A/N: This is a little one-shot I came up with today while trying to do homework. I know I haven't been around lately, but I promise that my stories will be updated--this plot bunny was just screaming to be let out and wouldn't leave me alone. Spoilers for The Will of The Empress in this story, so if you haven't read that, I suggest you skip this story.

Summary: Briar comforts Sandry after she wakes from a nightmare. Slightest Briar x Sandry. Takes place after the The Will of the Empress.

Disclaimer: None of this is mine (although I wouldn't mind owning Briar). These are Tammy's, I just love to play with them.

Winding Thread

Blood was all she could see.

The fine parchment stared back at her mockingly, the dark ink that marked it staining the page. The marks, words that she should be able to read, were blurred as she tried to hold back tears that crowded her blue eyes, needing a way out. She stared at the pen in her hand, the red ink—her own blood—dripping onto the fresh white page, staining the parchment darker than any ink ever could. Her wrists throbbed, bandaged from where the blood had been drawn, but she ignored them, staring at the pen in self-loathing, hating it as much as she hated herself.

Her own signature glared up her, which she had penned only moments before with a trembling hand.

Lady Sandrilene fa Toren, Clehame.

Soon to be nothing but a wife, her powers bound by her husband's will.

"Finish the signature," a voice above her hissed, and her head jerked up at the sentence, glaring all the hatred and poison she could muster. Her magic fought to be free, but it had already been bound, and there was no way her husband-to-be would let her out until she had sworn, with this contract, never to turn against him. Her hands fisted in the skirt of her gown, her nails biting through the thin silk to sink into her palms.

She let go of her skirt, leaving a rumpled and wrinkled piece of fabric in her wake. She glared at Fin, but he merely smiled mockingly and motioned for her to finish signing the contract.

Sandry lowered her head, a sigh escaping her. She knew she was defeated. After being locked in that wretched box for over two months, with no thread magic to comfort her, she had almost been happy to see Fin when he had finally released her, after she had promised to marry him. She had, she remembered, been willing to say anything to get out of that box. She had thought to overpower him when she got out, but he was ready for that too.

So here she sat, bound by magic and completely at this man's mercy.

Where were her friends in all this? How could they allow this?

Briar had been sweet-talked into taking a position as the Empress' head gardener. By the time her three friends had learned of what Fin had done, they could do nothing about it, but they decided to stay in Namorn to support her in this new life. Daja was wrapped up with Rizu, happily becoming one of the head mages in the Empress' court. With Berene's blessing, Tris had escaped Namorn to attend Lightsbridge, promising to return after she had attained her academic mage license.

"Sandry," Fin whispered, sickly-sweet, "finish signing, my dear."

With a trembling hand, and refusing to let the tears fall, Sandry brought the pen, still wet with her own blood, to her lips. Coating her lips with the coppery thick substance, she resisted the urged to attack Fin with the pen—the mage standing nearby would have her immobile in moments if she did. Her blood boiling, she obediently finished spreading her own blood on her lips, and looked up at Fin.

Her bloodless face seemed more haunted and gruesome with her own red blood staining her lips, but Fin merely nodded towards the parchment, waiting for her to seal it. He was getting impatient, and he wanted this done and over with. Berene would be more impressed if the matter was dealt with quickly.

Now, as she reached one shaking hand for the parchment, Fin hissed with pent-up glee. Finally! Sandry stared at the parchment, her blue eyes dull as her gaze seemed to glaze over, seeing nothing in her mind's eye but darkness. Mechanically, she lifted the paper to her lips and pressed it to her bloodied lips. As she drew away, gold magic ran over the signature and lip-print, sealing the contract.

Startled by the sudden light, Sandry dropped the contract to the table with a soft cry. The tears fell freely now, and she stared in horror at the paper as if it had bitten her. What had she just done?

With a cry of delight, Fin scooped up the paper, almost crumpling it in his urgency. Passing it to the mage for examination, he turned to his new wife. She was staring at the table-top again, her hands fisted in her skirt, blue eyes lifeless. He clasped her wrist, and to his surprise, her pulse was still beating. The way she looked, he thought she could be dead.

Gentling his voice, he told her, "It's over, Sandry. It's done. You're mine now, and you can do whatever you like. I have what I want."

But his new bride wasn't listening. She turned to face him, but her body was moving for her, and she had no control. She wasn't even aware when Fin led her from the room…

Sandry sped along her core, searching for a place where her magic had been closed off. As it always was, her rope of thread magic glowed brightly, but now there was a solid wall of glass-like magic between her and her magic. Slowly, an image appeared to her. It was the waking dream that Briar had created for them, the one where they were all on the roof of Discipline cottage, talking. Sandry strained for it, reaching even though she knew she could never get it. Devoid of her magic, how was she even supposed to know who she was anymore?

The dream floated away, and Sandry screamed, beating her fists against the mage wall, seeking any way to get her magic back, to get her friends back…

Sandry woke with a start, sitting bolt upright, a scream half out of her throat. Swallowing the rest of it, and still in the throes of her dream, she flailed wildly, in her panic knocking aside the crystal lamp that had been made for her all those years ago. It hit the floor with a clatter and rolled under the bed, the thrown-back bedcovers hiding both it and its light from view.

Now fully awake, Sandry sat still, trying to calm her racing heart. Cold sweat beaded her entire face, and she blinked a few times, wondering if she was still dreaming. Realizing she wasn't, the fear came back again as the darkness overwhelmed her.

Before she could completely succumb, however, a light shown around her door, which was slightly ajar. Focusing on the light that emanated from whatever source was outside that door, Sandry slowly calmed down.


The familiar voice spoke the unfamiliar nickname, which had lain disused after all these years. It seemed that the speaker realized this, for he tried again. "Sandry?"

When the young noble gave no answer within, the young man pushed the door open, carrying a lamp. He padded in on bare feet, and set the lamp down on the bedside table, where the crystal lamp had originally sat.

"Where's your light?" He asked, pointedly ignoring the tear tracks that marked Sandry's face. He didn't want any hysterics.

The young noble shook her head, her single braid swinging slightly. Where was Gruduny, the ex-thief wondered, finally spotting the source of light and the familiar magics that rested within. Crouching down, he retrieved it and set it next to his lamp.

At the sight of the crystal, Sandry's breathing finally calmed, and she looked at her house-mate.

"Briar?" She asked as he sat down on the panic-rumpled bedsheets next to her, sounding surprised that he was there. "What are you doing here?"

"You had a nightmare." The young man replied, his gray-green eyes glinting in the lamplight. "It's a wonder you didn't wake Daja and Tris up, the way you screamed."

Sandry dropped her head, a blush tainting her cheeks. "I didn't wake you, did I?" She asked, her cornflower blue eyes widening at the thought.

Briar shook his head. "Nah. Me, I was awake anyway." His eyes became shadowed as he drew back slightly. "You're not the only one to have nightmares, Clehame."

The title, meant to tease and soothe, rang too close to Sandry's dream, and her eyes narrowed as she glared at him. Briar felt the bloom of her power as her rage and fear built, and he leaned away from her, holding up his hands in surrender.

"Easy, Duchess," he cautioned, risking a hand to reach out and tug the end of her braid. "I meant nothing by it." He felt her power recede back into her core, and he relaxed, examining her closely. Even after they had returned from Namorn, the title hadn't bothered her. Gruduny used it every day, and Sandry didn't bat an eye.

He whistled softly, grabbing her attention. "That dream must have been something special to get you riled like that."

Without knowing how, she was suddenly clinging to his chest, and his arms wrapped around her on their own accord. Tears began to stain his nightshirt, and he shifted slightly on the bed, seeking a better position as he rolled his eyes over the girl's head. Girls. Try to say something, and they took it the wrong way and went all weepy on you. He let Sandry cry, knowing better than to try to make her talk before she was ready. Growing up in house full of girls and dealing with Evvy had taught him that much.

"It was Fin." It was a quiet whimper, and Briar's blood boiled as his arms tightened around Sandry, pulling her closer. Stupid bleater, he thought to himself, knowing that he should have realized that she would have dreams about his treachery. But in the weeks they had been back in Emelan, she had shown no signs of remembering that traumatic time.

Until tonight.

"He made me sign the contract." This sentence was punctured by sobs, and Briar stroked her sun-streaked hair, unsure of what else to do. Letting impulse guide him, he brushed a kiss against her forehead, and that seemed to calm her.

Sandry's breath caught, and she momentarily stiffened. Briar's arms were snug around her, and the remnants of her dream were fading, all except a few details. "Briar, you and Daja and Tris were all happy to stay in Namorn and take up positions in Berene's court. Daja had Rizu, you had all the gardens you could want, and Tris--"

Briar cut her off her tirade with a gentle finger to her lips. "Duchess," he whispered, his eyes gleaming in the lamplight, "Namorn wasn't for us. Emelan is home."

Sandry calmed, her hiccupping sobs subsiding. She blinked at him, her blue eyes still wet with tears. Briar wiped his thumb across her cheek, catching the tears that still lingered.

"This is home." He repeated to her as well as himself, letting Sandry bury her head in his shoulder. Under his hands, he felt her back slowly rise and fall with a more natural rhythm, and it seemed that she had calmed down at last.

Sandry rested her forehead against Briar's shoulder, breathing in his scent. That curiously musky mix of mint, soil, and whatever herbs he had used that day lingered on his skin, and she drew it in, finding safety and security in its familiarity.

Drawing away, she looked at his face, cast sharply by the lamplight. Silence lingered between them until Sandry broke it.

"Why are you alone, Briar?" She asked wickedly, an impish grin spreading across her features. "I would have thought you would have a 'visitor' to keep you company."

His gray-green eyes flashed, and he reached out one tattooed hand to tug harder on her braid before she could twitch it out of his grasp.

"I'll have you know, Duchess," he growled, a playful smile toying with his lips, "that being such a worldly traveler has caused the ladies of Summersea to throw themselves at me since we've been home. I've been so busy"—here he paused to wink at her, and half-disgusted, half-amused, Sandry swatted at him, annoyed by that rakish smirk on his face—"that I had to take a night for myself."

"Oh, I see," she teased. "The great Briar Moss is too busy with his many admirers to get some sleep, so he decided to take the night off." At Briar's lordly nod, the giggles that had been lingering in her throat burst out, and she quickly clamped a hand over her mouth to stifle them, loathe to wake anyone else up.

As swiftly as they had come, the laughter died, and even Briar, who had been laughing bemusedly with her, sobered at her serious expression.

"I'm sorry I woke you." She apologized, toying with the crystal next to her. His fingers brushed against her cheek, and she looked up into green-gray eyes full of warmth.

"It's never a problem to look after you, Duchess." He told her softly, his eyes never leaving her face. Sandry reached up and brushed a lock of black hair that had fallen into his face, moving it back and letting her hand linger for a moment. Dropping her hand, they both averted their gazes, wondering why they both felt like awkward children again. Briar dropped his arms, realizing he was still holding her, and both leaned away from each other. The heavy and tense silence hung between them, until Briar finally rose, the bed creaking. Sandry watched him, her blue eyes sparkling with the crystal light, and Briar felt something he had never felt for his foster-sister before: attraction.

"You should get some sleep." He whispered, and she nodded mutely, pulling the covers back up and around her from where they had lain in a rumpled heap.

Leaning down, Briar pressed his lips against her cheek, lingering for a moment. "Mila bless your dreams, Sandry," he whispered, and then he was gone, slipping out the door and back to his own room.

Gazing after him, Sandry snuggled back down under the covers, letting the warmth envelope her. She turned her attention to the crystal lamp, watching the light it was giving off. It was a comforting sight drop off to sleep to, and she quickly turned her attention inward.

She raced along her core of magic, rejoicing in its thread-like ropes, looking for one thing in particular…

The waking dream loomed before her, and she gazed eagerly at the sight of Discipline cottage's roof, with its puffy clouds floating by and the familiar sun-soaked thatch. Sandry plunged in, rejoicing at the feel of her magic pulling her in, responding to the call of green magic that floated by on the brisk summer breeze.

Briar was waiting for her…

A/N: Well, that's it! What'd you think, good bad, too OOC to be even considered Tammy's creations? Let me know what you think by reviewing!