Disclaimer: Copyright for the world and characters belongs to Tamora Pierce. I do this for fun, and not for profit, and don't make any money off of this. I'm just spinning out a possibility I noticed in The Will of the Empress and seeing where it takes me.

Author's Note: Updates for this will always be sporadic. I do know where the plot is going, and it's sketched out, but I only have part of it actually written so far. I do this for fun, but I'm busy with a tiny person who recently learned to crawl and whose favourite game is "pull the power cord out of Mummy's laptop." Early crawlers are annoying because they are not only into everything sooner than expected, they also don't yet understand what the word "no" means. The little monkey climbed onto the coffee table the other day and nearly gave me a heart attack. Anyway, we're finishing the initial story arc with Briar and Tris here, and while the story will continue to focus on them, we'll be moving into the next arc, focusing a bit more on Sandry, in the next chapter.

Chapter 4: Further Conversations and a Decision

After Briar and Tris had settled their relationship, the days went by, sometimes slowly, but more often swiftly. Tris was still attempting to understand what she needed from Briar now that they were lovers, and Briar, who understood his own mind on the subject better than Tris did, was happily patient while she sorted through matters. In the meantime, the summer weather began to shift into autumn and the concerns about the coming hard winter affected most of them. Briar sold more shakkans to merchants who were passing through earlier than usual, given the weather predictions, and as Tris started selling potions and spells, she found she was selling more winds bound up in knots that she had realized she might. The two of them often travelled out to the lonely area of the coast where they had first spoken of their feelings so Tris could collect winds and Briar could convince the plants on the cliffs to wind their roots deep to help limit erosion during the winter.

With the start of autumn came rumours of unrest in Namorn, which worried Sandry. News from her cousin Ambros and his family was sporadic, and their letters rarely mentioned the shifting politics of the Namornese court. What little word trickled down from the north was not encouraging. The ordinary people were angry about the war and about their limited rights. Ambros' reforms in the Assembly had only heightened hope for further change. As it was slow to come, as change often was in that country, more and more people wanted to force the empress' hand. Daja received several letters from the family she had stayed with on her first visit to Namorn, the Bancanors, and while they were safe—their city was not as angry as the capital—they were concerned about what might happen.

Daja could do nothing from where she was. Stalwartly not thinking of other friends who might be closer to the problem, she focused on her student, who was still occasionally blowing things up. She had work to do, and her work had always helped centre her when times were difficult. This was no different.

One afternoon, Tris finally decided she needed to talk to someone about a topic that still made her feel uncertain. She showed up at the castle and asked if Sandry was available for a trip to the market. Sandry, sensing that Tris needed something that she couldn't voice in front of the servants, set aside her work and the two headed out for the marketplace on foot.

The problem that Tris laid out for Sandry did not surprise her. Briar and Tris were still moving very slowly in their relationship, and Tris didn't know how to move things forward, or even if she was ready for that.

"I just—if he's impatient, I'm not seeing a hint of it," said Tris awkwardly. "And I'm not sure what to say or do." She blushed.

Sandry smiled, trying to find the best words to use."I'll agree with you about the impatience. When he's talked to me about you two, it's mostly about how he can make things easier for you. I never get anything from him about being impatient or unhappy. If anything, I've never seen him happier. Not since he came back from the war." Sandry's brow furrowed. "How do you feel about it?"

"About us? More certain than I've been about anything," Tris replied, fiddling with the handle of the basket she carried. "But about the physical part of it, I'm less certain. Kissing is lovely, but...it's just so new."

Sandry's eyebrows went up. "You've never gone further than a kiss?" she asked. "Not with Briar, but with anyone else?"

"Well, no. Have you?" Tris asked, wanting to kick herself for asking, but hoping for some words of experience.

Sandry laughed at Tris' discomfort. "Just kissing. I decided I'd best keep myself to myself for now. It was simpler to avoid complications, obviously. Once I find the right man, well, I may not wait, but we'll see. Daja and Briar are the ones with experience."

Tris sighed. "I badly need advice," she admitted. "Daja doesn't like men, so our frames of reference aren't the same, and I can't ask Briar about this. It's embarrassing. I know that he knows how much I know, but I'm not ready to talk about it. Not with him."

Sandry bit her lip, thinking. "I'd say ask Lark, but it'd be like asking Daja. She might have something to say, but it's not really her thing, now is it? Oh, I know! You can talk to Yazmin."

Tris stopped walking and turned to stare in disbelief at her friend. "Your uncle's mistress? I barely know her!"

Sandry raised an eyebrow. "It's either that or talk to Rosethorn," she offered.

Tris blanched. She loved Rosethorn, but the mere thought of talking with the dedicate about this, given who she'd be doing it with, made her want to run and hide. "Then Yazmin it is," she acquiesced.

Sandry agreed wholeheartedly with Tris. She'd rather talk with Yazmin than Rosethorn about sex. Given how fiercely Tris was blushing, she'd probably have to ask the questions for her. "I have to stop by Yazmin's school to give Pasco a lesson," said Sandry. "You could come."

Tris nodded, summoning her courage. "Lead on, then."

Yazmin had just finished a class when they arrived. She greeted Sandry warmly. "Pasco should be in the warded classroom upstairs. He has a new spell to show you. And Trisana, it's good to see you again," she said. "How is business for you?"

Tris shrugged. "It's fine," she replied.

Sandry took charge. "Yazmin, I have a request. Tris needs some advice and I have no experience in the area. Would you be willing to help?"

Yazmin smiled. "This wouldn't have to do with that handsome young man of yours, would it?"

Tris' face was bright red. "Well, yes."

The smile on Yazmin's face grew. "I'd be delighted to help. I have one more class before midday. You two join me and I'll answer any questions you have."

"Both of us?" Sandry asked, knowing that this was inevitable.

"You'll be needing this advice someday, too, my girl," she said. "Kissing may not be everything, but it is important." She winked and disappeared into a nearby classroom.

"Join me and Pasco?" Sandry asked. "You should see what he can do. Lark thinks it's fascinating. I thought of bringing Niko by one of these times. You can tell me if he'd be interested."

[line break]

Tris calmed down a bit while she sat in on Sandry's lesson with Pasco. She was impressed with how patient a teacher Sandry was (she certainly wasn't like that with older students!), and with Pasco's unusual abilities. Niko would be fascinated when he had time to properly focus on a demonstration. Once Pasco's lesson was finished, Yazmin sent a student to fetch them to her private rooms for midday. They sat to eat.

"Pasco's coming along quite well with his magic," said Sandry, helping herself to a salad of late autumn vegetables. "How's his work here?"

Yazmin poured a glass of juice for herself. "Excellent. He works very hard and he's a remarkable dancer. Now, for your questions, Tris."

Tris blushed and stammered. Sandry rolled her eyes and thought, Just tell me what you want to know and I'll ask, if you're so shy.

Sandry asked the first few questions for Tris, until Tris grew brave enough to ask her own. Yazmin answered them very kindly, with prevaricating. She shook her head. "This is convenient—Sandry being able to ask your questions for you. Very strange, though."

"We're used to being in each other's heads," said Tris, less awkward now. "Ever since we were ten."

"All the time?"

"We can block each other out when needed," said Sandry quickly. "That's also useful."

"I'm sure it is," said Yazmin with a wink. "You'll probably be finding it useful soon. Don't rush things, Tris, but don't be afraid to give it a try. Any time you need more advice, feel free to drop by."

"Thank you," said Tris. "I think this will help a lot." She'd known the basic facts, of course, but this was a subject she had always been a little reluctant to read about, particularly when it suddenly became salient to her.

[line break]

Tris and Sandry parted ways after that. Sandry had work to do, so she headed back up to the castle, and Tris went home. She spent some time in her workroom and then went to prepare supper. She was thoughtfully stirring soup when Briar arrived home from a visit to Winding Circle. "They want you to visit there at Air Temple," he said after he dropped a kiss on her cheek.

"About?"

"Something about the coming weather," he said, pulling out bowls and plates to set the table. "They wanted you to investigate it. Feels unusual to them—they're concerned there's mage-work in it, but none of them can reach far enough to see properly."

"I'll go tomorrow. I don't have much preparation work to do here, so I'll have the time It would be nice to see Lark," Tris remarked, thinking. "She might know when Niko gets back."

Briar found the spoons and set them out with the napkins "You miss him?" he asked. He knew the answer, but thought she might like to talk about it.

She smiled. "Of course I do. It's been too long. He wasn't at Lightsbridge while I was studying there. We know each other too well. It would have been strange, me pretending to be someone else."

"I'm afraid I forgot to ask about Niko," he said. "I spent most of the time with Rosethorn and Crane. Winter preparations." With the table set, he leaned against one of the cabinets, watching as Tris finished supper preparations. He admired the intricate network of braids in her hair as it glinted with different shades of magic. It never failed to amaze him, the ways she'd invented to manage her unique powers.

"Habit?" she asked. He always seemed to find himself in Rosethorn's garden when he went to Winding Circle.

"Suppose so. Evvy's happy as an Earth Temple novice. I'm glad for her." He had been a little surprised when Evvy had announced her intentions to join the temple, but it had worked out well for her so far.

Tris lifted the pot off the stove and brought it to the table. She leaned on for a moment after she set it down. "Briar, I wanted to talk with you," she said slowly.

"I'm here," he said, sensing her concern. "What is it?"

Tris ladled out a bowl of soup and handed it to him. "Sit and eat." She dished up a bowl of soup for Daja and herself and set the pot back on the stove.

"That bad?" Briar said with a grin, sliding into his seat. "How was your day?"

She joined him at the table once she had taken the bread out of the warming oven. "I had a talk with Yazmin, the Duke's mistress, earlier today."

Briar took a slice of bread and dipped it into his soup. "Oh, right. Her. She and Sandry are friends, right?"

"It was Sandry's idea," Tris confessed, turning red. "To talk to Yazmin. I had questions."

He caught the thoughts in her mind. Ah, those kinds of questions. And?

I don't know, she thought. I can't—I just can't jump into bed with you. I want to, but I'm too scared. She nervously crumbled her own bread into her soup.

Briar reached out and put a hand over hers. I'm not asking you to. We'll wait as long as you like.

But aren't you getting impatient with me? she asked.

No. I can live without it. But without you? That's different. This is new for both of us. For me, the other times, they didn't mean the same as this will. As it does. If you need time to be more certain, I can, and will, wait, he reassured her. I'd like to get there eventually, but it's not like waiting a bit longer's going to kill me, now, is it? What kind of man would I be if I pushed you into this? Just think what Rosethorn would do to me!

"Thank you, Briar," Tris said, starting to laugh at the image of what Rosethorn might do to him. She looked into her bowl. "What did I do to this? It's all crumbs."

Briar laughed. "Next time, maybe fidget with your napkin. It's less likely to shred." Tris laughed harder, some of her nervous energy dissipating.

Daja entered a few moments later. She glanced at them. "Is this a bad time?" she asked.

"No," said Briar. "We just had a talk, is all. How's that student of yours?"

"Getting better. She only dropped a couple things today." Daja sank with relief onto the bench and grabbed her soup.

[line break]

Later, that evening, Briar knocked on Tris' door. "Come in," she called. She was curled up on her bed with a book.

"Did you want to meditate together tonight?" he asked. "It's no trouble if you'd rather not."

"Oh, of course," she said. "Just a moment. I've nearly finished this essay."

He waited for her to finish reading, and then they settled on her balcony. Some of the climbing vines that covered their house twined around Briar, eager to greet him. They had been delighted when he started meditating up in Tris' room. Briar delved into the earth and the myriad root systems, exploring how the plants were preparing for winter. Tris cast herself on the winds. Briar returned to himself when a thought occurred to him. He waited for Tris to return.

Slowly, she opened her eyes. "Something strange is happening with the weather," she said. "It doesn't feel like magic, exactly, but I'm not sure yet. I'll see what the Air Temple weathermages say." She paused. "What is it?" she asked at the look in Briar's eyes.

"I had a thought," he said. "You're scared because this is so new, and it feels uncertain. How about..."

"How about what?" Tris asked warily.

"We could get married," Briar offered. "That'd solve the problem. You'd be less scared about the whole thing then."

Tris stared at Briar with shock, slightly tinged with outrage, and mingled with relief. "How do you know that?" she demanded.

He tapped his forehead. "I know you, remember? In each other's heads? I just felt what you did about this idea. You're kind of angry at me, but you still like the thought of it."

Tris sighed. "I suppose so. But...what if they don't like it?"

"That's not a problem," Briar argued. "They've already agreed. You know that. Would it help? Would it make this feel less strange? I don't care either way, you know. We're permanent. But my class—marriage doesn't mean the same thing to them as it does to you, and I thought it might help."

Tris thought for a moment. "I think it would," she finally said.

"Then do you want to?" he asked, eyes glinting.

She smiled. "How romantic of you," she teased. "Yes. But can we wait for Niko to come back? I'd like him to be there."

"I'd no more leave him out than I'd leave out Rosethorn," Briar replied, drawing Tris in for a kiss.

[line break]

Niko arrived in Emelan two weeks after Briar's proposal. He came by Number Six Cheeseman Street before going to Winding Circle.

"Is Trisana Chandler in?" he asked the maid.

"Yes, if you'll wait, I'll go fetch her," the maid said, bobbing a curtsey.

Niko paced while he waited for Tris, robes billowing slightly behind him.

"Niko! I'm so glad you're back in Emelan!" Tris said. She was followed into the room by Chime, who loved Niko and flew straight to him.

"Trisana, how are you?" he asked, automatically stroking Chime's head. "I had the most peculiar vision of the future about you." He frowned at her.

She bit her lip. "Just about me?" she guessed, hoping he wasn't about ready to kill her. "Or was there someone else, too?"

"How did you know?" Niko asked.

Tris was about to remind him that it was her life, and while she didn't specialize in his sort of seeing magic, she was technically a seer, even if she could only see the present and some of the past on the winds, when Briar walked into the room. "Niko, hello!" he said. He glanced at Tris. Did you tell him?

I'm working up to it. He saw a vision, she thought tartly.

Wonder what he saw to put him in such a state, Briar thought, unable to keep from grinning.

Niko narrowed his eyes. "Trisana, Briar, what has happened in my absence?"

So they told him, in brief, but in enough detail to answer any of his concerns. "And I would like you to stand in for my father in the ceremony, Niko," said Tris. "If you are willing."

Niko cleared his throat. His eyes were suspiciously bright. "I would be honoured. When is this to take place?"

"Arrangements are all ready," said Briar. "We were thinking tomorrow or the day after. We were just waiting for you to arrive." He grinned at Tris. "Starting to wonder when you were going to show up. I thought you'd get wind of it and somehow turn up the day after we made our decision."

"I thank you," Niko said. "As disconcerting as this is, it would have been more so to have missed your wedding."

[line break]

Briar and Tris were married in a small, quiet ceremony at Winding Circle. Lark, Rosethorn, Crane, Niko, and Frostpine were there, as was Duke Vedris and Yazmin, their students, and of course, Daja and Sandry, who were both beaming with pride. The ceremony itself was quite short, as neither Tris nor Briar wanted an elaborate wedding. After a meal at Discipline, Daja went to spend the evening at the Duke's castle with Sandry to let Briar and Tris have some time to themselves back at the house. She and Sandry had spent the night before the wedding trying to calm Tris' jitters down. Briar had spent the night up at Discipline and chatted with Rosethorn a bit.

"Never thought I'd see you settle down like this, my boy," Rosethorn had said. She looked at him keenly. "I'm glad for you."

"Thanks," he had responded to the woman who was the closest thing he had to a mother. Neither said much more. It wasn't needed.

The Duke had lent Tris and Briar one of his carriages to return them home. It was nearly dark by the time they arrived. Briar thanked the driver and sent him on his way with a few extra coins. Tris was staring at the house. "Does it always loom this much?" she asked.

Briar chuckled. "Only when you're nervous about something else," he said. "Are you all right?"

"Yes," she said. "Nervous, yes, but not terrified. This is just new." She opened the door and went inside. Briar followed. As soon as the door was closed, he pulled her into a deep kiss that had Tris sliding her hands into his hair and holding on tightly.

"Where do you want to be?" he asked after several more moments of heated kissing. "I don't think Daja wants us doing this on her far too expensive hallway carpet."

Tris choked with laughter at the thought. "I think I'd prefer a bed. Yours or mine?"

"We've spent more time in your room," he said, "but mine is closer. Expendience or comfort?"

"Let's go for comfort," said Tris. "I'm still a bit nervous."

"Funnily enough, so am I," said Briar, twining his fingers with hers as they headed for the stairs.

Tris paused to kiss him again. Why? she asked. You've done this before.

Not with you, he replied. And it never meant anything more than fun before. I love you, Tris. This isn't just about fun between us.

She smiled at him, her residual fears vanishing as she felt his emotions through their connection. I love you, too, she said. Now let's go to bed.

Briar kissed her again and then they hurried up the stairs together. He shut the door of her room behind them, and pulled her back into his arms.

[line break]

Author's Note: And we're doing a fade-to-black scene here, because I'm shite at writing sex scenes. Mostly because I can't take them seriously. Everything instantly sounds hilarious when I write it, especially when I try to come up with euphemisms. I don't really know how romance novelists manage it. Assume that things go mostly pretty well, with as little awkwardness as can be expected in this situation, and both parties are happy with the results, and will be experimenting further.