosting a bard who just got into town, apparently."
The arrival of a new bard should be exciting news, but tonight...Crocell thinks of the noise and chaos of a packed pub, a whole room full of people who are being obnoxious but can't be set on fire. "Some other time," he says.
"Yeah, I figured, when you made your grand entrance," Juto says. Crocell makes a rude gesture, but he really isn't up for more arguing today. "Rough day?"
"Just annoying," Crocell says. "The princess—the queen," he corrects himself, "might have gotten my title and holdings back, but there's no way to restore all the records that were lost, or replace the people who used to help keep this place running." He digs his thumbs into the spot in the orbital ridge that's supposed to make headaches ease off. It doesn't really work. It definitely doesn't work as well as a breath of Zephie's Kan would have. "So I have to pick up the pieces while half a dozen people try to convince me that their project is the one that's really worth paying attention to."
"And they're all wrong?" Juto says.
Crocell shakes his head. "They're all right," he says. "And that's worse." There aren't enough hours in the day, or coins in the coffers, to be able to take care of all the emergencies as they come up. They're going to lose people this winter, between the way that food is much scarcer now and the fact that a lot of the war's refugees still don't have adequate shelter. There are pockets of civil unrest in places, people who hold onto Schuenzeit's propaganda about Zephie's selfishness. There aren't nearly enough people doing research into how to stabilize their society without depending on the finite and rapidly decreasing resource of Kan.
"Sorry," Juto says. "Nothing I can do to help, huh?" He lays his hands on Crocell's shoulders, and Crocell would snap at him to back off except that then his thumbs dig in, finding the sore spots in the muscle with perfect accuracy.
"Nngh," Crocell says. He leans back in his chair. "You could keep doing that, if you wanted." For all that he complains there's no finesse to Juto's strength, it isn't really true. Crocell leans into the stready pressure of Juto's hands, and admits—at least to himself—that he's willing to be wrong every once in a while if it feels like this.
"I mean it," Juto says, and thankfully his hands don't stop moving. "We're all going to need to help each other out to get through this, right? So if there's something more serious that I could be doing...."
"I don't want to think about it tonight," Crocell says. He will think about it, he's pretty sure; he won't be able to completely pretend this conversation didn't happen. But he spent all day today beating his head against these problems already.
Juto finds a knot right between Crocell's shoulderblade and his spine, rubbing it slowly, coaxing it to give. Crocell groans. "Sure," Juto says. "For tonight, just relax. We'll figure out the next step in the morning."
"Sounds, mm, like a plan," Crocell says. "How long you figure you can keep that up?"
Juto laughs, a tiny puff of breath against the back of Crocell's neck. "Try me."