Awful cheesy fluff, churned out really damn fast because I couldn't stand to stare at my essay any longer.
I tried to address a kind of serious issue, what with Mirany having to leave behind something she's known for so long, but then I was dumb and put Seth in there and it degenerated into mindless happy fluff.
One day I will work out how to write angst.
Disclaimer: These lovely characters belong to Catherine Fisher. OOCness of Seth is entirely my own bastard-child.
Mirany stood at the window, resting her hands on the windowsill as she gazed out onto the morning. It was a beautiful day, but the sun was already high in the sky and she had business with the Archon.
However, watching him from the window, she felt no desire to call him in, just yet. He was enjoying the sun while it was still bearable, training using the new bronze weapons that had been gifted to him by the metalworkers' guild on his last birthday. Watching him parry a thrust from an invisible enemy, Mirany sighed. It saddened her that Alexos wasn't a little boy anymore, although she sometimes still saw that childlike glee in the young man's eyes when they spoke.
Footsteps behind her. She didn't have to turn to know who it was – a small smile touched her lips.
"Nice to see you away from your records, Censor."
Seth chuckled, stepping into the puddle of sunlight beside her.
"Greetings to you, too, Milady."
She turned with a smile, looking over the man in front of her appraisingly. Seth had grown these last years, filled out slightly – responding well to the challenge Lord Osarkon had set, that a pen-pusher couldn't beat any of his own men in a fight. Mirany hid her smile as she remembered the triumph on her friend's face the first time he threw an opponent, one of the lesser thieves, to the ground and turned, grinning, to the General.
His clothes were expensive, the latest fashions, but she saw he carried no obvious purse – clearly his life here had taught him caution. His face was older – she could see a resemblance between him and Pa now more than ever – but he was still as handsome as ever, a mature young man who knew exactly how good he looked. Faint worry lines creased his forehead, around his eyes, and now she noticed, she could see a dark shadow over his chin where he'd once again forgotten to shave, too preoccupied with his work.
But he was still Seth, and she stepped forward to embrace him gladly. His arms were warm around her, and when she leant back she did so without letting go of him. He grinned back.
"I thought we were supposed to be discussing the new trade routes with Alexos."
She chuckled, removing one arm to gesture out of the window.
"We were. But Alexos is still Alexos, and he's playing with those new weapons of his."
Her face creased in a frown at these last words, and Seth smiled, walking with her to the window with one arm still around her waist.
"You still don't like that he has them, do you?"
She shrugged, looking back out at the Archon, who by now had attracted the attention of a few passing girls from the Port, a group of them gathered at the fence and watching him with undisguised admiration. Alexos carried on with his training, but it was obvious he knew they were there from the way he tossed his hair and dodged invisible blows a little too dramatically.
Mirany's frown deepened.
"I know he's a man now, but he's not some lad in the army. He's the Archon, for the god's sake! He has no need to be anywhere near weapons, let alone know how to use them!"
She let out her breath in an angry sigh, then her shoulders sagged as she looked sadly out at the dark-haired man.
"I don't care if he's an adult now. I still see that little boy from Alectro, you know. Tiny and beautiful, saying something grave and solemn before suddenly grinning at me, with a cheeky comeback. It…hurts, sometimes, to realise that little boy isn't here anymore."
Seth's fingers gently brushed a strand of her hair out of her face, and she looked up to see him smiling.
"I know. You'd think, as the god, he'd stay young forever, wouldn't you? But he's also just a boy, and boys grow up."
He looked out, his own face creasing in a sudden frown of confusion.
"I-Is Alexos flirting with those girls?"
Mirany glanced up, then snorted.
"Where've you been these last few years? Alexos is always followed around by young women, nowadays – ever since it was finalised that he no longer had to wear the mask and stay silent."
She'd meant the question as a joke, but she saw Seth flinch out of the corner of her eye.
"Yes, well, it's busy work, being the sole Censor, since Cero resigned…"
His voice petered out, and she saw him look away awkwardly. She squeezed his arm gently to reassure him. She'd gotten used to it. Now he was finally being recognised, Seth's rising through the ranks had been like lightning, the fastest for any young scribe in memory. He'd reached the Island a few short years after Alexos' ascension, and since then had been awarded more and more responsibility. Months could go by without her seeing him.
A bitter smile touched her mouth. She hadn't exactly had all the time in the world to herself, either.
Relieved that he was forgiven, Seth turned back to look at her. She glanced up, and was surprised at how serious he looked. It felt like she was being searched, for secrets, in an even more penetrating way than the god's voice in her head.
But she had grown older, too, and she stared back, defiant.
His expression softened slightly, and she felt his arm tighten slightly around her side. This was as close as they'd ever got – apart from a short spell in the peace after Argelin's death, the pair of them had agreed that they couldn't let themselves get too close to one another. Their argument was that it was still against the law for a man to become involved with one of the Nine – but that was only their spoken reason. They both silently agreed that it would be far too dangerous; if word got out that Hermia's successor was also in a relationship with a man in a powerful position, comparisons could be made and things could get very awkward not only for them but for the whole of the Two lands. So, they had no choice but to remain at arm's length, no more than friends.
Of course, that hadn't stopped Chryse's bitter rumours, but fortunately no one had taken them seriously.
Seth now looked concerned.
"Are you alright, Mirany?"
"Yes. Why wouldn't I be?"
His answer was immediate, slightly mocking, and accompanied with a raised eyebrow.
Mirany's half-smile faltered, and she let it fall, knowing she had no need to pretend in front of him.
She would be turning thirty in a few short months, and with that would come the necessary step of leaving the Nine, as was the ancient law. It both reassured and terrified her. Once she turned thirty, the fate of the land was no longer in her hands – and no longer would she have to stave off attempts on her life or to control her from those who wished to use the Oracle as Argelin and Hermia had. But also, once she turned thirty, she would have to pass over her role to another woman.
She imagined standing on the sidelines, in the dusty streets in the heat of the day with all the other commoners, looking up and watching another woman in the Speaker's mask, calling out the words of the god. It made her feel sick.
"I'm scared, Seth."
Her voice was quiet, but she knew he would hear her. He pulled her closer, neither of them caring that someone might see them through the window of the Archon's palace, his expression tender.
"I'm scared. I don't want to see someone else wearing my-I mean, the Speaker's mask. I…I don't want to lose the voice of the god, Seth."
She knew he would understand that more than anyone. He nodded, and she looked meekly up at him, feeling shy all of a sudden.
"What…what's it like, Seth? Knowing you won't hear him again? Not hearing him, at all. Is it as horrible as it felt when I lost him when you were in the desert?"
The scribe's handsome face creased slightly, as though he were in pain. When he opened his mouth, she was partially astonished that he was answering her honestly, rather than giving his usual arrogant quip.
"It hurts. It hurts, for a long time, Mirany, I won't lie. Not to you. It feels…like you're missing something. Like some part of you is gone, and it won't come back. It's awful, and I only heard him for a short while. I can't imagine what it will be like for you…"
He took a breath, then continued in a cheerier voice. She could tell it was forced, but it made her feel slightly better, nonetheless.
"But, it gets better with time. I promise you that, Mirany, it gets better with time."
Mirany nodded silently. In her mind, the god, too, was quiet. His voice had been coming less and less frequently these past months, as though she were losing her ability to hear him as her time came.
Seth's voice was low.
"Have you decided what you're going to do?"
Mirany shrugged. She'd thought about that, long and hard for the last few years, but she still had no idea what she wanted to do with her life after she stepped down from the role of the Speaker. She'd briefly considered returning to Mylos, but had dismissed that idea. The Two Lands was her home now, after so long of being here, and Mylos had nothing for her now, not after her father had passed on a few years previous. It still hurt, sometimes, but she remembered his last letter, telling her he was ill but that he was so proud of her. She missed him deeply, but returning home would only make it hurt more. She imagined wandering the empty corridors of the estate and shivered. She couldn't bare returning there now – that was why she'd gifted the estate to Rhetia when the tall girl had herself left, after nearly thirteen years of surviving the role of Bearer. Her friend could make better use of it than Mirany herself could.
She'd also contemplated working in the Port, or running errands, but she couldn't see herself doing it. It shamed her, but fifteen years of being a pampered member of the Nine had alienated herself from the people – she could hardly imagine becoming one of them again.
She looked up into Seth's face, feeling defeated. To her surprise, he was biting his lip as though shy.
"Well, if you really haven't got any idea, I was wondering if, uh-"
He cut off momentarily to scratch the back of his neck, looking awkward. Her melancholy mood disappeared as she watched him, amused. Was he actually blushing?
"-if you would ever like to…help me…with my work."
She blinked, surprised.
"What? Help you? How?"
He shrugged again, gaze out of the window to avoid looking at her.
"Well, like I said, it's busy being a sole Censor, and you're good with managing things and knowing what's best for everyone, and people listen to you. You'd be really useful."
Mirany chuckled, folding her arms.
"Excuse me, are you offering me a censorship? Aren't there rules around ascension to that post – like the fact you have to have been consul? Not to mention the fact that I haven't seen many women officials, lately."
Seth snorted, suddenly arrogant again.
"Yes, well, you're also supposed to be forty-two before you can even run for consul, and I left that post six months ago."
He grinned, showing off white teeth.
"And it's not as if you and me haven't broken any rules before, is it?"
They shared a quick, secret smile before Mirany spoke again.
"I'm touched, Seth, really, but I'm not cut out for a censorship. I can hardly read, let alone manage."
"That's a lie and you know it. You could read well enough before I got anywhere near you, and I've been personally tutoring you for what, ten years now?"
When you have had the time.
Not the god. Just herself, thinking.
"And besides, we both know you're good at managing. You've made an excellent Speaker, and now you can go on to the things that affect all of us just as much. Imagine, Mirany, you can decide who is a citizen here. You decide if and when and where any new buildings would be built, in the best possible way to help people. You'd be fantastic, Mirany, I just know it."
He'd gotten into his speech – she saw his cheeks flushed slightly as he finished, eyes glittering with a thousand possibilities. It was endearing that he still had ambition, right at the very top. Looking into his eyes, Mirany's voice was quiet.
"Is that the only reason you want me as a censor, Seth? Because I'd be good at it?"
He swallowed, the pinkness on his cheeks slightly more prominent. He glanced down a moment, charcoal-coloured curls falling over his face.
"I…the election for another censor is scheduled for next year. I've seen some of the candidates, and I don't trust any of them. They're out to fill their own pockets, for money and power, and they don't care about anyone else. I need someone I can trust beside me, Mirany, or everything I do is going to be completely reversed by some corrupt politician."
Mirany stared at him blankly for a few moments, and he winced.
"I know that sounds rich coming from me, but I'm serious. Me – I'm not like that, not anymore. I used to want everything I could get, in revenge for being dirt-poor, but I swear that's not the truth for me anymore. But these people, these are worse thieves than Jackal and all his men, because they steal from the people who need the help the most. I need your help, Mirany."
It was his admittance that he was greedy, along with his assurance that it was all over, that was the biggest reason Mirany suddenly pulled him down into a quick, chaste kiss. Seth was surprised, but returned it eagerly, almost disappointed when she pulled away to look him in the eye.
"You swear it, Seth? We're going to help people, not just get the power you want?"
He held her arms, nodding quickly.
"I swear. You know I do."
She pulled him down then, another quick kiss, and as she did so it occurred to her that finally, after all these years of waiting, she didn't have to stay away from him anymore. Her heart swelled in her chest, and suddenly she felt as though everything would, eventually, be okay. It hadn't occurred to her, in all her time of worrying, that she could finally and actually be with Seth.
The scribe seemed to be thinking along the same lines, as this time he didn't let her pull away from the kiss. Not that she minded.
They were only disturbed when a laugh rang out behind them, and she jumped. They pulled apart, spinning around to see Alexos standing at the doorway, face lit up with delight, but also a sort of knowing expression like that a parent would wear for a child. Oblek and Osarkon could be seen over his shoulder, both far more discreet about their smiles.
Seth coughed awkwardly, pulling back from Mirany, who straightened her hair, feeling her face burning. However, she was able to fix Alexos with an exasperated look.
He laughed, suddenly a child again.
And in her mind, the voice of a ten year old rang out, bursting with pride.
I'm so happy for you, Mirany.
This was actually almost painful to write, but I haven't written in so long and I needed to get something out.
It did hurt, a lot, to make Alexos grow up. (Private Headcanon - Seth and Mirany fall in love and don't have to worry about rules, Osarkon runs the Two Lands, Oblek plays music for everyone and Alexos never grows up. The End.)
Oh, and I used the Roman political system as a base for this. Yes, there are lots of rules for it that Seth doesn't follow. But who cares, he's the freaking Male Speaker, Assassin of the Archon and total arrogant heartthrob Seth.