Disclaimer: The characters and places mentioned in this story are the creation of Patricia C. Wrede. I'm just playing with them.

Author's note: This is my first completed fanfiction for the Enchanted Forest Chronicles, so any constructive criticism would be greatly appreciated. This story takes place at the end of "Searching for Dragons" after Cimorene, Mendanbar, Morwen, and Telemain have taken care of the wizards and freed Kazul (Chapter 17, p. 223, Scholastic edition).

Hands

"What exactly was that supposed to mean, 'I won't notice any distractions?'"

"It means you're single-minded to the point of pigheadedness," a young, ginger-haired woman said to her companion. "Surely you're aware of that?"

The man walking at her side glared. "I'd forgotten your incredible wit, Morwen. How I've missed being skewered on the sword of contempt these past few years."

She pushed open a door and held it for him, ignoring the sarcastic comment, and he entered, taking care not to thwack her with the armload of wizards' staffs he was carrying. The two of them had volunteered to take them off the hands of the king of the Enchanted Forest in order to examine them and had been given his study to do so.

Once inside, Morwen said, "You know, Telemain, you really haven't changed one bit. We haven't seen each other in years and you act as though ... as though ..."

"As though?" the man, Telemain, asked, narrowing his blue eyes.

"As though we're back in school and you just saw me yesterday! Honestly, it's as if our friendship never meant a thing to you!"

Telemain raised an eyebrow. "Really, Morwen, I think you're overreacting --"

"Hey! You two over there!"

Both of them immediately clamped their mouths shut and turned towards the source of this third voice. A grotty looking gargoyle in the corner was glaring at them. "You think you could have your little argument outside? I was sleeping, and anyway, I shouldn't have to put up with anyone's annoying voice except Mendanbar's."

The two of them glanced at each other and left the room to stand out in the hall. Once Telemain shut the door and looked at her, Morwen found that her irritation had left her. After all, they hadn't seen each other in years. Was bickering really the way to act during a reunion? She offered him a sheepish smile. "I'm sorry, Telemain. I'm being unfair."

"No, it's all right." He sighed, then looked at her earnestly and took her hand. She looked down, surprised. Somehow she wouldn't have expected his hand to be so warm. And where had he gotten calluses? And who would have thought that their hands fit so well together ...?

She shook herself. This was Telemain. Her old school friend. One did not think about how well one's hand fit into an old friend's. When she looked up at him, however, he was staring at their joined hands with an odd look on his face. After a minute, though, he flicked his gaze up and met her eyes. "It's all right," he repeated. "You're right, really."

"About what?" Morwen asked. He'd gotten something reasonable out of that litany of grievances?

With a smile, he said, "Everything. You're quite sensible; I might as well assume you got it all right."

"I wasn't being sensible, I was being an ass," Morwen said primly.

This drew a laugh from Telemain. She'd always liked his laugh. It was deep and disarming and always made her happy that she was able to draw it from him. Now it sent a shiver through her, which startled her. She looked up into his face and was startled even more, though, when she suddenly realized that she found Telemain quite handsome, with his black hair and blue eyes and even the silly goatee he was wearing these days ...

She really needed to move her hand.

Her eyes met his. There was something she couldn't read in his gaze, something shadowy that made her think he didn't know it was even showing. "It's good to see you again, Morwen," he said in a quiet tone. "I know personal relationships and social niceties aren't exactly my strong suit, but that was no reason for me to not keep in touch."

"Well, I wasn't exactly the model for keeping up old friendships, either," Morwen replied. "Shall we forgive and forget?"

"That sounds magnificent," Telemain said. "Though, may I suggest that rather than forgetting, we remember that both of us prefer it when we maintain our friendship?"

Morwen raised her eyebrows. "I'm impressed -- that was uncharacteristically sensible of you."

"I'm not completely hopeless."

They smiled at each other and then both of them looked down at their still-joined hands. Reluctantly, Morwen drew hers away. There was no point in continuing the line of thought that those joined hands invited. Witches generally avoided romantic entanglements, especially with other practitioners of magic. They complicated an already complicated life. Besides, she'd meant it when she said Telemain was single-minded. He was not a man who was interested in any kind of permanent romance. Better to just take her hand away now.

The strange look was still in Telemain's eyes, but he said only, "Shall we start looking at the wizards' staffs?"

"Let's," Morwen agreed, and the two of them reentered the room, both, it can safely be said, with more on their minds than the absorptive properties of wizards' staffs.