While I'm not new the Tamora Pierce fandom, this is my first TP fanfiction. I've loved Tammy's books for years and my favorites were always in Emelan. This was inspired by a plant metaphor I used in something else I was writing and I thought about how perfectly if fit Rosethorn and Crane.
Just a reminder, that Rosethorn's name was originally Nivalin Greenhow and Crane was Isas- his last name wasn't known, so I used the last name of that count he was related to.
This is Rosethorn/Crane but also Rosethorn/Lark and explores a bit of their tangled pasts.
Nivalin Greenhow arrived at Lightsbridge with a bloodred thumbprint of a mouth that never smiled and skin so pale that it seemed like she had never spent a day in the sun in her life. She was beautiful and plants strained toward her and Isas himself felt the magic that was greengrowingtreesplantsgreengrow inside of himself reach toward her like she was the sun.
He hadn't expected that she would be smart too, brilliant and quick and with a sharp wit and a sharper tongue that she loved to whet on him, a rich nobleman's son. She despised him. When he arrived at Winding Circle to complete his novitate three days after she had arrived, she heaved a great sigh and glared.
Even so, she led him to the table where she sat with the other plant mages and they ate together. With something wicked gleaming in her eyes, Niva told all the other novices about the time Crane had fallen asleep in a field and woken with a sunburn so bad the best aloe balm he could brew took three days to work.
"Mine wasn't working at all, actually," he said offhandedly. "I stopped using my concoction after the first two days and helped myself to the one you were going to send to Urda's House."
The slight pink flush in her cheeks was the only thing that made it worth admitting that his own aloe hadn't worked in the slightest.
Niva warmed to Isas after that lunch, and the first time she smiled at him was when she rattled off a complicated list of ingredients to the dedicate who ran their lessons only three hours after the perfume had first passed under her nose.
He had felt anger and pride and envy and lust all at once. Her eyes flashed at him and her smile broadened and she had left it at an "Better luck next time, Isas," and a brief touch on his arm.
Isas figured it out first next time, and her disbelief was a balm to the wound she had inflicted the week before.
After class she found him in the Pebble Garden by the Hub, talking to the bean sprouts that fed the Temple. The sun was high in the sky and warming the smooth stones and the bean sprouts were gloriously happy that he was there talking to him and getting rid of the disease that had been touching their leaves. When they felt her and her power approaching they had sighed with happiness and leaned away from Isas to Niva's shadow.
She sat down unceremoniously by him, her long auburn hair flying around her. "That was fast. Today, I mean. With the perfume."
Isas raised his eyebrows. "Careful, Nivalin. You almost sounded impressed."
Niva frowned and wrinkled her nose. "Did you know about it beforehand?"
"Of course not!" he snapped. "I-"
She flapped a hand impatiently. "Let's try again. Best two out of three."
To his own surprise, he agreed. The next evening they met in the garden and worked out a perfume one of the foster-nobles had lent Niva and she blurted out the last ingredient moments before he teased out the strand of bitter willow that had been hiding behind roses and gardenias.
"Again," he said, eyes alight on her face, glowing in triumph. "That was too fast. I'll make a scent, and you figure out what's in it."
It became a game.
Niva used two and half hours for his first scent. He took three for the one she gave him in return. The next one he invented had twenty-seven separate parts and took her nearly four hours. To retaliate she came up with the most disgusting combination of scents he had ever subjected his poor nose to. Just the hesitation to smell it again resulted in a time of almost six hours.
The scents became more and more complicated and the tension between them tighter and tighter until he finally gave into the greengrowingplantsmagic inside of him that called for her so desperately and kissed her full on the mouth that needed a tending more delicate that orchids to blossom into a smile for him.
A red handprint on his face was his punishment, like a thorn in his thumb. And then she kissed him long and full, the beauty of the rose making up for the prick of pain.
Niva came alive in Isas' arms and coiled around him like he was a trellis. Her mouth was warm and sweet and she smelled like soil and growing things and she was glorious.
Niva wasn't sure what the feelings inside of her were when it came to Isas and his ridiculously long limbs and pallid skin and limp hands. She just knew that she liked his gentle mouth and large palms and way of drawling out words that irritated her and created a small heat in her belly at the same time.
It didn't matter that her farm was gone and her best friend was gone and her life in Anderran was over. She had a future, here at Winding Circle, and she had someone to rely on. Isas.
They competed and they kissed in the moonlight and he presented her with a complex perfume that took her three days to figure out.
Their game moved on to figuring out the ingredients in Gorse's stews and then when the the word spread everyone was bringing them something to examine. She loved puzzling out ingredients, letting the ghosts of plants whisper to her and using her new-found skills to separate them out and determine how much of what was inside whatever was given to her.
Isis took lovemaking as seriously as he took competing and Niva loved him for it. At Winding Circle she could forget he was a count's son in a way that had been impossible at Lightsbridge. They were equals, rivals, lovers, and it was the best time of her life.
A visiting merchant bet that they couldn't figure out the ingredients that went into the expensive dyes that colored rich clothes from Aliput. Niva won half a gold maja's worth of cloth, more money than she had ever had in her entire life.
The best part of that challenge wasn't Isas' proud arms around her shoulders, though.
It was the tumbler at the tavern with the catlike brown eyes and short hair that smiled and introduced herself and sighed with longing over the blue and named it cerulean.
It was hard to shake the memory of the tumbler's laughing eyes and strong arms and long back.
A new challenge did it- medicines. Laboring in the workroom with Isas, nearly unaware of the eyes of the dedicates- real dedicates, high ranked ones- watching from the windows.
It was Moonstream that asked them to go to Lightsbridge, to study medicines and diseases. Her quiet eyes and calm manner made saying no impossible, but Niva wanted to say no anyway.
She loved Winding Circle in a way she hadn't loved any place before. It was home in a way her father's farm had not been, even before the pirates had attacked. Before they had raped her best friend. Before she left for their own good and her own good.
But the two of them went, back to where Isas had his own set of rooms and she was in a tiny closet of a place she often left for Isas' bed.
"You should call yourself Belladona," he would say, drawling voice wrapping around the words like they were honeycombs. One set of large fingers was playing with her hair, long and curling, and the other was stroking the line of her hip. "Because you're absolutely lethal in large doses."
"Do I make your eyes go large with wonder too?" Niva asked, jabbing him hard in the stomach. "Or just give you a bellyache?"
He sniffed at her. "Fine. Call yourself Dandelion and that will be the end of it."
Niva poked him again. "You should be called Sparrow because you make just as much sense as they do."
"I like Hawk," Isas said loftily. "Or-"
"Crane," Niva interrupted. "Crane. It suits you. They represent happiness and heraldry. Hope."
He leaned over and kissed her long and hard, the light that came to his eyes someones when they were together there and strong. "And you would be Rose. Because you're as beautiful as a flower and you have thorns that prick those who don't handle you carefully."
"Rosethorn," she corrected. "I'm not the flower, I'm the pointy bit." She kissed him back, pushing him down so that she was draped over him and covering his body with hers.
It was harder at Lightsbridge, to be with Isas, where he was Count fer Yorvan's son and important. She could feel their eyes on her, wondering what the noble had found with the farmer's daughter, and worked harder.
Everything but Isas was dead at Lightsbridge. There weren't enough gardens. Or sunlight. Three years surrounded by dead things, trees that were paper and chemicals that were so changed from their original forms that their labels felt like gravestones.
And at the end of those three years, she went back to Winding Circle.
And Isas- Isas went back to his father's house.
"He needs me, Nivalin," Isas said, more fervor in his voice than Niva had heard in months. "It'll be for a few months. That's all."
"We were going to be dedicated together," she said, hot tears rising with horror behind her eyes. "He's a vicious old man who hasn't looked twice at you since you said you wanted to take your vows because he doesn't value what you do. He's always favored your younger brother anyway and he was glad when you gave up your rights to his name, he-" With great effort she stopped the words tumbling from her mouth.
Her lover's eyes were cold. "I'm going to Father and I will be back in six months to take my vows," he said, all the warmth of a Longnight eve in his voice. "Tell Dedicate Moonstream for me."
Nivalin bit her lip, drawing blood. She reached out, to grab his sleeve and hold him back or to kiss him or to apologize, she didn't know. "Isas-" she began.
"You are a thorn," he said quietly. "You were right. All you do is hurt those who want to admire you and hold you. Going in you aren't so bad but when I want to pull away you rip out my flesh."
He left and she left and the parting of their ways was as uneventful as the day Niva walked into her first class at Lightsbridge.
Dedicate Rosethorn's short temper and frequent threats to those who went near her garden got her sentenced to Discipline for three weeks. The other woman running the small cottage had asked for help starting a vegetable garden and there was a dedicate who many thought needed a small project to help with gaining perspective.
The novice that was living with the dedicate there was, to Rosethorn's delight, a familiar face.
"You were a tumbler," she said. "In the Mire." She made a motion to lift her hair, and winced. There was nothing there. The day she had taken her vows she had cut her vanity, her long auburn hair, to just under her earlobes.
The novice looked around, then turned three backflips and landed breathing hard. "I was a tumbler," she said, joy in her voice. "I got the wheezes. The Mire is the only place for a tumbler who can only perform for three minutes."
"Asthma," Rosethorn corrected automatically, the training at Lightsbridge jumping to her mind. "Do you want something to help with that?"
The laughing novice grinned. "I'd love something," she said, reaching up to brush Rosethorn's cheek. "There. You had some dirt."
Wryly, Rosethorn lifted her hands. "I'm nothing but dirt these days," she said, humor in her voice. "I swear I've gone through six habits this month."
"Stand up," the tumbler instructed, standing herself. She pursed her lips, and ran a hand down Rosethorn's cloth habit, from her breastbone to her knees, ignoring the dedicate's shiver. The dirt fell off when Lark gave the fabric a brisk tug. 'There," she pronounced, pleased. "Give me your other habits and I can do the same."
"Thanks," Rosethorn said, grinning at the other woman. "Stitch-witch, then?"
Her reply was a back handspring and a wave. "I suppose so," she called back. "Supper at the next bell!"
When Rosethorn heard that Isas- Crane- had returned, she didn't leave her room. The novice that had run to tell her lingered in the doorway, then bolted when Rosethorn raised her head.
If Isas-no, he was Crane now- expected her to come to him, he was wrong. Rosethorn had her pride and her pride had been injured over a fight and six months with no word.
He did see her in the Hub, but she looked right through him and left. There was a shout of "Niva!" from the crowd, but that was no longer her name.
She needed to get back to Discipline anyway. Lark had wanted fresh bread for dinner and it was cooling swiftly.
Rosethorn had never kissed a woman before but she found that she liked it plenty, especially when the woman was Lark. Kissing Lark was like sitting in the sun surrounded by cotton and flax and willow trees. It was nothing like kissing Isas, with his gawky tree limbs and feelings of sandalwood and towering trees and perfumes.
Kissing Lark was beautiful and felt right and safe and above all fun, because all the Lark was could be embodied in comfort and handstands and laughter, long into the night.
Dedicate Crane didn't like this Niva with short hair and no smile for anyone but a golden-skinned and glossy haired woman she was always around. He didn't like this Niva that didn't welcome him back or say anything to indicate she knew his father had died and his brother had taken the title he had been raised expecting his entire life.
He didn't like this Niva that no longer wore one of a hundred perfumes he had made for her, this Niva that when he got close enough to touch smelled of the weaving houses.
Crane didn't like Rosethorn. Of all things, he missed the Niva that he had loved.
"A project?" Rosethorn said, sitting back and covering her eyes with her hand so she could she the face of Dedicate Moonstream. "What kind of project?"
The head dedicate smiled and shook her head. "A project important enough for me to come find you in your garden," she said, quiet amusement in her voice. "I sent three runners for you, all came back once they realized you were here. They explained that they had all been warned, multiple times, that entering your garden with 'twittering messages from blithering idiots' meant death in yonder well."
Rosethorn flushed. "They trampled my basil," she said grumpily. "Do you want to come inside?"
Moonstream nodded. "That would be lovely," she said wickedly. "Am I to assume that I am safe from hanging by my ears over-"
"Yes," Rosethorn interrupted, somewhat mortified. "Of course, Honored Dedicate."
She thought she heard a laugh when she went to clean her hands at the pump.
"It's to work on a way to avoid testing cures on human subjects," Moonstream said clearly. "Dedicate Mountstrider saw your work with Dedicate Crane five years ago and wanted you on the team he is putting together. They offered to come here, to use our facilities and our resources, which include you and Dedicate Crane."
Rosethorn bit her lip. "He would be working on the project too?" she asked.
Moonstream looked down at Rosethorn, a slight frown on her face. "I had heard that the two of you had a falling out and no longer work together," the first dedicate said carefully. "I had hoped that you would be able to set aside your differences, whatever they may be, to do work that would serve thousands of people. He has already accepted."
Rosethorn flushed again. "Of course," she said, wishing she could look down and mumble. But it wasn't in her nature, so she looked Moonstream in the eye. "Of course I'll do the project."
They very carefully started to interact once more. Mountstrider gave them an odd glance, but he was from Yanying and almost unerringly polite. Ulra Stormborn was more direct, pulling Rosethorn aside later and asking if it would be so awful if she and Crane repaired their friendship.
It came to a head a few months in, when they were alone working in the laboratory. Rosethorn was so focused on her work that the world around her as dim and her memories foggy.
All she knew was that there was something, just something, to this essence that she could almost distill, something that she should know about how the compositions of this sample should be working together.
"Can you pass me the stirrers, Isas?" she asked absentmindedly. For a moment she was back in the time before they had been this set of strangers, when they were lovers who worked in conjunction like the sun and water to make a plant grow.
It took him a moment to reply. "Of course, Nivalin."
Her half-forgotten name startled her into looking up, past the arm that held the container out to her. "Sorry, Dedicate Crane," she said, taking the stirrers but continuing to look him in the eyes. "My apologies."
Something eased in him. "It was nothing," he said, nodding quickly.
They worked in silence for a few moments more, but both knew that their concentration was broken. Rosethorn put away the tray with the essences and walked back to where Crane was hunched over a notebook.
Carefully, slowly, she rested her hands on his shoulders. When he tensed, she pushed outward with her thumbs across the tight muscles as she had done a hundred times to relax him.
"I'm sorry," she whispered. "I was proud and cruel and hoping it would end because I couldn't see us together in the future."
His large, elegant hands came to his shoulders, grasping her wrists. His thumb stroked the smooth skin across the bone of her wrist, catching the fragile underside and tracing her veins. "I would have forgiven you the moment I heard your voice again."
Crane stood, knowing that with his height he towered over her. His embrace was warm, comforting and familiar and a facet of something she had been missing for years. "I loved you, Nivalin." She could hear the pain in his voice, the pain of a shakken that was being pruned and trained. A necessary pain, but the pain of removing part of oneself nonetheless.
Rosethorn tilted up her head to look at him, meeting his large brown eyes with her own. They had always been so gentle, those eyes. There was a slight hardness to him now, but it softened when he leaned down and kissed her gently.
Conflicted, she kissed back, but when they parted the smallest bit, instead of kissing him again like he wanted she drew away. "What are you doing?" she whispered.
"We need to make things right between us," Crane said gently. "I was going to take you to my rooms and trace you with my lips and erase every cruel word. We need to heal, Niva, and then we can part on good terms."
With the briefest thought to Lark, Rosethorn sighed. We are not a committed relationship. "Let's go."
Making love to a man again was strange, but at the same time it felt as right as sleeping with a woman did. He was there, above her, hard and gentle and powerful and powerless as he lost himself in her and she arched her back and lost herself in him.
Most of all it was the string of "Isasisasisas" that fell from her lips and the cry of "Niva!" that left his. With Lark she used her dedication name, not the name she had given up to Mila of the Grain.
When they were finished, Rosethorn stayed curled at Crane's side and wept. Tears left his eyes as well, especially when they embraced as friends and parted ways.
"You made things right with Crane," Lark said, perceptive eyes catching the mark she hadn't left on Rosethorn's neck and the peace in her face that broke with guilt.
Cautiously, Rosethorn nodded. "I did," she admitted. "It was something that needed to be done."
Lark rose from her loom, coming to hug Rosethorn. "Good," she whispered into the other woman's neck. "I'm so happy."
Xiyun Mountstrider died in their third year of work from breakbone fever. Rosethorn nursed him herself, wiping his forehead as he sweated and almost force feeding him willow bark tea. She was the only one of their team who could enter without crying, and she was the only one with dry eyes when he heaved a last rattling breath and died.
Later she cried in Crane's arms. Lark would have tried to comfort her, but Crane held her and dripped some of his own tears into her hair.
But when she faced the four of their team that were left, she was unyielding. This was not a time to be willow; no, now was the time for oak. "We need to press on," she insisted. "Yes, it was Mountstrider's project. But we need to finish it."
They listened to her, even if there were comments about her being cold, with a heart made of ice rather than of green growing things.
Ulra Stormborn was old and growing older. By their fifth year of work she had gone blind. Through milky eyes she wept and Rosethorn held her hand and guided her to the door of the workroom, walking with Ulra to the carriage that would take her home to her family.
"We will let you know whenever we find something," Rosethorn promised. "And if you think of anything we should try, send a letter or come yourself in person."
Ulra died the next year.
There were four left, of the six that had started. Still, they pressed on.
The sense of urgency increased with an outbreak of Ibaru fever in their seventh year of work. The four of them, often working long into the night, tiring themselves.
With growing horror, as the epidemic reached the walls of Winding Circle, they worked. Novices aided them, brought them food that went uneaten, carried out trials while the four scribbled and worked and didn't sleep.
Dedicate Elmbrook caught the fever a week after the first novice from Winding Circle fell ill. She was old and she was tired and she was no match for the fever. Her death took only three days, and again Rosethorn wept tears into Crane's habit, tears of anger and weariness and sorrow.
Lark made her come home and eat stew and sleep in her own bed. When Rosethorn awoke the next morning, the sun already high in the sky, she went back to the workroom with new strength.
They finished in their eighth year, the last three of the six that had started. But they had succeeded and when the key light up brilliantly Rosethorn threw herself into Crane's arms, joy flooding her body.
"I love Lark, Crane," said Rosethorn, her eyes perfectly serious. "She understands, and she doesn't mind me sleeping with you, but I want to be with her."
Crane closed his eyes briefly, and when opened them again there was a smile on his lips that did not reach his eyes. "I never expected anything less."
She reached up to kiss him- something tightened in his jaw and wisely she went for his cheek rather than his mouth.
"Thank you," she whispered. "For understanding."
"For you, anything," Crane promised. He had already learned that his Niva would not stay with him and she would not let herself be caught by any man.
A woman, though. That was another story. Rosethorn adored Lark and to Crane it seemed like nothing would ever eclipse that for Rosethorn.
They were friends. They would always be friends, the memories of a girl named Niva and a boy named Isas who did not know pain, only the joy of first love. Lark was too kind for him to hate- he respected her, envied her, but also loved her for Rosethorn's sake.
It was for the best, after all. They fought constantly and could only appreciate each other when their mouths were busy elsewhere. They would have never made it as a couple, unlike Lark and Rosethorn. He and Rosethorn had too many sharp edges honed with quick tempers, where Lark was softness and firmness and calmness.
What he felt for her was a love that was old and comfortable, something between friendship of more than ten years and intense attraction. The attraction would fade, it had faded before, but only needed a spark of an intense station to spring to life again. The other times, he would be happily irritated with her and she with him and all would sit well in their worlds.
I hope you enjoyed reading; if you did, a review would be lovely! This is my first time in the fandom, so some feedback would be nice.
I'm on tumblr too (on my author's page) so if you have a tumblr that has Tammy things let me know!
Thanks so much for reading! Please leave a review!