Taking Spills

K. Ryan

The sound was simple, and it was awful.

Silence clung to its edges. The crowd breathed together, or failed to; an interrupted beat. Whispers came with the exhale. The Lioness had dropped her sword.

"Go away."

Alanna's voice was raw with the repetition. Jon had tried. Thayet. Buri, cursing in Raoul's echo. Numair, gentle. Daine, insistent and with little Sarra, the shifting who most often made herself small and stocky and violet-eyed. A low trick. Jon again, and George, always George, who was by the door and could pick the lock, but kept silent save when he was comforting the others who tried. Go away. Go away. Go away.

She had known this would happen. She had known it, and knowing it did not end the rage. It did not lessen a thing, only thickened it, and deepened it with guilt for the self-indulgence. Alan at the door: tired and threatening to call Aly. ("Don't, son-of-mine. She'll be well.") Thom, and Onua: Daine again—"I'll just fly in, right enough!" and Jon, oh, Jon would not leave. Do this, Alanna. I order you to do that, Alanna. Enough, Alanna. Neal, his voice joining her husband's: "You'll never coax her out, and when did orders ever work, children?") All voices but Myles's, except through the Black God. No father to see this. Strange relief.

Go away. Go away. Go away.

More sounds. Footsteps and coughs and nervous whispering. "No, lass." George, tired kindness. "Don't force this."

"I'm not." Simple words, spoken low. "Though I'm not a lass and neither is she."

That almost made her laugh.

The door opened. Kel stepped inside. She was still in training gear, shadows under eyes, tightness in her mouth. Alanna saw the lines there, and shivered. "Go aw—"

"No," said Keladry, taking old and nerveless hands in hers. She turned them over, examining each line and spot and shape. She kissed the palm, her fingertips. "No," she whispered, again.

As Kel's lips brushed the inside of her wrist, Alanna finally let herself weep.

Note: Written for the first round of Goldenlake's SMACKDOWN: A fanfiction fight for Kel's non-canonical hand. Competitor: Alanna of Pirate's Swoop and Olau. Characters are in no way mine. The competition is the brainchild of Goldenlake message boards. They, likewise, neither own nor profit from these characters and/or their geographies.