Significant Celebrations – Speeches
K. Ryan, 2010
"Lady Alanna," Kel said. "Would you like to come to supper with us? Someone has to keep Neal from making speeches." Squire, p. 388
She was happy to give up spirits; she hadn't liked the loose, careless feelings they had given her. Lady Knight, p. 62.
"Speech! A speech!"
Merric, bright and slurred, cups clattering on the table. Cheers from Esmond at his left. Boys and noise. Wine. People. Kel tasted it all, thick on her tongue and sharp at the back of her throat, strange and heady. The world seemed to trace small fires along her skin. The wine was as new as her knighthood, and even less respectable. Still, it did, as Esmond had told Neal gravely, pouring him a measure, serve.
Serve what, Kel still wasn't sure. It was best, she thought, to keep very still. Her parents had left the celebrations hours before, and she suspected her sensible self had already joined them.
Yuki met her eyes over the table, her own sparkling even more than usual in her still face, and raised a cup to her lips, swallowing slowly in a way that, Kel noticed, had Neal clearing his throat. As she raised her hand to cover her mouth so she could lick a heavy, purple drop from her face, Neal had to close his eyes.
Kel raised her eyebrows.
"No fan!" Yuki demurred. "Besides, it's your scandalous celebration, and I'm—"
"—incredible," said Neal. Kel had to laugh.
"Merric, no. Please. Yuki just distracted Neal, don't get him started—" the room spun, though Kel was only moving her mouth. And how her words could feel both light and heavy in there, she could not be sure.
"I," Neal said grandly, "Shall oblige."
"Oh-ho, boy. No, you won't."
A new voice at the table. Alanna, on her feet and grinning, giving Neal a look that was loaded with language Kel did not understand.
"You're not very obliging, former squire," said the Lioness. "No need to start now."
Kel looked at her. She was a good friend, this woman. Words clattered around her head. The strange honestly of hours before, that had made her feel strange and new and clean and right. The look in her eyes, grave and human: Neal mentioned there were times thought there were times I didn't care. I wanted to tell you...
"But the crowd!" Neal was nodding toward their year mates. "They demand oratory, bravest lady."
"Save your orations for your intended." The Lioness grinned at Yuki's flush, open and wine-sped. "Oh, if he hasn't asked you yet, it's coming."
"It's only been a week!"
"He's shown that much restraint?"
The world was full of their banter. All her friends. Kel watched them all, drawn to Yuki's fragile fluster and Neal's love for the entire world, which everyone knew would crack and slip away in the next morning. She was drawn to Alanna, who charmed and bullied them both, and by the way her hair seemed to be the candles in the late-night room, the silver it snatching all the other sources of light. The way she moved—too fast, and loudly, even without words. Every gesture spoke the sort of unintentional chorus that years at the Yamani court had smoothed away from the younger girl. The young woman.
Watching Alanna, taking another gulp of the rotgut wine, Kel suddenly knew. She knew she knew with everything she had, and what she knew was tied into Alanna's eyes, bright and serious and impossible on her face. "I wanted to tell you, it was exactly the opposite.." She had blushed. Alanna had blushed. Deep and open and right there, in front of Kel.
It nearly killed me, that I couldn't help you...you, bless you, are real.
Watching Alanna, Kel knew. Except, the wine would not tell her what she knew, only that she knew it, and the world was becoming too blurred around the edges for sense.
"I'll make the speech." Alanna, meeting her eyes, cheerful and steady and not, Kel was sure, tying herself up in knots with her own thoughts. "One Lady Knight to another, and all. Besides, Neal. You might learn something."
The boys cheered. Neal, smirking, had her hoisted onto the table, so this tiny woman stood above them all. She raised her glass. Cleared her throat.
And she winked at Kel in a way that made her stomach bottom out.
Note: Written for the third round of Kel/Alanna at Goldenlake's SMACKDOWN. All usual disclaimers apply