written for Goldenlake's (fiefgoldenlake dot proboards dot com) Peculiar Pairings Ficathon

Who are you, he whispers to her when she is lying there, her back turned to him stiff and silent as his fingers move slowly across her shoulders. Who are you, he will say, tugging his hands through the short hair, touching the freckles and marks around her spine. And each time without fail she will respond Keladry, every time, linear and constant and unchanging.

Keladry
, he will repeat, and then he will fall asleep, drifting like the moon over the water while she lies there next to him, her spine board-stiff and her eyes wide open.

Jonathan has had women before. Cythera, when he was still princeling, blonde and beckoning before she turned away from him and made eyes only at his cousin. Uline of Hannalof, days before she because a haMinch. There was even another Mindelan: Oranie, Tortallan fire barely cloaked under Yamani stillness.

Keladry is different, she is lady knight (lady-yet-knight; knight-not-lady, neither and both and sometimes nothing at all), she looks like a warrior and she thinks like a commander.

She is another of the women who will never have his children, never stand next to him high on the dais, never be acknowledged, never-never-never, and the thought of that is discomfiting (and there is her reputation, her standing, she does not want to be Delia of Eldorne) because he wants to label her, box her up and place her in her proper spot in his head/his heart, whichever is the true master of his body.

Another time in the future, she is facing him, and her eyes (plain hazel, like tree-bark or a river in the summer) meet his, look into that fabled blue. Her lashes are long and she will not blink before he does so first. Who are you, he murmurs again, and watching his lips move he sees those long lashes brush against her cheek, but this time she responds with a variant on her theme, mutters interchangeable, then leans forward to press her lips against his briefly, and Jonathan too tries to think of emptiness.

One day she will leave. It is a simple truth that she will leave, just like all the others before him (just like Alanna and Thayet); that she will go to another man with blue eyes, someone who is a fighter like she, someone who she can love until the end. She is not the first nor will she be the last, she is in the pattern he has, of loving women who are flesh wrapped around steel and strength. This is what surprises him: she is the first that he perhaps would ask to stay.

(Don't go, he will say with hands outstretched, I command you to stay, and she will laugh harshly, a bitter choking sound he would rather not have her make and close the door behind her, a soft screeching sound against the stone will come from it and it has been so long since his heart has broken, it has been so so long; Jonathan will find his wife but she will not be the same, she will be too soft, her colors too contrasting for his heart to be content).

He has fallen in love before and he will do it again, but when she calls herself interchangeable he will beg her not to say it like that again.