AN~ ON TIME THIS WEEK! YEAH! 'Kay, so if you already read this and reviewed, sorry, I deleted it and reposted it, there are no changes other than the spelling of the chapter title.
QotU: What's the best possible pet? You can pick any animal that exists. Why is it awesome?
Old QotU Winner: Estrangelo Edessa. Because.
Puck sat on the floor for several minutes, watching Sabrina leave and rubbing his forehead. What had that been about? She'd just kissed him. On the forehead, granted, but still. His unwanted fiancee had just made lip contact with him. That was simply...
He didn't understand females.
He went in to Cobweb's room and let the man doctor him up before heading to lunch. He was famished.
He was also confused.
Sabrina had kissed him. And yet when she found out that he was awake, she'd been furious. He supposed that it could be that she was furious because he'd led her to believe that he needed to be carried to Cobweb when he could have walked, but it was just too funny to have her carry him- a little thing like her carrying almost six feet of someone else (he knew she was perfectly capable despite her size, but that didn't change the fact that it was amusing). But that hadn't seemed like all of it. Why on earth would she be upset that he knew he'd kissed her? Because that was the only other reason she could have been angry. And weren't females supposed to try to go after men's attentions? All the girls in Trickster flirted incessantly with the boys. It was the only way to get their attentions other than prank wars, and most of them were too feminine for those.
The fact that Sabrina was different from every girl Puck had ever met temporarily escaped him as he wondered why she'd kissed him at all. He was perfectly aware that he was desireable- he and the females at home had established this- but Sabrina had always seemed so aloof, so disgusted by him. And he'd wanted it that way. It was far less confusing.
Maybe his confusing behavior had done some good after all. He'd been trying to throw her off balance, trick her into thinking he wasn't who she thought he was (she was right), and perhaps it had worked.
He doubted it. She'd spent a good part of the morning hitting him.
And by all things holy, she was an amazing hitter. An amazing fighter in general. It was incredibly attractive, watching her fight. He hoped he'd get to see that again. Because while he thought that fighting was taking the wimp's way out, he admitted the need for a good right hook, and he could admire her skills. And maybe even pick some of them up. It could be useful. Particularly if he learned enough that he could fight her and win.
Maybe next time he'd be the one carrying her.
That would be different. He wouldn't be nearly as gentle as she'd been. He'd just throw her over his shoulder and walk, that would work well. And he most certainly wouldn't kiss her.
Even if he had kind of enjoyed-
...The... look... on her face... when he showed her he was awake. Yes. That. He most certainly hadn't enjoyed the rather sweet and loving way she'd pressed her lips lightly against his forehead.
In fact, the 'sweet and loving' part must have been imagined, because there was nothing sweet or loving about that girl. She was cold, hard, and stubborn, like a rock. He didn't believe she was capable of being sweet.
Forcing these thoughts out of his mind, Puck walked into the grand hall to have lunch, deciding that his confusion was a result of too little food and too much banging on the head, as well as the infuriating tendency of females to complicate things.
"Father," Jonas said, approaching his rather hungover parent cautiously- he knew how much it hurt his father's head if he walked to heavily when he was in a state like this.
They were in his father's simple bedroom after lunch- or Jonas' lunch. Arthenius didn't appear to have moved since he stumbled into bed the night before (morning, technically).
"What is it?" Arthenius moaned, rolling over in bed to look, bleary-eyed, at his son. "And don't talk so loud."
Jonas dropped his voice to the lowest possible whisper, handing his father a drink as he said, "I wanted to talk to you. About something important. I can wait, though. If you're not feeling well."
Arthenius chugged the drink incredibly quickly and said, "No, no, now is as good as any time."
"All right," Jonas said, refilling his father's cup. "I was wondering if... Would you mind... Would it be all right... Can I... Can I leave? With the progress?"
"What?" Arthenius demanded loudly, sitting up straight and then clutching his head with a moan, spilling his drink.
Jonas placed his pitcher on the floor, picked up the fallen cup, took out the rag he'd brought in case of just this situation, and began cleaning up his father's mess. "You know I'm not happy here," Jonas said quietly. "And I hate to leave you alone here, Father, but... I went to learn from Sabrina today, and... it was amazing, Father! The things she can do! I want to learn to do them. And I'll never learn to do that here. I'll never even really fit here. So I want to go somewhere that I might fit." Having finished cleaning up, he refilled his father's drink and handed it to him.
Arthenius sighed and said, "All right. Go. And be happy. I'll miss you, though. You're as amazing a nurse as your mother."
Jonas gave a lopsided smile to his father, a little embarrassed. "I'll write."
"You know they're going to hate you for this," Arthenius cautioned him, wiping his mouth after another chug of his water. "They'll call you a deserter, a betrayer, for going over to Sneak."
Jonas shrugged and said, "I know. Besides," he smiled again. "I rather like the sound of that. Jonas the Betrayer."
Arthenius chuckled and said, "You really are your father's son."
Jonas walked out with a smile.
Sabrina trained Jonas more after her tour in the afternoon and dinner that evening, back in the rose garden. He was incredibly good at this for someone born in Trickster, and very driven. She found she enjoyed working with him- though the way he seemed to idolize her was a a bit awkward.
Her two-week stay in the Wrong Side of the Tracks followed the pattern of that first day, actually. She would get up and have breakfast on her own (she didn't make the mistake of skipping it again), afterwards she would have lunch and get to know the area and the Tricksters there some more, she would have dinner, and she would train Jonas privately.
The number of people and apes varied by the day. Once in a while she'd get a girl who would come to learn, a tomboy Trickster girl, and some boys and men never came back after she showed them up in some way, but she generally had between twenty and thirty humans in her class, as well as however many apes could be spared. She found she enjoyed teaching them for the most part. It was a good way to relieve stress as well as improve Trickster-Sneak relations.
She didn't spend much time with Puck over the course of this two weeks, thankfully. And the time she did spend with him was usually with other people, though even on the rare occasion that they were alone, he made no mention of the incident. Gradually, her awkwardness around him diminished, though her heart still beat more quickly than usual when he appeared. She put this down to anxiousness, ignoring the possibility that it could be something else entirely.
When they left the Wrong Side of the Tracks, heading south, Sabrina's lessons continued somehow. She hadn't expected them to. In fact, she'd expected that most of the people who came with her would be downright grateful for an excuse to stop doing something that bordered on work.
But when they spent their next travel-free day stopped on the far side of the Tracks (Sabrina had crossed in the center of the land bridge and the progress, just in case) and Sabrina had started to do her own stretches off by herself, several guards, and a few others, as well as Puck, showed up, stretching alongside her.
She had to throw a lesson together that day, because she'd been completely unprepared to teach anyone anything. But she did reasonably well, all things considered, and she found her lessons continuing as the progress did.
Jonas came with them when they left. Sabrina hadn't expected that, either, because nobody had joined them from any other part of Trickster. She enjoyed his company, though. He was more like a Sneak than a Trickster, and it was nice to have someone around who understood her, sometimes. Other times he got a bit irritating, like the younger brother she should have had.
They made their way through the rest of Trickster with no further life-threatening incidents or major changes. Puck seemed to be learning as much about his kingdom as Sabrina was, though the people they met tended to like him better. Each subsect of Trickster had different customs or beliefs, and Puck took them all in calmly. It was fascinating, the way that he got along with these people. Sabrina rather thought that, if he had someone who supported him instead of belittling him to rule alongside, he might even be a decent, understanding king. For this country. She wanted him to stay out of her own land.
In fact, she was seeing a great deal about the Trickster King that she wouldn't have expected. About Tricksters in general. They all seemed to be far smarter than she'd originally surmised, particularly their king. She supposed that pranks such as theirs required working brains. They were just... misguided. And they liked it that way. She didn't understand, but she felt that if they could put their pranks to the defense of their kingdom, they would be in excellent shape. In fact, she ought to consider that for in case Daphne failed.
They returned to Trickster's capital late in the fall, right before the first snow fell. Sabrina hoped sincerely that she wouldn't be stuck in Trickster for another winter.
Her hope was answered.
Titania decided that it was worth the risk to send her elder son and his fiance back to Sneak, most likely using some Magician trick to discern whether there would be a blizzard. Sabrina and Puck were sent with a small retinue, mostly made up of Sabrina's students and Jonas, to the nearest port, in early December.
Most of the ship's captains were wary of traveling in the beginning of winter, when the seas got stormy, but the purse Titania had sent with Sabrina convinced them.
The journey was incredibly tumultuous. Sabrina was seasick quite a bit, although she normally wasn't prone to it. She took pleasure in the fact that Puck, who still hadn't ceased attempting and failing to sneak up on her, was sick more than she was.
Jonas was completely at ease, and Sabrina pinned it down to his father's blood running through his veins, even as she looked at his cheeful face with disgust and muttered, "I hate you."
They arrived in Sneak, boat still intact, at the start of the new year. Snow and several guards were waiting for them, despite the fact that Sabrina hadn't sent them a message about her arrival- hadn't even known exactly when she would be there.
"It's fantastic!" Jonas exclaimed, looking out at the city beyond the docks, leaning up against the railing at the ship's bow.
Sabrina, next to him, smiled at the organized chaos that was her city, the dark, shadowy mass of buildings on top of buildings inside of caves, and breathed in deeply, the mix of earth and salt hitting her nostrils in a way it hadn't in over a year. "It's good to be home," she said with a smile.
"What a mess," Puck, almost suddenly on her other side, muttered.
Sabrina refused to be riled up and said, "Still didn't sneak. Besides," she smiled at him, "Your city isn't much better."
"My city is a thousand times better!" Puck protested.
"No it's not," Jonas said breathlessly. "This is the kind of place you could get lost for weeks. Trickster has signs all over the place."
"And none of them point in the right direction," Sabrina muttered.
"Still," Jonas said, "How many signs does Sneak have?"
"That depends on what kind of signs you're talking about," Sabrina said. "In English? Almost none. But in code? Plenty."
"Code?" Jonas asked. "Will you teach me?"
Sabrina smiled and said, "Well, you'd be better with my sister for that. But I guess so."
"Excellent!" Jonas exclaimed. "I can't wait!"
They had reached the dock by now, and the bridge to it had been lowered. Sabrina ran down the planks and into Snow's arms, holding in a squeal. Snow might be nice sometimes, but she was older than that now. It wouldn't be good for her kingdom if their queen broke down in a girlish fit right when she got home. They'd be afraid Trickster had changed her.
Snow hugged her back just as hard, not even staggering as the weight of a fifteen year old queen slammed into her. "We've missed you," she whispered into Sabrina's ear. "And there are some things you need to hear."
"Like what?" Sabrina whispered back.
"Not now," Snow muttered.
Sabrina nodded and pulled back. The two boys had left the ship too, and were standing behind her while all around them things were unloaded.
"Snow," Sabrina said, "This is His Majesty Puck, the Trickster King, and Jonas the Betrayer, heir to the stewardship of the Wrong Side of the Tracks." Jonas had told her his new nickname and she'd found it incredibly amusing, but used it to humor him. "Boys, this is Snow White, one of the best warriors in the world, and head trainer of combat in Sneak."
Snow curtsied to the two young men, and they bowed back- Sabrina was surprised that Puck bowed at all, so she didn't mind that it was barely more than a deep nod.
"We have a carriage off the docks," Snow said, "Will you be interested in it, Sabrina?"
Sabrina sighed. "I ought to, oughtn't I?"
Snow looked Sabrina up and down, taking in her simple dress, braided hair, and sturdy, soft boots. "Well, I suppose you ought, but..."
Sabrina looked pitifully at Snow. Puck sniggered behind her, and Sabrina dropped the pitiful look to make an irritated face. She knew she wasn't particularly good at being adorable. Daphne, with her big brown eyes, was much better at it.
"Go ahead and run," Snow said with an exasperated sigh. "Your grandmother won't like it, though."
Sabrina waved at Snow, acknowledging that comment, already running. She leapt across the uneven boards of the docks onto the street, waving at the man on top of the carriage with a smile, heading back into the city. She wove between the buildings, looking at how much had changed and how much had stayed the same, gleefully noting that she still remembered her way around. She didn't take any detours, because now wasn't the time, but it was still full dark when she reached the palace, sliding through a gap at the base of the Wall to enter the courtyard.
"You're late," Snow noted.
Sabrina, panting heavily, knew she shouldn't be surprised that Snow was standing right in front of her entrance- it was her favorite, after all- but she was too tired to pretend she wasn't. She leaned down, hands on her knees, concentrating on breathing until she could say, "I'm out of practice."
"I could tell," Snow said dryly. "Otherwise you'd have remembered to walk before you cramped."
Sabrina made a face. She had forgotten. She stood up straight, holding in a groan, and began to pace, arms over her head.
"Much better," Snow said, sounding satisfied.
"So," Sabrina asked, still breathing heavily, "What did you need to tell me?"
Snow shook her head. "Not me. Your grandmother."
Sabrina made a face. "Does that mean-"
"No, I won't tell you anything," Snow said.
Sabrina sighed. "Of course not." She looked up at the palace and asked, "Is she very upset with me?"
"I wouldn't know," Snow said, "I've been waiting for you. But I'd guess she's more disappointed. The rest of us have been here for nearly an hour."
"Oh," Sabrina said softly.
"You know," Snow said, "The point of a shortcut is that it's supposed to be faster."
"Yes, well, I'm... out of practice," Sabrina said.
Snow chuckled and said, "Well, you'll do better next time. Are you done stretching?"
Sabrina, who could now breathe normally again, nodded.
"Well, shall we go in, then?" Snow asked. "Your grandmother was waiting for you to begin dinner. And they've been waiting for quite some time."
Sabrina took a deep breath, straightened her skirt, and nodded. She stepped forward, towards the castle.
"Wait!" Snow said, grabbing her shoulder and pulling her back suddenly.
"What is it?" Sabrina asked.
Snow grabbed Sabrina's hair gently, and unbraided it, her fingers moving deftly through the strands, finger-combing it flat. Sabrina relaxed as the woman's hands worked, the gesture reminding her of Daphne. She would only let a few people touch her hair, and Snow was one of them. After Snow finished with the young queen's hair, she straightened her dress and brushed her down.
"There you go," Snow said, satisfaction evident in her voice as she stood in front of Sabrina, holding her at arm's length by the shoulders. "You're not stellar, but you're presentable now."
"Thank you," Sabrina said, and she meant it. She wanted to make the best possible impression on her grandmother, even if she was late. She'd been gone for a year, and she wanted to prove she was still as good a Sneak as she'd been when she left, not affected badly by her time in Trickster.
"You should wear your hair down more often," Snow said thoughtfully, looking Sabrina up and down closely. "It looks very nice."
"I'd like to," Sabrina said, hoping the darkness masked her happy flush- she thought the same thing herself, when she allowed time for frivolous thoughts like that- "but it's so very impractical. It's much more useful when I have it braided."
Snow laughed and said, "Not everything has to be useful, you know. Sometimes you can do things just to enjoy them."
"I know," Sabrina said, "But... what would everyone think if I started dressing just for looks?"
"They'd think 'my, what a beautiful young woman'," Snow said with a smile.
Sabrina's fading blush returned with a vengeance, and she muttered, "No they wouldn't. They'd think I was going soft on them." She began walking forward again.
"You know, beauty can be a tool, too," Snow said, seemingly offhandedly after walking alongside her for a few seconds. "You can use it to your advantage, as an extra edge to turn people's opinions in your favor. It's sad, but true- people like the beautiful more than the ugly."
"But I don't want to be that kind of woman," Sabrina protested. "A temptress? It seems like... like I'm cheating, somehow. Relying on things other than skill. And what happens when I get old?"
"Not a temptress," Snow corrected, "Nothing that overt. Just... making use of all the tools you have available to you."
"I don't know..." Sabrina said doubtfully.
"Sabrina, do I look like a temptress to you?" Snow asked. "Did your mother?"
"Well, no..." Sabrina said doubtfully. While it was true that Snow and her mother were both beautiful women, neither seemed to flaunt it.
"Do you think either of us wake up in the morning looking like we do?" Snow asked.
Truthfully, that was what Sabrina had thought, though the way Snow said it made it seem like a foolish idea. "I suppose not," she said.
"This is what I mean about looks," Snow said with a smile. "Work to look your best without throwing yourself out there."
"All right," Sabrina said doubtfully.
Snow patted Sabrina on the shoulder and said, "Think about it."
Sabrina would think about it. But not now. Now she'd reached the castle doors, and she steeled herself to walk in, to see her grandmother for the first time in over a year.
AN~ This chapter didn't come out at ALL like I was planning. But that's okay. It worked to catch Sabrina up to Daphne in our timeline.
Feature: "It's the year 1835" by MELUVBOOKS
At first it seems like a historical fiction AU, but on closer inspection it's a LOT like this story's setting- though still very different, with a lot more mystery than mine. Sabrina is a commoner with no memory in Puck's kingdom, and she's a spy. When she's sent to the palace, things get complicated. Great storyline, though the way it's told could use a bit of improvement.
A Review Reply:
LeeAndAnna: Thanks so much! I'm trying very hard to keep this from getting too far from the books, because otherwise I might as well write a plain old original story. QotU: That's a pretty good excuse. Don't know why you're keeping valuables in your room though.
me: Glad you like it! I don't think I can fit the ticklish idea in here, though. Puck's never even met Daphne in this story. And Sabrina's all ninja-y. She's not about to let Puck get close enough to tickle her.
sisterlazypants/a nun in disguise: I didn't know you'd converted. Trickster is pretty cool. Sneak is cooler. Scholar is the best. Do you know how many roses I had to look through to find one that looked like the one on the cover AND meant something meaningful? (What's a hard job?) ...I was going to point out how he got his name, but then I realized that was in the chapter I just wrote, and it wasn't published yet.