Those Who Watch

Annmarie Aspasia

George smiled as he leaned over the balcony and waited for his Lioness to gather her courage and open the door. After nineteen years of marriage, he still adored the way, when she was worried he'd be angry about something she'd done, she'd stand outside the door for a few minutes before entering.

Finally, the door opened with a quiet click and a soft whoosh of air. George did not move, and after a moment, shuffling footsteps moved in his direction and the door clicked gently shut again. He listened, lips turned up in a half-smile, to the muffled sounds of Alanna removing her sword, belt, chain mail, and boots. Finally, she moved to stand beside him, feet whispering across the rugs. Finally she moved into his field of vision, copper hair—still only lightly run through with grey—curling around her ears and violet eyes focused on the sea. His smile widened.

"Tortall chose not to renew the treaty with the Copper Isles. We won't be able to see Aly again any time soon." She was still staring out at the sea, purple eyes beautiful against the backdrop of sky blue and sea green. George sighed. He'd received a report on the end of the alliance two days before. She blinked, and her eyes filled with moisture. "Oh, George, I should have done something more. If I'd just…"

George slipped an arm over her thin shoulders. She'd never seemed frail to him, not really, but when she was like this… when she was heartbroken… she seemed so tiny and fragile.

"I know," he said, calmly. The weight of this not-quite-loss of his daughter did not lessen, but somehow her mere presence made him feel stronger. She made it easier to bear the crushing sense of loss.

"And—and I feel so stupid," Alanna continued, sniffling now. She was not a beautiful crier, though George felt relatively confident that he was the only person in existence who was aware of that fact, save perhaps John. Her face turned red and blotchy and started to blend in with her hair, and purple eyes were never meant to be so red. She blinked again, furiously, sending a cascade of water down her face, and sniffed again, loudly.

"About what?" he asked her, pulling her more tightly against him.

"Well, I mean… eventually they'll work out something. It won't be more than… than a few years, at most." She hiccupped slightly, and George felt the corners of his mouth quirk back into a slight smile. "And even if they don't, you're our spymaster. She's a spymaster! We'll work out something. But it still feels like she's dead." Alanna turned and buried her head in his shirt, and he sighed and hugged her to his chest, resting his chin on the top of her head. He blew at a strand of copper hair that was poking at his lips.

"Did she ever tell you what the god-chosen look like to the Sight?" he asked, after a moment. The wind picked up a little around them, carrying the scent of a storm.

"No," Alanna mumbled into his chest, and he reveled in the feel of her lips against through his shirt.

"It's the reason I talked to you, all those years ago in Corus. D'you remember?"

She nodded, her hair tickling his chin.

"You shone," George explained simply. "You were the first god-chosen I ever saw, and you shone. Like white flames around your Gift. You were incredible, and I knew I was to help you with whatever you asked."

He could feel her smile through the thin cloth of his shirt, and so he continued. "I could see that you were meant for me, too. There were gold sparks around your heart. The Sight wasn't uncommon in my family, but there was only one story, from a long, long time ago, that told of what the golden sparks meant. I knew then that you were meant for me."

"You told me that part of the story before," Alanna murmured, and George chuckled.

"The point is, my lioness, you glowed. You glow."

She burrowed a little closer to his chest for a moment, and then with a heavy sigh, sat back.

"You never tell me stories like this," she said, her voice more normal and brusque. She wiped quickly at her eyes and then, her tone changing to suspicious, she asked, "So why are you telling me this now?"

"When Thom was born, I thanked every god I could think of that he wasn't a god-chosen," George said, and his tone, too changed. He sounded weary.

"When the twins were born… Alanna, Aly was every bit as god-chosen as you were. As I was, when I called on Kyprioth and proposed a bargain. Some are like me, god-chosen through their own actions, their own choice. But some are like you, chosen from birth. Alanna… Aly was never going to be ours, not completely. She will always be our daughter, we will always love her, but she belongs to Kyprioth. He chose her in the beginnin'."

"Was that supposed to comfort me?" Alanna asked, her voice completely recovered from her tears. She didn't cry prettily, but at least her tears passed quickly.

George did not smile this time. "Do you think it's comfortable for me, knowing as I do that you're god-chosen? Do you think I like livin' in the fear that I can't save you, so long as the Goddess has a task she wishes you to perform?"

"I'd imagine not," she said, one brightly-colored eyebrow lifting.

"That's it, Lass. Aly is god-chosen. There is nothin' we can do to change her fate, nothin' we can control, especially not now that she's in the Isles. Even your Goddess only has so much power there."

"You used to be much better at consoling me, you know," she said, but the tiniest of grins had worked its way onto her face.

"The consolin' part is that it isn't your fault. I know you've been blamin' yourself, and you should stop. As for the rest of the consolin'…" he grinned, widely. She laughed and let him lead her back into their rooms.

"You're going to have to let me sleep and eat first," she could be heard to say from inside, "I rode straight from Corus."

"I'd place a bet I can change your mind, Lass," he replied, his tone teasing, and the door clicked shut.

A/N: Oneshot #1 from a challenge I'm making myself do. I picked 49 pairings I'd like to write/write more of, and 49 random words, and then listed both in alphabetical order. I matched them up by first word/first pairing and am writing a oneshot for each word/pairing.

Just for fun. :)

Please review!