Disclaimer: All known entities belong to Ms. Pierce.

A/N: A piece I've thought about for awhile now. This DOES contain spoilers for the series Circle of Magic and Book 4 of the Circle Opens series, Shatterglass. I don't think there are any other spoilers, but sorry I can't recall everything properly. It's been a few years, okay?

I love CoM, Circle Opens and Circle Reforged/WotE/Melting Stones. I haven't read them all for awhile, so I am taking some liberties here. I have no idea how old Keth is, so that part is most definitely AU. Some other parts may be mine/AU as well.

No, this has not been edited by anyone else but me. I apologize for any errors in advance.

Any suggestions/ideas/comments accepted. ^^

-O-

Niko was always the one she looked up to. He'd always be the one she'd love most, besides her foster siblings and the Dedicates in her life she had come to consider as family. Kethlun Warder knew that. It was just something he refused to accept.

It had been about a few weeks or so since their first meeting. On that day, he had created Chime, a living glass dragon. For his stupidity in trying to destroy the beauty, she had shocked him with a bolt of lightning.

In retrospect, he knew she was right. But at the time, it was the scariest moment in his life - apart from his first encounter with lightning. He had felt as though he had been paralyzed. Stupid, maybe. But after months of forcing the feeling of life back into his body, didn't he earn the right to be scared wicked silly? He felt like a little kid again.

And now, they were teacher and student. She was fourteen, he was twenty-two. Such an age difference between them. And yet, she often acted like a woman older than thirty. Sometimes her lessons were those of a woman who had traveled the world and knew about everything.

She had seen so much in the world. So many horrors that he would have wanted to shield her from at so young an age. She had experienced many things he would never know. And some things gave him the shivers. Like the story of the earthquake. In Namorn, Keth's home country, natural disasters like fire were common enough. But pirate invasions and plagues were enough to scare even the hardiest soldiers.

He could see it in her eyes - those beautiful, grey eyes. Unlike her nose, which was too long, and her hair, which was too exotic, especially when coiled in braids and patterned to fit her magic, or so she claimed, her eyes were riveting. Her stare, both sarcastic and angry, was not something he could turn away from. If he only saw her eyes, he'd say she was a beauty. They were powerful and cold. Commanding attention, yet displaying no sign of emotion beyond the calculating brain. From the first time he saw her, he had known she was intelligent. Only a fool would think she was a simpleton. Only an idiot would underestimate her.

He knew he was guilty of both, but he wouldn't make a mistake three times. No matter that her copper-red hair was strange. He didn't bother to consider her age or her body. He loved those steel eyes, even though they held a feeling of experience no young person should have gained.

She often reminded him of the soldiers who came back after years of serving in the field. They were all the same - young in body, old in mind. They all had the similar emotionless, hard eyes and the signature aloof countenance. Or at least, they all tried to maintain an aloof countenance.

Only those like her teacher, mentor and father-figure, Niklaren Goldeye, could really keep up his aloof countenance.

He had seen her type before. But she was different from the soldiers. He couldn't place his finger on it precisely, but he knew she was an odd cat.

She was the close type - the type of girl who rarely spoke unless to cut you with her rapier wit or toss you over with a well-aimed, sarcastic comment. She was the type of girl he'd be scared of under normal circumstances.

And he was frightened by her power. By the gods! Even his own power terrorized his dreams at night. He'd dream of his lightning power devouring him.

He'd dream of her, being swallowed up, consumed, by power. She'd strike him down, reduce everything within reach to rubble.

But it was always her who brought him back. Her eyes, all-seeing; her brilliant, elegantly coiled red hair, copper braids flying around in the wind. Her touch - surprisingly cool and soothing when she wanted to be - as she laid a hand on his arm. That small sign of life had so much to offer. And she rarely did offer it. Except in his dreams, apparently. He smiled ruefully.

It was always her. Even when he joked about her being the cause of his nightmares. Despite his protests that she made him lose sleep because he would wake terrified in the middle of the night. He would never tell her the real reason. And he could never figure out if she knew or if he was more hurt that she didn't press the subject further.

But above all, it would always hurt to see him standing with her. She would always let Niko in. She would always open up to Niko. She would tell him her fears and dreams. She would make him laugh and smile. She would smile and laugh with him, openly speaking about the terrors she had nightmares about.

She always gave Niko the preference he longed to see in her dark, grey eyes. Often, her moods towards him were in a small range, and never passed through what he hoped to see. What he longed to see in her eyes as she looked at him periodically during the day.

Her moods with Niko were the broad range of the human spectrum of emotions. She seemed so real, so human - so normal - with Niko. It made him sigh as his heart jolted with a pang of longing.

That pang, sometimes sparked by jealousy, also came when he saw her with Dema. Demakos Nomasdina, the rich boy. A bag, as her foster-brother would call him. She would give Dema that rare smile of hers. The one that made people stop and stare at her. Really, she did look different with a smile.

Briar Moss, her streetrat foster-brother, was the one who could tease her - and get away with it. He had taught her to fight - both bare-handed and with knives. He had taught her street language: slang words like "kid" for child, (not baby goat), and "bag" for a rich person, (like a noble or wealthy mage). He made her smile and had a deep connection with her. A connection she hadn't closed, even when she had cut off her foster-sisters.

This train of thought brought him to Daja Kisubo. Daja was the steady one of the group, or so she had said. Daja kept them all level-headed and was the only one of the group who believed in letting events play out. Unlike Tris, Daja was content to sit back and watch the game unfold.

The final one was Clehame Sandrilene fa Toren, also known as Sandry. To Keth, being from Namorn, Sandry was always a Clehame, a title she inherited from her mother. Sandry was the empathetic one of the four. When Niko and Briar were busy, Keth knew that Tris turned to Sandry for support.

Even that Dedicate Crane, of whom Keth has heard much, taught Tris. Keth has heard of the rich man who abandoned his family status to become a temple Dedicate. He raises plants and hunts for cures to various diseases. And somehow, as with the rest of the amazing mages at Winding Circle Temple, they all earned her respect and love.

From what she's told him, Keth's teacher loves her friends. She considers them her family, since she has none of her own.

Though she admits that at first she didn't like Dedicate Crane's arrogance, over time, and through studying and working with him, she learned to see him in a different light. This revelation gives Keth hope. But this tidbit, this insight into her private life, is all that he receives.

She does not talk of her original, biological family. At least, not with him.

Between Crane, Niko, and Dedicates Lark and Rosethorn, who ran Discipline Cottage where she has grown up for the past four years, along with Dema and her foster-siblings, her family has been replaced and has increased in size. She has respect and love. She smiles with her new family and she carries her foster siblings around with her, or so she told him once.

But where does that leave him? Keth asks himself.

He never asks her directly. He hints here and there, but she believes him to be in love with Yali, one of the yaskedasi dancers who also lives at Ferouze's Lodge in Khapik.

It was true that, five years before, he had a betrothed in Namorn. But now, after his accident and his travels as a Journeyman, he is sure she waits no more for him. His is worth nothing unless he can master his magic. He is sure he has no one to return to in Namorn.

It is true that he likes Yali. But he knows she entertains for a living. He falls for her friendliness. But he does not love her beyond friendship. He finds her company pleasant and welcomes her conversation as she is so much more intelligent than some of the others. Few in Khapik really talk to him beyond swapping tales and drinking.

But it's in this cold girl, this girl of fire and ice and lightning, that he finds the love he is seeking. He knows his pursuit is in vain. And so he is jealous.

Jealous of her foster siblings. Jealous of her friends at Winding Circle Temple. Jealous of her home in Emelan, so far from his own home in Namorn. And, to his shame and horror, he is completely envious of Dema. She never defers to Keth for advice. It's always Dema. And for a reason he ignores, it irks him.

Hateful of himself, he admits in the dark of night that he also envies Niklaren Goldeye. Niko. The Niko she so admires, trusts and loves. He loathes how she gazes up at the older man's face, her eyes glistening with happiness. Illogical as it is, (and he knows deep down he is not doing Niko justice), he is jealous. He can't control his emotions, though Sythuthan knows he wishes he could! He can not understand why she sees so much in Dema and Niko and so little in himself.

Lakik's teeth! He is a grown man, too!

And now, Tris watches Glaki, Iralima's bastard child. Ira had always spoken well of Glaki. Keth had stayed with the child a few times when she was younger. Ira hadn't trusted Ferouze, so Keth had stayed with the sleeping child to watch her, while Ira worked in the streets late into the night.

Yali also had been fond of the child. Between Keth and Yali, Glaki had been more than looked after. Much as Ira loved her, she had not been fully able to provide for the child.

To Keth, it seemed surprising that anyone could not love Glaki. Well, anyone except Xantha and Poppy, the two most selfish women he had ever met. No one beside the two silly yaskedasi could resist Glaki's charm.

But it had never occurred to Keth that his teacher would take the child.

It was impossible, or at least, had seemed impossible, that she, with her temper and severe disposition, would take the child under her wing. It had seemed a pipe dream that she could be fond of the child. And yet, here she was, gentle and calming. A soothing presence for the child, who was now wrapped around his teacher, sleeping in her lap, thumb in her mouth and head laid on Tris's shoulder, as though it were the most natural thing in the world.

Little Bear, that monstrous dog his teacher had brought with her, lay snuggled up on the floor, paws touching Glaki's back.

Somehow, his teacher provided for the child. She set up a routine for little Glaki and she didn't begrudge anyone her duty. The task she had undertaken was all of her own doing, and she didn't ask for help. Not even from Niko. She only asked for his support.

Keth grumbled at that thought, grinding his teeth. She hadn't asked for his support! A thought hit him, blowing away his anger in one breath.

Somehow, against all odds, the child accepted her.

Glaki accepted his teacher's nurturing hand as she had not accepted his or Yali's. Not even Ira could reach the child as his teacher had done.

He felt ashamed of his jealousy. Glaki was just an innocent little girl. But it made sense, too. Unlike her.

He could not figure out the conundrum known as Trisana Chandler. He could not understand why she would not see him in the same way she seemed to see all these other people. All these others who were not related to her, yet meant something more than he did. He could not fathom that he would be so irrational. But he also could not think she hated him. She was his teacher! Didn't she care?

-O-

The silence enveloped his thoughts as he stood in the doorway.

He had considered knocking. But the scene before him took his breath away.

All thoughts of action deserted him. He was left with a blank mind asking one reverberating question: Why not me?

-O-

Unknown to Keth, Niklaren Goldeye kept a lookout. He wanted to keep a careful eye on Keth. For his own reasons he wouldn't willingly disclose, of course. Keth was not to be aware of Niko's doings.

Certainly, Tris could not be told. No, that would not do at all.

Niko shook his head, unsure of why he was uneasy.

Try as he might, he knew his young mage was doing what was right. She had taken on Glaki fully knowing what her obligations were. And he was too tied up to stop it. All he could do was to wait and support her. As much as he hated it, she was like a daughter to him, he could do little else.

Sighing, he redid his hair, carefully brushing it into a horse tail again, and went back to scrying. Maybe this time he'd find something useful. Just maybe. If not, maybe he'd have something to report to Dema. Something that would take him away from these stupid mages and their book conference on Seeing magic.

Then again, the gods were fickle. He scowled as he stared into the mirror, eyes blank once more.

-O-

Niko was not the only watchful eye on the street. Dema also watched the girl and her charges. Of course, for very different reasons.

Dema knew Keth's power was immense if he could find the one called the Ghost. But he was also worried for Tris. Having to deal with two children – really, how else could one call Keth after his reactions recently? - was such a stressful burden. Dema wanted to help out in any way he could, but the Keepers of Tharios kept him busy. All he could do was drop by occasionally and ask Tris if she needed anything.

Tris, may the All-Seeing bless her, was too smart to be caught. But all the same, Dema felt it his duty to check up on them all and, when occasion demanded it was safe and proper, take Keth away from the weary Tris.

Even if she never voiced her opinions in front of Keth, Dema knew the break was good for her. He just wished she could ask more often. It was good for a man like Keth to have other men to talk to, even if they were strangers on the hunt for a murderer.

Just as it was important for Glaki, poor little child that she was, to have a mother-figure like Tris around, a small voice in his mind said.

Gods! Did he just call Tris a mother?

Dema wondered at himself, before once again concentrating on studying his maps of Tharios and Khapik. Tris was his concern, but so was the Ghost. He needed to get his work done before he could visit the glass-making shop again.

Getting another cup of fruit juice, Dema sat down heavily at his desk. Maybe if he finished early, he could get over to Keth and take him out to dinner. If he was lucky, Tris would let him take her home, too. Wherever that was.

Dema scowled at his cup as he thought of where Tris was staying. Khapik was no place for a lady!

Grimacing, he drained his cup and poured himself some liquor. He needed something stronger if he wished to get through his work today! He pushed all thoughts of Tris, Keth, Glaki and Little bear aside, with the help of some decent wine. Antonou, the owner of the glass shop and Keth's cousin, was a generous man and Tris would not forgive him for thinking little of her. But he knew her magic was running low.

Growling, Dema meditated before once again pursuing his prey on the maps.

The Ghost would be caught soon. He needed to be caught.

-O-

To Keth, only Tris did not watch him closely. She seemed not to care much for people besides those in her family circle. The Dedicates at Winding Circle, her foster siblings, and, of course, Niko, the man who had saved her life.

Keth's perspective changed once he saw her interacting with Dema. That led to all his questions, but he knew, in the back of his mind, he could not blame either Dema or Niko. She was just that type of person who only took a personal interest when someone was helpless, like would do her best to help as much as she was able.

Keth knew Niko and Dema didn't trust him. After all, Niko had made it clear on their first meeting that Tris was like a daughter to him. Of course, Niko was much older than Tris (probably at least thirty years, Keth guessed without thinking much about Niko.)

Niko was a well-known mage – probably the most famous mage of the present century– and had a lot more power than Keth had ever dreamed of seeing in one person.

Dema, on the other hand, had been watching Keth ever since his run-in with the law. Now that Tris had cleared up the little misunderstanding, Dema respected Keth and the two had become fast friends. Not that that had stopped Dema from watching him – it hadn't.

And Keth knew he wasn't scot-free yet. Besides, he needed to clear his name. Catching the Ghost seemed to be the only way to do that.

Keth wasn't sure how, but he knew both Niko and Dema were keeping a close eye on him. It nagged him that his new friend and his teacher's mentor would be so wary of him.

It's all because of Tris! A little voice in his head said.

Stop that! He told it.

Talking to yourself again? The little voice taunted.

No! Shut up! He closed off his mind.

"Keth, are you ready?" she asked.

He jumped, scared, turning around as quickly as his body would allow.

Then he saw her impish smile and her flashing eyes hidden behind her spectacles.

She amazed him. And probably always would.

-O-

There! My first time publishing a Circle fic. I don't know whether or not to try again. ^^