Mataya De Luca, owner and sometime performer when she could be talked into it, stood in the back of the stalls, watching the swift run-through of two of the musical numbers with a practised eye. A quiet giggle caught her attention, and she let her eyes slip toward a figure seated in the stalls, a toddler on his lap. Oh, yes. She'd been hoping to catch Aran for a quick chat.
The giggle was coming from little Aluviel - Aran and Carina's daughter - who had just turned two in June and who was half-elf and half-human, like her parents before her. It seemed the giggling was in part due to the silliness taking part on stage, but mostly due to the fact that her father was silently imitating the actions with his daughter's stuffed bunny.
Smiling at the little scene, Mataya pushed herself from her lean against the back wall, making her way toward the father and daughter. Her hand gently touched Aran's shoulder as she slipped a couple of seats along the row behind him.
A few years ago, Aran might have been startled by the interruption, as gentle and friendly as it was, but he had come a long way since his arrival in Rhy'Din some years ago. Instead of a startled expression, he only smiled, pleasantly surprised to find Mataya herself greeting him.
"Mae govannen, Mataya," he greeted her in his native language. "You remember Alu," he added, regarding his daughter.
"I do," Mataya agreed, leaning over the back of the seat to gently tweak Aluviel's nose. "Getting prettier every time I see her, too." The toddler beamed, holding up her rabbit to have his nose tweaked as well, which Mataya was more than happy to do. "You're looking well, Aran," she added, smiling at the half-elf warmly.
"As are you," he replied, not only because it was polite, but because it was true. He hoped he was right in his assumption, as he thought it impolite to pry. "Carina has been so excited to get back to work again," he said, smiling warmly. She hadn't had a large part in the recent production of Mary Poppins, but had played the lead role in My Fair Lady back in July.
"That voice of hers just gets stronger and stronger," Mataya told him, deeply approving of the very musical young family she insisted she had brought together just by employing the pair of them. "How is your voice doing these days? Not missing the theater?"
There was a brief small flicker of a frown on his face at the question. Either he was confused by the questions or troubled by them.
"My voice has not changed, Mataya," he told her, unsure why it would. Even without training and practice, he was gifted with a naturally perfect tenor voice.
Laughing quietly, Mataya patted his shoulder. "I always manage to confuse you, don't I?" she said. "I'm wondering if you would like to be a guest here again, Aran. Josh is taking time away, since they're expecting their first."
"A guest?" Aran echoed, looking just a little less confused. "But I did not audition," he pointed out. Then again, she had invited him without a formal audition once before, and it was her theater; hence, she could do whatever she wanted. "Did Josh tell you to ask me?" he said, a little suspiciously.
Josh and Dru had told him they were taking time off from the theater and had even gone so far as hinted that Mataya might be looking for someone to take Josh's place, but Aran hadn't thought much about it.
"As a former cast member in good standing, you don't need to audition," she pointed out to him. The suspicion in his voice and face made her laugh quietly. "I may have suggested to him that you would be my first choice if you were interested, but I didn't think he was listening. I genuinely think he was expecting me to throw him out for needing to take time with his family."
Both Josh and Aran were not only juggling a wife and family, but royal duties as princes of their respective nations and people. It was why chiefly why Aran had left the theater a few years ago, to focus on helping his people settle in Rhy'Din, but that had mostly been accomplished by now.
"His life has changed since becoming Prince Consort," Aran pointed out, though Mataya likely knew that already. He wasn't sure exactly what kind of responsibilities Josh and Dru had to manage in the neighboring country of Tirisano, but he had a feeling it kept them busy.
"So I hear," she agreed quietly. "But there'll always be a place open for him here, if he wants it. Same goes for Dru, although I get why she won't perform again. All it would take would be one photograph, and the scandal would be immense for them."
"Scandal?" Aran echoed, looking a little confused again. Even after a few years here, Rhy'Din could still be a little confusing. "Why would there be a scandal?" Dru was a sovereign in her own nation, but she was just Dru Granger here in Rhy'Din.
"A ruling monarch taking time out of her duties to perform on stage in another country would cause no end of unrest at home," Mataya explained with a regretful smile. "Tirisano doesn't have the same culture that we do here in Rhy'Din - they don't have musical theater, or any race other than human. Josh and Dru are working on that, but it's going to take time."
"I see," Aran murmured.
There was that frown again, this time thoughtful. His people hadn't known theater either, until they'd come here, but he and Carina had introduced it to them and encouraged their patronage of the Shanachie and other theaters in Rhy'Din. His answer was mostly in reply to the mention of scandal, though. He didn't need to worry about such things, now that he and his people were settled in Rhy'Din. He privately wondered if the people of Tirisano were prejudiced against elves and other races, but was too polite to ask. Josh and Dru had never seemed to be, but he wasn't sure that mattered.
"Do you think they will miss it?"
"Honestly? Yeah, I think they will." Mataya sighed softly, glancing up at the stage as someone took a fall from their heels. She smirked faintly at the laughter this entailed before returning to the conversation. "But it doesn't mean they'll stop visiting here, or stop coming to the theater. They've already asked if I can put together a small company to introduce musical theater to Tirisano, so they obviously have plans on that score."