"Aly! Are you coming or not?" Raoul tried to appear nonchalant while Alanna called down the hallway to her daughter for the third time.
"I ONLY NEED A MINUTE, CAN YOU PLEASE JUST RELAX FOR ONCE IN YOUR LIFE?" Aly's voice was impossibly exasperated, as though being forced to respond to her mother was horrendous torture.
When Alanna mentioned after the council meeting that she was thinking of taking Aly to go shopping in the city, Raoul had offered to walk with them, needing to make some purchases in Corus himself. Kel was off visiting her fellow squires, and he thought he might enjoy the company, and the rare chance to catch up. If he had known it was one of Alanna and Aly's "bad" days he would have kept his mouth shut. Raoul certainly liked his niece; she was bright, funny, and highly enjoyable company on most occasions, but for some reason being around her mother sometimes brought out the demon in her. This, unfortunately, appeared to be one of those times.
Alanna rolled her eyes and threw her hands up. "I'm sorry, lately she takes forever to get ready."
Raoul smiled reassuringly. "No need to rush, I'm just buying a new dagger. As long as we can get out of here before dusk I'll be fine."
Alanna glanced out the window at the high noon sun and grimaced, "I don't know if I can make you any guarantees on that front."
Aly leaned out of her room to shriek, "I can HEAR you! Why must you always hound me, Mother?" before slamming her door shut again.
Alanna took a deep breath in through her nose, and Raoul suspected she was counting to ten in her head.
"She's… awfully hard on you," Raoul said uncertainly.
"It's normal. I certainly don't love it, but it's normal." Alanna gave him a grim smile, "You should hear about the things Lianne says to Thayet when no one else is about."
Raoul considered this. He had no sisters, and he certainly wasn't around if or when there were times his female cousins fought with his aunts. He supposed he could recall a few years in his youth when he was almost constantly frustrated with his father, but never like this. His family was quiet and reserved, sometimes circumspect to a fault. He was hard-pressed to think of an occasion when anyone in his family had ever raised their voice, about anything. In fact, he realized with a smile, at fief Goldenlake he was the hotheaded one.
Alanna fidgeted uncomfortably, and it occurred to him that perhaps she thought he was judging the way she handled her daughter.
"I didn't-" he started, but she cut him off.
"I mean, I hear that it's normal. I didn't have a mother to fight with; I don't have much to compare it to. They say your children are meant to render upon you whatever havoc you wreaked on your parents, so who knows."
"Are you telling me you never argued with your father, you with your hot temper?" He smiled, hoping to draw her into a funny memory and away from an awkward line of conversation.
He realized his gambit had backfired when he saw her face darken.
"No…" she said slowly, "I never argued with my father. He frightened me too much." Her eyes looked far away, lost in thought. She recalled a time when she was very small and had said something rude to him- she had no notion what, probably something she overheard a soldier say- and he beat her with his belt. He never said why, or said anything at all, actually. He just hit her until until backside was bloody, then walked away. She sighed, then said to Raoul, "No, I wasn't inclined to say much to my father, angry or otherwise."
Raoul groped for something to say in response, something kind or reassuring, but his words failed him.
"Anyways, if nothing else, I suppose it's nice to know she's certainly not frightened of me." Alanna offered him a crooked smile that he weakly tried to return. He had never been happier to not have procreated, to never have to navigate the confusing and terrifying balancing act that was raising a child.
Aly choose this moment to reappear, saving Raoul from replying. He noticed that she wore a different gown than before, and that she had changed her hair from a plain plait to some sort of complicated updo.
"Mother, can I get a new gown for the next ball? Like the one you had for the King's birthday, with the split front, but in different colors." Aly's cheerful demeanor had returned, like blue skies after a storm. It was impossible to tell that she had been absolutely raging at her mother only a short time earlier.
"I'm sure we can arrange something. What colors were you thinking?" Alanna's voice was cautiously neutral, and Raoul could tell she was trying to avoid provoking Aly.
Aly's happy chatter underscored their departure from the palace, as she updated her mother on everything from her favorite dress patterns to gossip on people they both knew. Raoul marveled at how something that was so nasty and obnoxious before could be so sweet and effusive now. Alanna caught his eye when Aly began describing a complex political history she was reading. Alanna mouthed "sorry" and rolled her eyes again, but he noticed her face held more than a hint of pride at her daughter's acumen. Maybe children aren't always so awful after all, he thought, content to enjoy the walk, and his charming company.
Author's Note: So this is pretty OOC in the sense that I don't think medieval manners would allow someone to be rude to their parents in front of a guest (I mean, maybe it's not, since Aly was pretty rude to Alanna publicly in TC, but then again it was just hostlers, and servants didn't really count as public back then, so meh, you could argue either way). Mostly I just wanted to set a fic where Alanna contrasts her parenting style to her father's (which I assume was, in turns, utterly dismissive and ruthlessly dictatorial) but you'll have to let me know how I did. I liked the idea in terms of exploring the character (Alanna) but I'm still not certain the story feels quite right, if ya know what I mean. I don't have an editor or a beta or anything, so you'll just have to do it for me, haha.
I'm probably over-thinking it. Sometimes you write stuff and you're like, "Yes, this is exactly how I pictured it" and other times you're just like, "Glerrrg, good enough I guess." Tina Fey calls those "shit nuggets", an apt description in my opinion.
So yeah, feedback would be appreciated (as always). Thanks for reading my little shit nugget! ;)