Sandry lay shivering in her bed, remembering. Remembering the darkness. Remembering the helplessness. Remembering, remembering. She had never been so afraid or angry in her life.
She tossed and turned, trying to find a comfortable position, but to no avail. Her memories drowned her, and more than once she had to shake her head to clear it. Stop being so weak, she told herself. Fin is taken care of.
No thanks to you, another voice in her head said.
It was true. Her magic stripped from her, all she could do was call for help, like any other weak, useless noble. And if there was anything Lady Sandriliene hated, it was that. "Good for naught but to marry," she whispered, remembering. Namorn was trying to make her like that, trying to turn her into nothing but an ornament in the court of the Empress.
Sandry sighed. There was no chance of sleeping tonight.
Briar paced in his room, worried thoughts clouding his mind. I should have stayed with her and made sure she was all right. He almost walked out the door, but paused with his hand on the knob. What if she doesn't want me there? he thought. I'll just stay here… If she needs me.
Sandry paced. It was better than trying to sleep. Somehow, as she tried to drift off, her subconscious kept going to the one who had answered her call for help first. She had been nearly incoherent with fear, and a tiny part of her was disgusted at herself, but she couldn't help it. After all she was in the dark. Alone, in the dark, with no magic. Fin had known exactly how to get her.
But Briar had come. He had talked of his travels, finally, but only of those little things he knew Sandry would be interested in, stored in his memory just for her sake…
His face, with those emerald eyes burning like beacons, was imprinted into her memory. She remembered his dark fury, and she was grateful. Tris and Daja too were furious, but they didn't have the brooding anger Briar possessed. Tris's fury was like the lightning storms she controlled, boiling and boiling and blinding in a flash of white-hot light, gone before you knew it. Daja wasn't the type to anger easily, but her anger was like the metal she shaped, growing hotter and hotter until it burned to the touch. Sandry was grateful for all of them, but she remembered Briar.
Strangely, she wanted someone to hold her, to wrap their arms around her, to comfort her. She hadn't wanted that since she was ten and Prisi died. But the dark had a way of reawakening her childish needs and fears. Her thoughts immediately turned to Briar. She hesitated with a hand on the cold doorknob, wondering if it was right thing to do. She didn't know, but it didn't matter. Sandry turned the knob and continued walking.
Briar heard a tentative knock on the door, and flung it open. Sandry stood there, almost shyly, he would have said, if he didn't know her better. "Can I come in?" she asked softly, taking in his shirtless state. "Or are you… busy?"
"I was just…" Briar paused. He couldn't quite remember why he didn't have a shirt on. "Never mind. Come in."
Sandry sat at the edge of the bed, and he plopped down beside her. He stared at her, wondering where the fearless Sandry he knew had gone. This girl was so weak and delicate, the complete opposite of the wrathful noble that had spoken to Berenene mere hours ago. Curse you, Fin, he thought angrily. If I ever get my hands on you…
It wouldn't be any use to ask if Sandry was okay. It was obvious that she wasn't. "Do you want to talk?" he asked quietly, searching her watery blue eyes. It seemed like she was on the brink of tears. Crying girls scared him somewhat (he was a man after all), but Sandry definitely had a right to, after tonight.
"It's just… I'm so scared, Briar! I want to go home," she sniffed. "I'm sorry," she whispered, looking up at him through wet lashes, "I sound like a petulant child…"
Briar had to grin. She really did. "It's all right, Duchess," he replied easily. She almost broke down sobbing at that, and he cursed himself mentally.
"Don't call me that," she hissed, her voice hoarse from trying to hold back the tears. "It's because of that that all this happened!"
"I'm sorry, Sandry," Briar whispered. "Really, I am."
Sandry had never heard Briar apologize like that before, without any trace of childish resentment. His apology was filled with pure remorse now. It was obvious how much he had changed. She missed those innocent days at Discipline, but she knew they could never go back to being children. Everything had changed. They had changed. They had all grown up, and she realized that now. But that didn't mean that they had to shut each other out. Without meaning to, without realizing how it would sound, Sandry said, in a voice so soft Briar almost missed it, "Can I sleep with you tonight?"
His eyes widened, and Sandry say his jaw move up and down silently.
"Not like that," she quickly backpedaled.
"Of course not!" Briar replied hastily. "I never even thought of it like that…" he coughed.
Sandry snorted, her fear ebbing away. With Briar, everything seemed all right. She didn't want to go back to her dark, cold room. Ever. "Prisi used told hold me when I was scared," she explained, "and I miss that. I know, it's so childish of me."
Briar smiled. "I know how it feels. Why else do you think-"
"I do not want to know about your sex life right now, Briar Moss," she snapped.
Briar blushed, but felt the need to explain himself. He wasn't a man-whore, for goodness sake! "No, listen to me, Sandry. It wasn't about that. It was never about that. It's just that when you have another human being with you, close to you, it's easier to forget." He added in an undertone, "I need to forget."
"Briar, what happened in Yanjing?" Sandry asked gently. She could see now that nightmares shadowed his eyes.
"Not tonight, Sandry." He was the one supposed to be comforting her. How had the tables turned?
Wanting to distract her from his personal horror story, Briar grabbed the blankets and laid down, grinning impishly at her. "You coming, or what?"
She smiled, and laid down beside him, her back against his chest. He wrapped his arms protectively around her, and she mumbled something intelligible.
"Good night, Sandry," he murmured.
A/N: I thought this up while falling asleep, and wrote this when I woke up, so it's a little rough and kind of OCC. This is the longest chapter- the next two are considerably shorter. Please read and review!