My Dear, Dear Friend

By: K. Ryan, 2003.

Rating: PG

Disclaimer: I own niente. D'accordo?

Authors Note: This was meant to be a one-shot. But, because of some wonderful reviews, I now face the prospect of several Lindhall-centric vignettes. As if I don't have enough projects at the moment…*grin* I love you all.

Now is also a time to mention that both these chapters are responses to fanfiction challenges. The first from own Seanfhocal Circle ("I'm telling you this as a friend") and this one, a response to Trisana McGraw at Tortall100. They both just happened to fit.

Two: Thinking Thought's you've Thought you're Not to Think

The rooms of Master Lindhall Reed, the Imperial University of Carthak, Carthak. The traitor Arram Draper has vanished, and is yet to be found.

"Master Reed? Surely you have to know something."

"My dear, I know as much as you do--probably less."

"Well, I know nothing, you have to have more than me."

"That's not a very logical conclusion to make, Miss Kingsford."

A young woman was sitting in Lindhall's office, ankles elegantly crossed together, and her bright hair contrasting wonderfully with the dark wood of her chair--the one as far away from the animals as possible. Lindhall was standing opposite her, his back to the turtles; leaf-mould clinging to the hem of his teacher's robes and one hand resting on the arm of a chair made from teak.

The woman pouted. "I've never been logical."

Lindhall tried not to grin, but he couldn't help it. Even hands as large as his weren't able to cover his expression. "That's certainly true."

"That's a horrible thing for you to say!" Varice-- (for that is who she was, currently looking radiant and slightly indignant) --muttered, eyes flashing and looking bluer then ever against her blush. "And rather dangerous now, I might add." She looked up at her former teacher, her smile proud. "I'm Ozorne's official hostess."

Lindhall bowed. "Congratulations to you, Hostess Kingsford."

Varice giggled. Lindhall looked so serious. "No need to get all formal on me, Master Reed. I was too poor a student under you for you to have any respect for me whatsoever."

"You could have been much better, you know," said Lindhall, straightening. "Arram certainly thought so."

"Oh, Arram thinks too many things." Varice stood, straightening the cream silk of her robe. "I happen to like the idea of wall-colours being coordinated to what I'm wearing of an evening, and making beautiful things. And why do you say 'thought'? He may have vanished off the face of Carthak, but he's not dead."

Oh, 'Arram's' dead, all right, Lindhall thought, in-spite of himself. Changing his black feather's for a peacock's. Bright-bird Salma--no. Don't think like that, you stupid man. You can't even think of thinking that name. What you just thought…oh dear…

"...Master Reed?" Varice could see something very wrong in Lindhall's eyes. "You do know something, don't you." It wasn't a question. She glared up at him, eyes harsh, but biting her traitor-lips with worry. "He really did commit treason, and you've helped him escape, or he's dead."

He can't be dead, Varice thought, trying not to shiver. If he knew he was going to die, he would have said goodbye, properly. He's always been so romantic, like that… With slim fingers, she touched her lips. She'd bitten them hard enough to make them bleed. Shakith, I'm in love with a traitor." The thought was a terrible one, which made her cold with self-disgust, but anything was better then the alternative.

"Miss Kingsford?" Lindhall's voice was soft, and full of sympathy, pulling her away from the chaos in her head. "Varice?"

"I don't think we should speak of this again," she whispered, backing towards the door. "I don't…I don't want to know." Her eyes were filling up with tears; every part of her was treacherous, today. "I serve the Empire."

Lindhall shuddered, but he didn't look away. "As do we all."

"Do you?" Her voice cracked on the last word, but she didn't look away either.

Lindhall opened the door for her, smiling gently, with tears of his own in his eyes. "I am well known for my loyalty."

"But, to whom? What are you loyal to?" Varice stepped out into the corridor. "Who is it?"

Varice didn't wait for an answer, and Lindhall didn't give one. At least, not until the door was closed behind him and she was out of sight.

"Who do you think it is?"