No beta, just my brain. Reviews are welcome and appreciated.

Disclaimer: I'm just borrowing these characters for a while for a jaunt into the lovely world of Fanfic.

Unexpected Grace - Chapter One

It started as it always did with that gentle rocking motion and the lapping sounds of small waves.

Curled in a relaxed ball, she blinked blearily as her eyes opened and shivered with the dampness of the air cooling her skin. The simple tunic she wore was damp from the night. With a gasp, she sat up in complete confusion. The small boat shifted with her weight as she moved too fast, setting it rocking. She grabbed the sides and froze, staying right in the center of the tiny vessel until the movement stilled. Breathing shallowly, she cautiously looked around.

The small boat floated freely, the oar locks empty. She was alone, absolutely and completely alone. Light glinted off the water from a full moon, heavy in the night sky. Inhaling deeper, she smelled the sea, salty and full of life. She could taste that salt as she licked her lips. The boat was floating in a quiet cove, dark with the night. Her eyes scanned upwards seeing cliffs rising around her on three sides in a horseshoe shape. The sea stretched behind her with nothing in sight but open water as far as she could see. High above, the muted stars shone, wheeling overhead. The lapping sound of small waves echoed from the cliffs. The marks of high tide scarred the craggy stone of the cliff.

And then she heard the music, faint and so far away, drifting to her over the water. She closed her eyes and listened, thinking she knew that tune. If she could only concentrate harder, the words would come. Opening her eyes, she scanned the cliff top with a frustrated sigh. There, there was the source of the fading music. On a flat plain at the top of one of the lower cliffs, there was a small structure, lit softly from within, almost a temple of white marble, gleaming dully in the moonlight. She heard faint laughter and voices floating down.

Leaning forward, she dipped her hands into the water on either side of the boat, trying to row closer to that warmth and light streaming from above. But her attempts were futile, moving the boat an infinitesimal amount. She only succeeded in getting herself wetter than she already was with her useless splashing. Giving up in frustration, she drew her knees to her chest, wrapping her arms around them.

She scanned the verandah of the building facing over the cliff and saw a woman step out. The woman moved forward, escaping the light and noise behind her in the building. She looked back over her shoulder as if to make sure she was not followed. Her posture was erect and contained, and her face a pleasant mask of social acceptability. As she walked to the railing, the white tunic she wore trailed over bare feet on the stone surface. She moved with an easy, regal sense of sensuality and elegant grace in her gait. Reaching the barrier, the woman took a drink from the silver goblet she carried in one hand, draining it and put it down on the surface before her.

She stood, still and statuesque, the light of the moon streaming down upon her. The white of her draped tunic was stark in that light but could not match the startling silver-white of the fall of her hair. It caught the light as if tiny stars had nestled in its depths; a seductive glint that invited touch. The glimmer of a belt of golden links around her waist emphasized the gentle curves of hips and breasts. The sleeveless cut of the tunic draped slim, lean shoulders with lightly defined muscle beneath unblemished skin. Sleek thigh and calf peeked from a long slit in the tunic from hip to ankle along her left side. An anklet, a miniature of the links circling her waist, gleamed from where it rested.

The beauty of her face and body was that of a woman well beyond those first years of blooming. This was the beauty of a woman who knew who she was and how to get what she wanted through the force of character and drive. She was a woman not afraid of the world and it showed. Confidence and self-assurance dripped off her like diamonds in that moment, an almost habitual, casual arrogance.

Genetics had been kind, blessing her with classic lines of defined cheekbones, full lips, elegant planes of forehead and cheekbones. Small lines barely etched the corners of her lips and eyes, and the tiniest of frown lines had started to claim their place. Her eyes had the potential for deep warmth but seemed somehow empty, as if life had showed her too much of its shadow side.

The woman reached forward slowly, both hands gripping the railing, shoulder slumping as her face lifted to the moon. The sea blue of her eyes became hidden behind falling eyelids. Her chest rose and fell as she took deep breaths. With a last deep sigh, those eyes opened, showing the despair and loneliness of a deeply hidden vulnerability that few ever saw as her face lost that public mask. She simply stood, a solitary figure as the public persona was swept away in this moment of escape. One hand rose impatiently to brush, what might have been a tear away before it had a chance to escape. That same hand came to rest flat and pressing over her heart in the deep V of the tunic as if to massage an empty ache.

The woman's gaze broke away from that pregnant moon and she pushed away from the railing, straightening her posture as she did, letting go of that support. Looking down, the woman's eyes absently scanned the water as she gathered herself to return to the gathering inside. She caught sight of the lonely figure below adrift in the cove and knew herself seen in an instant of recognition. With a sharp inhale, those sea blue eyes darkened to a stormy shade and burned an icy glare into the face of the woman below, while the mask slammed down into place. Turning quickly, she strode angrily back into the building, the weight of her tunic whipping the air into a vicious wind, the goblet tumbling in its wake to the water below.

The figure below was frozen in place, her heart pounding as the woman disappeared. She barely heard the splash of the goblet as it hit the water not far from her. The beauty she had seen took her breath away and stirred an ache deep in her belly. But the ice of that glare burned into her with a sense of deep desolation. Never had she felt so alone, so unwanted and so very powerless. She knew she was forever exiled and would never be welcome in that place again. The warmth, the music, the laughter would never be hers.

Feelings of the greatest loss and abandonment washed through her. The pain was physically wrenching, drawing her into herself in a protective move. Tears, unnoticed, ran freely as her eyes searched the place where the woman had stood. She stared, hoping, almost praying that she would return. Force of will was not enough as minutes passed and the wind continued to stir the waters around her. Her head dropped to her chest and she knew there was no way to reach that woman. There never would be. This was her fate.

The clouds moved in with a faintest rumble of thunder. As the wind and waves rose around her, she huddled in the bottom of the boat, wrapping herself into a tight protective ball. Strands of wet hair fell over her shoulders as deep brown eyes squeezed shut. She tried to wish herself away, anywhere but here. A single word, slipped out in the quietest of whispers, "Miranda".