Title: Some Enchanted Evening
Fandom: Princess Series (Jim C. Hines)
Pairing: Talia Malak-el-Dashat/Rose Gertrude "Gerta" Curtana
Summary: There is a celebration going on in Lorindar and Gerta wants to dance with Talia.
Danielle's lips curved up in a fond smile as she watched Gerta and Jakob dance in the middle of a loose circle formed by some of the people who had gathered in the Palace courtyard for the celebration. Danielle knew from previous occasions that Gerta could dance fairly well, but at four years of age Jakob had yet to begin formal dance lessons so his "dancing" mostly consisted of him squeezing Gerta's hand and making her run around in small circles with him and him occasionally stopping to wave his little arms in the air before he grabbed her hand again.
"He dances better than his father," Talia commented from beside Danielle, drawing the Queen's eyes over to her. "The song is almost over and he hasn't crippled her yet."
Danielle glared at Talia's profile for a moment, but she couldn't keep up the stern expression and ended up smiling a little as she murmured, "Armand's dancing has gotten much better. I mean it's not good, but it's much better," which earned a rare smile from Talia.
Talia's eyes were focused forward on the figures dancing in the center of the circle, and Danielle intended to turn back around and watch as Jakob and Gerta finished their dance, however, she found herself distracted by the soft look that had come across Talia's face as her eyes tracked Gerta's movements.
Talia's limbs were loose and relaxed as she watched Gerta dance and her lips were turned up slightly. Talia wasn't smiling per say as she watched them dance, she was simply … content and the emotion was reflected in the slight upturn of her lips. The light from the torches illuminating the courtyard made Talia's dark eyes seem to shine as she watched Gerta, and as Danielle watched Talia, the thought occurred to her that she had never seen Talia look so peaceful before.
"What?" Talia asked wearily a few seconds later, her fairy gifted senses not missing Danielle's extended look.
"Nothing," Danielle responded, though the amused smile on her face and her laughing eyes belayed her words.
Talia glared at her for a second, but given how amused Danielle looked she was certain that she didn't really want to know what was on the blonde's mind, so after releasing an irritated huff Talia turned her head to watch the end of the dance.
Still smiling, Danielle follow suit, and a minute after they returned their attention to the prince and Gerta the crowd around them erupted in applause and Danielle and Talia brought their hands together, adding to the praise as Jakob bowed to the crowd and Gerta looked down at him, laughing affectionately as the prince played to the crowd.
"She looks beautiful tonight," Danielle commented, not taking her eyes off of her son and her friend even though she was speaking to Talia.
Talia didn't respond to her words immediately, and Danielle was beginning to think that she wouldn't respond at all, but just as she was about to heave a sigh of frustration, Talia murmured, "She looks beautiful every night," and Danielle had to work very hard not to verbalize or otherwise show Talia how sweet she found her response.
Around them, the crowd that had been gathered in a circle to watch Jakob and Gerta began to disperse and break up into couples who began to dance to the bands next song.
"You should ask her to dance," Danielle said to Talia as Armand approached Gerta and Jakob.
Talia made a derisive sound in her throat and muttered, "I don't think so."
"Why not?" Danielle asked challengingly as Armand reached down to lift Jakob up into his arms. "Even though you never do it, you're the best dancer in Lorindar, and you can't tell me that you wouldn't like to take her for a twirl."
"I wouldn't like to take her for a twirl," Talia deadpanned and Danielle rolled her eyes and sighed deeply.
Around the palace Talia had a reputation for being stoic and aloof, but Danielle knew her too well for Talia to get away with her emotionless routine with her. Talia was tough, and she could be aloof and stoic, but she was also caring, fiercely protective, and when it came to Gerta she was a big old softy. Danielle had seen the way Talia's eyes lit up when Gerta walked into a room. She had seen the way Talia blushed and couldn't help but smile when Gerta kissed her cheek or took her hand. Danielle had witnessed how relaxed and happy Talia looked as she stood with Gerta wrapped in her arms, and she knew that though Talia might deny it, that there was a part of her that wanted to sweep Gerta into her arms and dance with her under the stars.
"Fine, you can say it, but I don't believe you," Danielle muttered irritably. "She keeps looking over at you. She wants you to go to her. She wants you to dance with her," Danielle went on, gentling her voice as she turned to look at Talia once more.
Talia sighed softly and looked away from Danielle. Her eyes locked on Gerta again as the redhead spoke with the King and his son, and as if sensing her gaze, Gerta turned her head and met Talia's eyes. There was a longing in Gerta's eyes that tugged at her heart and a great desire to go over to Gerta and wrap her up in her arms came over Talia, but she remained where she was turned her gaze from Gerta back over to Danielle.
"Not everyone in Lorindar is as understanding as you," Talia sad softly. "Two women dancing together … it is just not done."
Relationships between two women or between two men had been common and accepted in Talia's homeland of Arathea, and it had come as quite a shock to her when she realized that this was not the case in Lorindar.
The second month she had lived in the small island nation, she had gone to one of the taverns near the palace, and emboldened by alcohol in the customs of her homeland she had taken the hand of one of the serving girls, and gently kissed the back of her hand before asking the girl if she would care to dance.
Talia had been prepared to be turned down when she had asked, but she hadn't been prepared for the look of complete shock that had come onto the girl's face and the faces of those around her. Once she had recovered from her shock, the serving girl had primly pulled her hand out of Talia's and stuttered, "What kind of girl do you take me for?" before marching away.
Talia had taken her for a pretty, sweet girl that she would have liked to dance with and stared after her trying to determine exactly what she had done to cause offense when a large red-faced man had come up to her and declared, "I think you'd better go now girly. I don't know what it's like where you're from, but our girls aren't like that."
Tipsy as she had been, Talia realized then what her mistake had been, and since then she had been quite careful to keep her attraction to women to herself, at least while in Lorindar.
"Is it not?" Danielle asked, drawing Talia's attention back to her.
Talia looked over at her and frowned. There was a challenging note in Danielle's voice and a determined look in her eyes that made her uneasy. That look usually preceded Danielle doing something both brave and stupid like saving the life of a murderous insane mermaids or making deals with evil fairies for the greater good.
"It is not," Talia confirmed warily.
"We'll see about that," Danielle declared and Talia groaned.
Danielle walked with determination towards where Gerta, Armand and Jakob were standing and when she reached them, she reached out and took Gerta's hand and began to lead her away. Gerta looked mildly confused as Danielle dragged her towards an open patch of the dance floor, but when Danielle stopped walking and lifted her hands, Gerta shrugged and lifted her hands, pressing her palms against Danielle's to allow the Queen of Lorindar to begin to leading her in a dance.
Talia stood with her arms crossed, watching as Danielle and Gerta danced together. They had drawn the attention of many people in the courtyard, but they seemed completely unaware of the attention as they laughed and danced together, carrying on like school girls attending their first barn dance.
"You're not really planning on just standing here are you?"
Talia turned sharply at the sound of King Armand's voice, and then sighed, her shoulders slumping slightly when she saw him looking at her with the same annoying sparkle of amusement in his eyes that Danielle often had.
"I am," Talia responded tersely, looking away from the King to watch his wife and Gerta continue to twirl around the dance floor.
"She's going to make your life very difficult if you do," Armand commented a few seconds later as he shifted Jakob in his arms. "A woman never responds well to being stood up on the dance floor," the King continued knowingly, allowing his eyes to track over to and then hold on Gerta.
Talia breathed in deeply and her back straightened. She was surprised by the King's words. Though she knew that Danielle was aware of the nature of her relationship with Gerta, she had never picked up on any signs to indicate that Armand was aware of it, and it threw her momentarily to hear him speak of it so casually. Despite what the patron in the tavern had said to Talia all those years ago, there were women who loved women and men who loved men in Lorindar, but nobody spoke of it in public, and those Lorindinians who loved as Talia did had learned as she had to keep their romantic lives hidden.
"Your wife is keeping her company," Talia muttered a moment later, watching as Danielle playfully dipped Gerta making the redhead laugh.
"My wife is not the one whose arms she wishes to be in," Armand responded, unfazed by Talia's brusque manner after all of the years they had known each other.
"There are a great many people about," Talia began carefully, finally looking over at Armand again, still uncertain but intrigued by his attitude.
"There are," Armand agreed. "It's a celebration."
"Were I to dance with Gerta it would turn into a spectacle," Talia replied in a flat voice.
Danielle's love for her husband was legendary and her friendship with Gerta widely known. The two of them dancing and giggling like maidens was of no concern to the people gathered in the courtyard. Female friends often danced with each other for fun if there were no male partners available and Danielle and Gerta clearly fell into that category. There was no hint of impropriety involved with the two of them dancing together.
Talia knew that it would be a different story if she and Gerta were to dance together. She had no intention of pawing at Gerta on the dance floor, but she often couldn't help the way she gazed longingly at Gerta, and Gerta was even worse at hiding her feelings for Talia. Talia could hold Gerta the same way Danielle was and follow the same steps, but it would be clear to anyone watching that she and Gerta were not just two friends dancing together, but in fact were two women in love. The smiles that were currently on the spectators faces would turn to frowns, the easy laughter in her air would turn to judgemental whispers, and the celebration would become a scandalous event.
Armand was quiet for a few moments as he considered Talia's words and how best to respond to them.
"My life," Armand began thoughtfully, "and that of my son were saved by True Love's Kiss. I know the great heights to which love can elevate us, and the dark depths to which a lack of it can plunge us. Love is a precious gift. It is the greatest gift. It is a blessed and holy thing, and I would not stand in the way of it … or allow anyone else to," Armand continued, looking over at Talia and holding her eyes when she turned to look at him.
"There are some who will not like this," Talia breathed out, biting down on her bottom lip thoughtfully as her eyes unconsciously cut over to Gerta on the dance floor.
Danielle was right, she did want to take Gerta for a twirl, but she didn't want to make things difficult for Gerta, Danielle or Armand.
"There are always those who resent the happiness of others because they are incapable of it themselves. There are those who like dark clouds on a summer day seek to rain their discontent upon all of us. Many people thought it inappropriate for a prince to marry the poor daughter of a glass-maker but I did not let them keep me from the woman I love and you should not let them keep you from yours," Armand responded. "Go to your woman and dance."
There was a challenge in Armand's words, and as Talia met his eyes steadily, she determined that she would meet it.
"If you'll excuse me Your Grace," Talia said, nodding her head respectfully in Armand's direction. "It seems I have a matter to attend to," she continued, and after reaching out a hand to ruffle Jakob's hair, Talia turned towards the dance floor and then marched onto it.
"Aunt Tala gonna dance?" Jakob asked lifting his head from his father's shoulder so that he could track Talia's movements.
"If she knows what's good for her," Armand replied with a touch of amusement in his voice. "Curtana's fight dirty when they're displeased," he continued shuddering slightly as he remembered the sensation of magically being showered with pee after he had unintentionally given insult to Snow White years before.
Danielle smiled as she saw Talia determinedly making her way through the crowd towards them.
"I told you it would work," she murmured smugly to Gerta, though she suspected that the conversation she had seen Armand having with Talia might have also played in part in Talia's decision to move onto the dance floor.
"Humble as always," Gerta breathed out and Danielle swatted her on the arm before smiling.
"Oh, no," Danielle declared when Talia reached them, not managing to sound even the tiniest bit upset. "I conveniently have to go take care of very important mysterious things I neglected to mention before this," she continued as her eyes sparkled with amusement.
"Subtle," Talia muttered glaring at the Queen though her tone was mild.
Danielle shrugged in response to Talia's words, then winked at Gerta and murmured, "Have fun you two," before disappearing into the crowd in the direction Talia had come from in search of her husband and son.
"People will talk," Talia breathed out as she took Gerta into her arms and they began to move to the music together.
"Let them," Gerta whispered before sighing contently as she rested her forehead against Talia's, reveling in closeness of Talia, in the smell of her, in the sound of her voice, and in the weight of her hands on her hips. "I'm not ashamed of you. I'm not ashamed of us," Gerta continued, pressing her lips to Talia's cheek, heedless of the staring eyes that were on them as they danced. "If my love for you would make a friend turn from me then they are no friend at all and I would be glad to be rid of them."
"I don't want you to have to sacrifice anything," Talia murmured, holding Gerta close.
With her dark skin, Arathean accent and style of dress, and her brooding demeanor, Talia had found herself on the outside since she had arrived in Lorindar. She stood out and though she didn't particularly like it, she had grown used to being looked at and whispered about. She knew the names of everyone who worked at the palace, and she knew many people in the city that lay beyond the walls of the palace as well, but they were not her friends. Danielle and Gerta, and before them Snow and Queen Beatrice, were the only real friends Talia had, so with Danielle and Armand giving her their blessing to publically acknowledge her relationship with Gerta there was no one left whose opinion Talia cared about. However, Gerta with her winsome smile and her friendly demeanor had quickly made friends within the palace and the city beyond and it hurt Talia to think of some of those people turning from Gerta because of her.
"I know," Gerta said softly, "and I love you for it," she continued, melting a little as always when Talia's protective streak reared its lovely head. "You see that guy over there," Gerta went on, nodding her head in the direction of a well-dressed man who was frowning at them and shaking his head. Talia nodded, acknowledging that she'd seen him. "Screw 'im," Gerta declared and Talia smiled. "You see that woman who looks like she just sucked on a Najarin sour fig?" Gerta asked and Talia nodded again. "Screw her too!" Gerta declared and Talia laughed. "Screw 'em all," Gerta pronounced, squeezing Talia's hand tightly. "I don't care what they think. I care about you. Their stares and whispers mean nothing as long as I have you."
"You'll always have me," Talia promised, lifting her hand to stroke Gerta's cheek tenderly. "As long as my heart beats it is yours."
A smile bright enough to rival the sun blossomed on Gerta's face.
"Then screw 'em for always," Gerta whispered as she lifted her hands to cup Talia's face before leaning forward and kissing Talia's lips, completely unconcerned with who was watching or what they were thinking.
When the song ended, Armand and Danielle came up beside Talia and Gerta and Armand clasped Talia on the shoulder as Danielle leaned into Gerta and whispered something to her that made them both laugh. Jakob extended his little hands in Talia's direction and started opening them and closing them as he called out, "Aunt Tala! Aunt Tala!" and Armand handed him over to Talia who easily cradled him in her arms.
As Jakob settled against her, Talia allowed her eyes to scan the faces around them again, and saw that many of the people who had been glaring at her and Gerta as they danced were averting their eyes and shifting uncomfortably, no doubt surprised by the warm reception the royal family had just given to the bold 'undesirables' who had just finished airing their business in front of everyone.
Like most nobles the people gathered in the courtyard were more concerned with appearance than principles and seeing the favor Danielle and Armand paid to Talia and Gerta they were regretting the hostile looks they had given the women and hoping that the King and Queen hadn't noticed. Talia was certain that the people she and Gerta had noticed giving them the dirtiest looks would come over to them and try to strike up conversation some time that night, hoping to undo the damage their judgemental gazes had done and win favor with the royal families friends … which Talia realized, was probably why Danielle had led her family up to herself and Gerta as soon as the song had ended.
The nobles and the cities wealthy set the trends for all of Lorindar, and changing their attitudes was the first step towards changing the rest of the kingdoms attitude towards this matter of the heart.
"You're a shrewd woman," Talia said turning to look at Danielle.
"You're just noticing this now?" Danielle asked smiling, and Talia rolled her eyes at her.
"Aunt Tala!" Jakob said interrupting before Talia could make a no doubt charming response.
"I think he wants a lullaby," Danielle said smiling over at Talia. "He was just informed that it's time for him to go to bed."
"Do you want a lullaby Jakobena?" Talia asked, looking down at the young prince.
Jakob nodded and then yawned mightily before resting his head on Talia's shoulder.
"Mommy too and pretty lights," Jakob murmured, his eyelids fluttering as he attempted to hold off sleep for just a while longer.
"Pretty lights?" Armand asked curiously.
"I think that's where I come in," Gerta responded laughing. "I found a spell that can recreate the night sky on the ceiling of his room. He likes it when I make the stars dance."
"And to think, when I was a little prince all I got was a stuffed dolphin and sea horse mobile," Armand murmured playfully. "A group effort then," he declared a second later, and with that the four adults and little prince headed towards the palace to put Jakob down for the night.
Half an hour later…
Music filtered into the palace hallways through the windows from the courtyard beyond where the celebration was still going strong. Jakob had fallen asleep about ten minutes before and Danielle and Armand left him with his nanny Nicolette and returned the courtyard to resume their royal duty as hosts of the celebration. Gerta and Talia had also left Jakob's room after he had fallen asleep, but Talia refused to go back to the celebration certain that a bunch of sycophantic nobles were waiting for her beyond the palace doors.
"I know it's been a long day," Gerta began as she and Talia walked through the east wing o fthe palace, "but I'm rather in the mood for another dance."
Talia jerked to a stop as Gerta's words reached her and an expression of absolute misery came over her face.
Talia looked to the side towards one of the windows that opened up out onto the courtyard and then turned to look at Gerta again, and an adorably confounded look overtook her features. An impossibly fond look came into Gerta's eyes as she watched Talia, and it took all of her willpower not to laugh happily and kiss Talia on the cheek.
Talia really didn't want to go back to the celebration, but she was considering it because she thought that Gerta wanted to and Talia didn't like to deny Gerta anything if it was within her power to make Gerta's wish – whatever it may have been – come true.
The look of consternation on Talia's face was precious, but Gerta knew that Talia really was conflicted and decided to take pity on her lover and explain her previous comment.
"I meant a more private kind of dance," Gerta explained softly as she reached out and took Talia's hand into hers. "The horizontal kind that you're so deft at executing," she purred suggestively, stroking the back of Talia's hand with her thumb.
"You're always in the mood for that kind of dance," Talia replied lowly.
Her voice was rough with passion and her eyes shone with desire and Gerta felt a shiver of excitement run through her body.
"So are you," Gerta whispered sassily though a blush darkened her fair cheeks.
Her body had already begun to prepare itself for Talia's attentions and being in the middle of a hallway as her nipples tightened and she grew wet between her legs left Gerta feeling a bit exposed.
Talia bit down on her bottom lip and chewed on it for a second and then a low moan escaped from her throat as her arousal burned even brighter.
"This palace is too big," Talia muttered irritably as she looked down the long hallway that would eventually bring them to Gerta's bedroom.
She wanted to feel Gerta's naked skin against her own right that moment and she resented having to wait even for a few minutes to feel Gerta flush against.
Gerta laughed and squeezed Talia's hand, completely understanding where Talia was coming from.
"We better get moving then," Gerta breathed out, her lips curving up in a wicked smile, and then, using their joined hands Gerta tugged Talia into motion and began to lead her towards her room.