She stood alone, leaning slightly onto the wall of the balcony, looking out over the bay of her home. It was cold, skin shivered slightly, but violet eyes were concentrated so far out that she didn't even notice. At the moment, she was incapable of noticing anything. Her world was coming apart at the seams, and it took all of her effort to hold herself together.
Which right now, she wasn't doing very well, hot tears coursing down her face in contrast to the biting coldness of the midnight air. Right now, it would be difficult to tell that this woman was in fact the Champion of Tortall, greatest knight alive, responsible for feats unimaginable to most of the population. But tonight she wasn't that person, tonight she was Alanna of Pirates Swoop, married to the Baron, George, her husband, who right now it looked increasingly unlikely would return.
So she figured she was allowed to break down, if only for a little while, after all, her family was about to fall apart.
Watching her, as he had been for a while, mesmerised by her pain, was a man who loved her dearly. Copper locks shifted about her face in a gentle breeze, shining slightly in the moonlight of a clear night. He could see the slight goose pimples on her arms and longed to wrap his arms about her, but he knew what a bad idea that was. They hadn't actually made physical contact since his marriage, both knowing what a bad idea it would be for them to be seen, let alone what that might do to their emotions.
And so, frozen in indecision, Jonathan watched the younger woman cry softly into the darkness. Eventually he stepped forward, deciding she would prefer to know he was there, rather than have him watching her from the shadows. In his preoccupation to get to her, to try and comfort her, he managed to get his foot tangled in the curtain. Only momentarily, not enough to bring him down or to slow him, but enough to alert her to his presence.
She span round, tears still in her eyes, but a knife in her hand that he had no idea how she had acquired. Almost loosed from her hand, she managed to drop it to her side, her eyes conveying everything to him as he swept her into his arms, burying her in his warmth as he buried his fingers into soft copper hair. He felt her body shake with sobs that must have been coming for hours. Her muffled voice whispered to him, "What if he doesn't come back?"
He pulled her out from his chest, fingers wiping away tears in a gesture that felt natural to them both. "Don't, Alanna. He will come back."
He held her chin up with his fingertips, staring her out until eventually she nodded, a mess of shimmering hair, burning tears and soft skin.
He didn't even realise what he was doing until he did it, no thought went into it, just a desire to take away her pain, and an attraction that was heightened by a proximity that he had not experienced for years.
His mouth was on hers, gentle and warm, seeking to prove to her that everything was ok. And for a moment, it was. She kissed him back, a reaction that was natural to both of them, and the rush of mutual attraction overtook them both.
It wasn't until their hands started to automatically reach for each other that she pulled back, sense sinking to her. Her lips were wet and her breathing was heavy as her eyes burnt into him with outrage. "Get out." Her voice was not her own, low and rasping, filled with a fury she did not recognise.
He started to protest, apologise, anything, but she wasn't about to give him that chance. Her voice was more level, more filled with emotion, and it burnt into him that he had done this to her, "I want George, not this. Please Jon."
He was gone in a whisper of hushed footsteps, leaving her alone, wiping every trace of him from her mouth, crying again for her missing husband. She needed him. Finally, she collapsed onto their bed, her sobs causing shudders to shake through its frame.
The following morning awoke Jon much earlier than he would have liked, and memories of his actions the evening before forced him back into mattress. What was he going to say to her?
Unfortunately, the morning was not going to be kind to him, and continuous footsteps and excited whispers outside his room forced him up. Dressing quickly, it was not long before he was out following the excited crowd. He ended up on the front of a balcony, his rank meaning that those around him slipped out of the way.
The scene before him brought a smile to his face at the same time as it tore at him. Alanna's arms were wrapped around her husband's neck, and his around her waist. The meaning of their gestures was not lost on him either: Alanna brought his hands to her waist, whispering something and nodding as he smiled, wrapping himself around her once more as hushed whispers went up around them.
They kissed oblivious to what was going on around them, and people started to move on, letting their Baron and his wife have their moment. He retreated softly to his room, leaving them alone, as he should have done to start with.
She found him in the stables, seeing to his horse before he left, all but ready to go. Her eyes were accusatory, but at the same time worried. He supposed it would take a lot to blot out their friendship, and even his behaviour had not been able to accomplish this. She stared at him, forcing him to speak.
"I didn't know about your…" he broke off, caught in his words and unsure of how to go on.
"You have a family Jon: Thayet, Roald and Kalasin. Do not begrudge me mine. I love George, and we are going to have this child." Alanna was firm, she understood Jon, but that did not mean that she had quite forgiven him.
"I know that Alanna, and I am so happy for you. Honestly. I'm sorry." He patted his horse on the head and turned to mount him, clearly having said all he thought was necessary, supposing that this would be forgotten.
Alanna however, had not come to the same conclusion. Grabbing his arm to prevent him from mounting, ignoring the fact that he was her King, she spun him round to face her. He went to protest, but she cut him off, "You can't do this again Jon."
He understood what she said, but had already thought this was settled. It was a mistake, that was all. "It won't happen again Alanna, I promise you that."
"No, Jon, not that, George. He didn't want to go, you made him, and he very nearly didn't come back. That cannot happen again, I want my child to have a family. You'll leave him alone Jon, you have no idea what this did to him." She did, she had seen the extent of his injuries, seen the pain in his eyes. She knew what had happened to him.
Jon looked at her for a moment, a part of him outraged that she had dared to give her King an order. But looking at her revealed that she was not going to back down on this, and she was one of the people he really could not afford to make an enemy out of. So he nodded, "Fine, this will not happen again, I won't make him leave again." Then, tired, ashamed and annoyed, he mounted and left without even a goodbye.
Alanna watched him go, and for the first time, she could actually see why it would have been such a bad idea for her to marry that man. "Goodbye my King," she whispered into the empty stable. Then she turned, her husband was waiting for her.
A/N- thanks for reading, and if you've got this far please review- it makes my day.