Taking Care

Disclaimer - Tortall and it's characters are the property of Tamora Pierce.

Alianne of Pirates' Swoop knocked on the door quietly, unsure of the greeting she would receive. After a time, the door opened and Aly walked in. Her Highness, Princess Kalasin of Tortall, was a mess. She was in her chemise, wearing only a flimsy robe over it. Her ebony hair, usually straight, shiny, and perfect, was now tied in a loose bun with hair frizzing out as if it had a mind of its own. Rings of red circled her eyes, which looked smaller as a result of the large bags under them. Oily skin and a red nose didn't help her looks either. Yet Aly still thought she was almost the most beautiful sight she had ever seen. "I heard." No more was said as Aly walked towards the bed and sat down. Both understood what she meant. They sat together in a comfortable silence, Aly playing with the straying tendrils of hair at Kalasin's neck.

Kalasin was the first to break the silence. "It was going to happen eventually, and it happened later than planned. I had expected it Aly, I had," she said softly, fighting the urge to cry.

Undoing the ties fastening Kalasin's hair, Aly stroked the tangled mess gently. She whispered softly, "It was going to happen. You had no choice. But thanks to Daine, you were given more time than anyone had hoped."

"I should thank her for that sometime." Seeing Aly's expression, she smiled. "Not the royal way. Just by going and telling her as much. But now, now, I'll have to start thanking people properly," she added gloomily.

"How did Lia take it?"

"Not well. She's avoided me since mother told her. I fear she will feel lonely and I want to spend time with her." Kally turned to Aly. "Promise me you will look after her."

"We are friends, Kally – of course I will look after her."

"No." Kally held the other girl's face in her hands, her thumb slowly stroking Aly's cheek. "I want you to look after her, like you look after me." She touched her lips to Aly's.

"I don't know if I can. What if she doesn't think of me in that way?"

Kalasin smiled. "Silly girl, she already loves you. You just have to show her how much you love her. Besides, you're closer to her age than you are mine." Looking at her with a wicked gleam in her eye, she remarked, "Maybe you could show me how you would seduce her."

"But I don't love her like I love you." Her expression was serious, but her eyes were dancing.

"Ah, my love, but you could not love anybody more than I," she replied in a Player-like manner. "After all, I am the princess. The squires pant after me like little puppies and every mama wishes to have me fall in love with their son. Yet my heart is yours and my hand belongs to another." Kally sobered. "My hand belongs to another."

Aly twisted a lock of the princess' hair around her finger. "We'll just have to make the most of what time we have left."

"Yes, but first promise me you will be there for Lia."

"I promise."

"Good." Seemingly satisfied that Aly would keep her promise, she kissed Aly very seriously. A part of Aly knew that this was probably the last time they would be together. Returning Kally's kiss, Aly began to undo the ties of her chemise, breaking away to lay soft kisses on Kally's eyelids. Smiling at her, Kally began to undo the ties of her tunic, and as their lips met again, the door opened. Startled, the two girls broke apart. "Lia," Kally breathed. "Why are you here?"

"I'm going to miss you," Princess Lianne replied, seemingly unaware of the scene she had walked in on. "I don't want you to go," she said, crawling into Kally's lap.

"I don't want to go either, but it is my duty," she replied.

"We're all going to miss her," Aly added.

"But she's my sister, Aly. It's different. She always looks after me, makes sure I don't embarrass myself or do something wrong. You don't know how it feels," her voice was soft and filled with pain.

Aly met Kally's eyes, She understood what was expected of her. "I can look after you, Lia," she said, softly stroking Lianne's hair. "Let me look after you."

It was as if something had clicked inside the younger princess. Looking at first Kally, then Aly, then back to Kally, she asked suspiciously, "What were you doing when I came in?"

"Talking," Aly said innocently.

"Then why is Kally only wearing her chemise? Which is half undone?"

"Because Kally was getting ready to sleep when…" Aly felt, rather than saw, Kalasin's glare. "What do you want me to say?"

"The truth. You can't lie to her, especially if you are to keep your promise. She'll find out soon enough anyhow. Now tell her," Kally demanded.

She was right. "I was kissing Kally," she said frankly.

Lianne gasped, "But she's a girl. Wait, you let her kiss you?" she asked her sister.

"Aly and I have been lovers for quite a while."

"That's disgusting," she said, moving away.

"Lia –"

"I don't want to talk about it." With that, Lianne walked out of the room.

Aly started after her, but Kally shook her head. "Leave her be. She needs a little time to understand, is all. We just shocked her."

"But –"

"But nothing, Aly. She will come around soon enough. And I still hold you to your promise." Aly nodded and went to kiss her, but Kally stopped her. "For some reason, I'm not in the mood for sex."

"Neither am I." Aly kissed Kally quickly as she nestled next to her. "Goodnight."

Some time later, Aly rose to leave. As she reached the door, Kally called to her. "Please, could you check on Lia?" She nodded and left.

Aly knocked on Princess Lianne's door softly, not entirely sure how she would react to seeing her there. The door opened. "Why are you here?" Lianne asked.

"We thought I should check on you." Lianne's eyes narrowed at the mention of 'we' and Aly mentally kicked herself for reminding her.

"Why you?"

"I'm supposed to look after you now, now that Kally's going."

"You love her a lot, don't you?"

Aly sighed. "Yes." A tear escaped Lianne's eye. "What's wrong?"

"Nothing. I just…nothing."

"Tell me."

"I loved you. I love you. But you love her. I was so upset, I just said those things. I didn't mean them. And I want you and Kally to be happy, because I love you both," she sobbed.

Aly put her arms around Lianne. "Why don't you let me worry about that?"

Lianne looked up. "But, Kally, she would be upset. You can't do that to her."

"It's what she wanted. For me to look after you, like I looked after her."

The princess said nothing. Instead, she kissed Aly tentatively. Aly smiled to herself, deepening the kiss, as Lianne fumbled with the ties of her tunic.

Kalasin was getting worried. Neither Lia nor Aly had come to see her. Could it be that Lia was so angry at them? She knew Lia had feelings for Aly, but maybe she had overestimated her maturity. Determined to make Lia understand, she put on a cloak over her chemise and walked over to Lia's room. Gently opening the door, she was shocked at the sight before her. Aly and Lia, making love on the bed. Kally closed the door a little loudly, locking it. The sound made the girls jump and notice her.

Lia was the first to speak. "We didn't mean to…I mean –"

"I know what you mean, Lia," Kally said, dismissing her comments with a wave of her hand as she moved closer to them. You both look so beautiful together."

"Do we now, Kally?" Aly said mischievously, her eyes holding a heat that made Kally shiver.

"Yes," she breathed.

"How beautiful?" Lia asked playfully, as she removed Kally's robe.

Kally didn't bother to reply. She kissed Lia tenderly, letting Aly remove her chemise. Lia pulled away gently. "Hmmm… I think she is beautiful enough to join us," she said wickedly.

"One thing I don't understand… you said before…"

"I was angry and jealous, Kally. But Aly made me see I didn't need to be. If you can share, so can I." She pulled Kally onto the bed. "I love you," she added softly, kissing her neck as Aly kissed her way down Kally's back. Understanding, Kally let her fingers play along Lia's back as she kissed her, this time more passionately.

The next morning, Kally awoke, smiling at the two bodies on either side of her. She could leave peacefully now, pained though she would be from losing them, satisfied in knowing that they at least, had each other.

A/N - Thanks toamarath-sundays and Tuathail for betaing. Please review.