Title: A Picture of Tomorrow
Fandom: Wheel of Time
Characters: Moiraine Damodred mainly. A little Lan and Nynaeve thrown in.
Spoilers/Warning: Spoilers up till The Shadow Rising (book 4). Angst.
Summary: Moiraine comes upon Lan talking to Nynaeve after going through the ter'angreal.
Disclaimer: This is purely fictional. I own none of it.

[…]

A/N: Expect a lot of melodrama with a pinch of hysterics and exaggeration. And mistakes. This is the first piece of fanfiction I ever wrote. It was at a time when I knew neither heads nor tails of the fanfiction world and any terminology was alien to me. I still have no idea why WoT inspired me to write but if I had to pinpoint, I guess I would say it was this scene in the fourth book (The Shadow Rising) where Moiraine (my favorite character in the series, incidentally) comes out of the ter'angreal at Tear all shaken, and I was all heart-broken because I thought she was going to die and that was the news she had just received in the ter'angreal (I'm so glad to report that I was terribly mistaken, she wasn't really going to die. But that's what I thought and I was so sad). And then Lan had to go and offer his services to Nynaeve, jeopardizing his bond with Moiraine, and I was so shocked, I literally wanted to slap him! In the book Moiraine never finds out about Lan's travesty, and Nynaeve refuses to accept his services. This fic revolves around the 'what if she had over-heard him talking to Nynaeve' point. I began it in September 2010 or roundabout and finished it just a few days back so if there are any inconsistencies, please forgive me. Now I will end this atrociously long A/N, please commence reading.

A Picture of Tomorrow
"She said "I'll show you a picture, a picture of tomorrow.
There's nothing changing, it's all sorrow."
~ The Libertines — Horrorshow

She had come out of the Great Hold of the Stone of the Tear looking determined, turning her back on Rand and Mat, but she stumbled and let go of saidar that supported her once she was outside the place in an empty corridor where there was no one to see how composed an Aes Sedai should always be. A part of her mind absently wondered why the answers she had received in the Mayene ter'angreal were making her feel numb she had expected them she, who had spent the greater part of the last twenty years looking, thinking, planning towards the Last Battle, the final triumph of Light over Dark she had always expected what her eventual course of action would have to be. But as it turns out, it is quite a different thing, being told dispassionately, blatantly about your death, the manner of it and the time, even if you had been expecting it.

She realized that she was breathing but the air seemed to solidify in her throat, would not get past it to her lungs, yet she was breathing normally; her heart beat steadily but blood thundered in her ears how many beats left? How long till it stopped beating, stopped pumping blood through her body how much longer? Her knees trembled and she reached blindly for support; her hand encountered a cool stone wall and she leaned against it, placing her cheek on its cool smoothness, she closed her eyes against its hard, quiet strength.

"The Wheel weaves as it Wills..." she whispered to herself like a mantra. "The Wheel weaves as it Wills and ... oh, Light!"

Suddenly, the sound of scuffing footsteps and a giggle came from the other end of the corridor; she straightened and when the two servant girls clad in black and gold passed her by, their giggles abruptly ending in high-pitched squeaks and deep, hurried curtsies on spotting her, she was already walking away, head held high, feet steady and steps unhurried her face was as composed and hard as the smooth stone wall she had touched.

She had a lot to do. Maybe she could later try to find from Rand or Mat the answers they got from the ter'angreal, but first she had to check on Egwene, Naynaeve and Elayne, and their preparations for their respective journeys, among other things.

She had turned the corner into the corridor where the three girls had been given quarters when sounds of angry shouting cut through her train of thoughts and she stopped abruptly. The door to the sitting room the girls shared stood open, and against the light spilling out of it were silhouetted the broad back and hard-angled face of

"Lan?" she whispered, and then hissed, vexed with herself. If she hadn't been so deep in thought, she would have known through her bond that Lan was here. You are dwelling too much over a little thing, she told herself. Get a grip on your thoughts!

She took a step forward through the shadows and Nynaeve's face came into view, head held high and eyes serene, talking to Lan, who, she sensed through the bond, was near breaking point; she shook her head and sighed. Another step and she could hear what Nynaeve was saying, although barely, and many words not at all. Her own name made her stop where she was.

"... question Moiraine's decisions, and those of Amyrlin Seat ... misunderstood warders ... swore to accept and obey, among other things ... understand your concern ... more than grateful ... have tasks to perform ... are going ... resign yourself ..."

"Why?" Lan thundered, through an obvious effort to bring himself under control, in response to Nynaeve's calm reply. "For the love of Light, at least tell me why! Tanchico!"

When Nynaeve's answer came, she seemed much more composed than Lan did.

"... Moiraine hasn't told you ... she has her reasons ... must do our tasks ... you must do yours ..."

She saw Lan tremble actually tremble! the sensations through her bond were angry, but there was a determination, too. She wondered what he had decided that he was so determined about. This time he began hesitantly, strangely, and she frowned at his tone.

"You will need someone to help you in Tanchico. Someone to keep a Taraboner street thief from slipping a knife into your back for your purse. Tanchico was that sort of city before the war began, and everything I've heard says it is worse now..." She wondered where he was going with his long preamble about dangers of Tanchico. "... I could ... I could protect you, Nynaeve."

The meaning behind everything, his words, his anger and determination, suddenly came crashing down on her and she gasped, staggering back it was like he had punched her in the gut, all the air went out of her lungs in a sudden expulsion of breath. She could barely hear what Nynaeve was saying in reply.

"... your place ... with Moiraine ..."

"Moiraine," Lan said, and she felt the scorn and the anger his brain directed at her name, felt it through the bond, and it cut through her heart like a jagged knife; even though his voice was low and he struggled with his words, there was no mistaking the tumble of emotions in his thoughts.

"I can ... I must ... Nynaeve, I ... I ..."

She felt his longing when he said Nynaeve's name, it was strong enough to tug at her own heart; she felt the love and care he put in those simple syllables, and a helpless boiling rage at not being able to be more, to do more for her, and a determination to do it, still, whatever it may cost him; and a defiance against all things that kept him from it.

Outside in the corridor she took a deep shuddering breath, and another but there was not enough air, and bands were constricting her chest and another and another she wanted to stop, she was sure they could hear her; any moment Lan would turn and spot her she kept backing away, but he never turned around, never looked over his shoulder, never felt through their bond the deep, harsh pain that wracked her heart and she took another breath and another and another but her head wouldn't stop spinning, his words wouldn't stop echoing in her ears and she turned and ran blindly, not caring who she met, not caring who saw her; she just wanted to run away from there but the corridors were empty and dark and silent, or maybe that was her, she didn't know and there wasn't enough air in the corridors, in the Stone, in Tear, in the whole of the world she ran blindly away, her steps taking her to her own rooms.

She fumbled with the doorknob, her vision blurred as she tried to focus enough to hold it in hands that seemed to have no strength left in them at all warm water splashed on her fingers and dripped down Light, she was crying? She managed to open the door and leaned against it, closing it. She was in her sitting room; candles burned in holders all over the room, filling it with flickering light.

Not safe, not safe, anyone could come to her sitting room, Lan could come any moment. She lurched forward, and the elaborately woven carpet seemed to fly towards her she caught hold of the back of a chair at the last moment, still breathing in short, shallow gasps that made her head feel light. She did not know how many stumbling steps later she reached the door of her bed chamber and closed it behind her, leaving a trail of countless fallen pieces of furniture in the sitting room, behind her.

With utmost concentration she focused on the bolt it kept blurring she supported herself against the door with one hand and brought the other up to slide the bolt in place with slow deliberation, and missed. Water tears splashed down on her hand and on the bolt and it slipped through her fingers again.

It's simple, she told herself; her head felt so light it seemed to float, getting even lighter with every gasping breath she took. Simple, she told herself again, and slowly her fingers tightened around the bolt again, so hard that her knuckles turned white.

Now all you have to do, she told herself, is to slide it shut.

And she slid the bolt to with so much force that part of her forefinger caught in it; she hardly felt the pain. Blood welled up and dribbled down, drop after drop. She rested her forehead on the dark, polished wood of the door and looked at the blood.

So bright, she thought, so red... so alive.

Her tears splashed down on it, washing some of it away, stinging. It welled up again. She heaved another breath, and another, and moved unsteadily towards her bed, every stumbling step an ordeal in concentration. She had to concentrate, she had to, or she would start unraveling like a poorly woven pattern with too many loose threads.

Threads... the carpet has red and blue threads...

—and another step, and another gasping, shuddering breath

The door... is bolted...

—another breath and another step

The blood ... is red...

—she stumbled

so bright, so bright...

She stumbled again and reached out a hand to support herself, clawing at the mattress; blood dripped down her wounded finger on the white linen sheets.

"... so bright ..." she whispered, and her knees finally gave away and she slid down onto the carpet. Someone was sobbing, huge, wrenching sobs, and it was her, and the blood was so bright and red and alive, and there was something wrong with the air, there wasn't enough of it; the blood sparkled like a gem in the candlelight and she sobbed harder than ever.

The sobs lessened after a while and her breathing eased; she was no longer hyperventilating. Even the tears dried up some time after that, she dashed a wrist across her eyes to wipe them away. Blood had dried a deep dark red on her forefinger, but the color looked much more stark on the snowy linen sheets.

I can't heal myself, she thought and a peal of hysterical laughter escaped her lips, only to end in a sob. Light, the pain was almost physical, it hurt so bad that Lan scorned her, that her Lan, her Gaidin was so tired of the bond, the oaths that tied him to her that they revolted him, that he wanted to be free of her company after twenty years, twenty long years of being together day and night, in sickness and health and injury, in battles and chases and so many near-death escapes; how many times had he tended her, and she him? How many times had they just whiled the night away, under the stars, talking about nothing and everything? Did it mean so little to him? Did it mean nothing at all? She remembered the anger she had felt in him, the hatred and revulsion against the bond keeping him from his beloved, against her, and shuddered; tears once more began to flow.

She hadn't known that the bond rankled at him so much, that it chafed him so hard. She had given him the option of releasing him from it once before and he had refused it, vehemently so; so what had changed, now? She had been secure in her knowledge of him, proud fool she! She had thought that he would still remain by her side, as he had all those long years. Her head pillowed on an arm resting on the bed, she traced the patterns of vines and flowers embroidered on her sleeve with the forefinger that wasn't injured. There was a wide wet patch on the white linen sheet where her tears had fallen and been absorbed; it would dry soon, leaving no trace. The vines were silver on blue. The flowers had little pearls sewn in their hearts. Her heart seemed to have little needles stuck into it, hurting, aching, bleeding.

She thought about the answers she had received today. Well, she told herself, he will be free from my cumbersome bond soon enough, free to go to her after my death; Myrelle will see to it. But it hurt even thinking about it. She hated herself for wallowing in self-pity like a sixteen-year-old starry-eyed novice. I don't even love him the way Nynaeve does, she thought. But that did not mean she didn't love him at all.

It took her a while to gather her thoughts enough to make herself get up from the carpet, her legs numb and aching, and open the little cabinet in the back wall of her room to take out a decanter of wine. She had work to do, yes, but first she had to take that sharp, searing edge off of her pain or she wasn't sure she would be able to do anything at all. She had to present a strong front to the world. It was necessary. This was going to be nothing but a small setback in the longer run. Some other time, maybe — if there ever was time — she will think about it, maybe even talk to Lan. But later, not now. Right now it hurt too much, and wine seemed to be the answer, and then she had to go see Thom.

~fin~

A/N: Yes, sorry, another one. This fic has a sequel which I will be uploading shortly, and a third part which is not yet complete but I plan to work on it. I know Moiraine might seem a little OOC in this fic, but imagine getting the news of your death (or not death, just bear with me), being faced with the possibility that your life's work might go to waste and then finding out (second-hand, not even face to face) that the one person who was supposed to share the load and be the companion of your heart and soul (albeit platonic) was willing to let go of twenty years of companionship and selling himself out to a woman he just met (sorry about the strong words, as you can see, I feel rather passionately about this issue) and ready to break the bond that connected you – I think anyone would be more than a little OOC. And Moiraine might be an Aes Sedai with total control over her emotions but that doesn't mean she doesn't have feelings. So if you feel as strongly about it as I do (or even if you don't and just want to berate me for disliking Lan and Nynaeve) please hit the review button just below. I'll be happy in any case. Also, please do check out the sequel! Arrivederci.