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themis @ 05:14 pm: FIC post (not a challenge response, sorry)
Title: Take a Turn
Author: themis (me! :D)
Rating: PG(-13)
Pairings: Delia/Josiane (also Josiane/Alex, Josiane/Jon)
A/N: It’s ridiculous, the amount of time it took me to finish this damn fic. Thanks to seori and riverflame for their lovely job betaing.
Disclaimer: The world and characters used in this fanfiction are property of Tamora Pierce. Alas, alas.

Ain’t it funny how life can take a turn
When the end is near

- "Amigone", The Goo Goo Dolls

“Beauty,” her mother said, “is an attribute that you will not have to worry about.” She looked coolly over her daughter, as she looked over everything. “At least, not its replication. You will need to learn how to guard it, Josiane. Beauty captures the attention, but unless it is constant, it cannot hold it.” The blue eyes so like Josiane’s own darkened, and looked to something beyond her. “And sometimes even then, that regard will focus on something else. You can get it back, but it is better not to lose it in the first place.”
- - -
Jonathan thinks Josiane is almost more beautiful when she sleeps. Her hair curls around her face and shoulders, tendrils trailing across the bedclothes and down the bare skin that – through a combination of his mother’s wishes, and injuries to his vanity – is currently exposed to his hungry eyes.

He wishes, a little, that he could see her eyes. Her face is beautiful sleeping, but her eyes lend it…something. A depth or an edge not present while she sleeps. Queens, Jonathan knows, need edges and depths.
- - -
I can get him back, she thinks, seeing him walk away from her and towards a group of knights. She barely noticed that she was alone; her eyes were focused so intently on Jonathan’s back. I can get him back.
- - -

“You must always keep your grace,” said the queen, “your poise, your manners, and your rank. Anyone – are you listening, Josiane? – anyone can lose their temper.” Her mother’s smile showed the eventual fate of a noble woman stupid enough to think she could get away with it.

“Anyone can lose their temper, my dear. It takes breeding to keep it.”

She hadn’t been listening that day, but that hardly mattered – she heard it again.

- - -
“You put our ladies to shame, your highness,” whispers Sir Alexander into her ear. “They cannot match you.” It is rather forward of him to be doing this right now, at this moment, especially given his prince’s current show of favor in her direction. But she doesn’t mind; Sir Alexander is oddly intriguing.

“You are very kind,” she murmurs, pretending embarrassment.

“Your skin is like porcelain,” he says. “Your hair like spun gold. Which god granted you the blessing of those eyes?”

He’s lying, but Josiane doesn’t mind. “That would be telling,” she laughs at him, ignoring the absent look in his eyes and the impersonal touch of his never the less perfectly attentive hands and manners. She wonders if he will be like that later too, in bed.

He is, she find out; absent but thoughtful, and considerate but distant. That they are both quiet makes it easier for her to ignore the name – not hers – that escapes his lips. She knows he ignored the one she sighed not long before.
- - -
“Diplomacy,” her mother said as she sat at her graceful wooden desk, “is also essential. It is more than the art of graceful lying, though for a time it may seem otherwise.”

She focused a piercing stare on her daughter. “Learn it, Josiane, and you may survive after all.”
- - -
It would have been nice if she had found love here. But first there had been Jonathan, and that was more what the unlucky sort of mistress must endure than anything. Alex meant nothing to her, just as she had meant nothing to him – that was nice enough, though, and they could ignore each other’s lies easily.

So far her mother has been wrong about diplomacy.
- - -
“Do you miss home?” Delia asks her, another quiet question in their quiet conversation over cups of the brilliantly red tea brought over from the Copper Isles. The tea is jarring, but the daughter of a royal house with a reputation for the…unexpected, Josiane has grown accustomed to harsh details.

Josiane shakes her head. “No, I don’t.” The words sound different when spoken aloud,, somehow. It surprises her.

“That must make things easier,” says the Tortallan. She smiles, her lips, painted a delicate pink, stretching over her teeth. It would appear feral in someone else, but for some reason it does not on Delia’s face. “Many young girls are homesick when they first arrive.”

Josiane is hardly that young, but Delia, she suspects, knows that.

“What do you think of court so far?”

This must be politeness: it could hardly be anything else. But she doubts – she highly doubts – that these questions are not leading somewhere.

Honestly? Josiane wants very badly to say “I hate Tortall and its entire court” but that would never do. And where could she go, really, if she did?

So she settles for, “It is very different.”

“Yes,” Delia says, “I imagine so.”
- - -
“You will have rivals – for anyone’s attention. Only those throwing themselves at the king or his son need concern you.”

Josiane nodded, thinking it a bit rich to hear this coming from her mother. The queen, after all, was a woman who turned a blind eye to the escapades of her husband. Though the king never seemed to discern any interest his wife displayed in other men

“Learn to mix discretion and charisma in dealing with these women, Josiane. They are your enemies.” The Queen of the Copper Isles smiled. “But they may also be your allies.”

- - -
“Your move,” Delia says.

Josiane is aware of this, actually. It seems that so far all the moves have been hers. Oh, Delia has responded, but only to match Josiane, never to make a move of her own, to take this one step more.

One step further is all Josiane needs.
- - -
The Lord of Trebond unnerves Josiane, but she thinks he has that affect – or a similar one – on most of the court. It was some comfort, but not much. She regrets that Trebond is too notable for her to snub when asked to dine or ignore when approached for a dance. His violet stare was much too cold – and it seemed the only cool thing about him. Thom of Trebond looked like he had a perpetual fever.

“So,” he says, sipping chilled wine, “you’re the girl sent to replace my sister in Jonathan’s affections.”

Josiane goes rigid, quite a feat given how stiff she is already.

“I’m told she lasted longer than you did,” he continues. “Won’t it be interesting to see who is picked as queen?”

Josiane was tempted to stalk out, but she didn’t. She was a princess, albeit one unwanted in both her native country and the one into which she had been sent to marry. She was a princess, and he was beneath her.

So her response was more direct. “You and your famous sister are twins, are you not?” He nodded, and she gave him a smile learned from her mother. “Tell me, before I was sent to ‘replace’ your sister, did His Highness try to ease his doubtless aching heart in the comfort of your arms?"

The coldness of his purple eyes took over the rest of his face, leaving the skin pale but for cheeks so bright a red it seemed to be painted on.

She gave him a brittle smile. “No? His loss, I’m sure. Though I suppose it was rather embarrassing for you either way…” She rose, looking coolly down on Thom of Trebond. “Good day, Lord Trebond. I do so enjoy speaking with you.”
- - -
“Your earrings are very lovely, your highness,” said Cythera of Elden, the reigning beauty of the court despite the new arrivals presented to challenge her position. “Don’t you agree, Delia?”

“Oh indeed,” murmured Delia, looking as if she’d to like to stuff the earrings – a heavy mixture of pearls and sapphires – down Cythera’s throat. “They are quite lovely.” She turned a famous pair of green eyes on Josiane. “Would you allow me a closer look, later of course? They are so becoming that I should like a pair for myself.”

“Cythera of Elden!” said someone. “You look prettier every day. Give me the pleasure of a dance?” She flashed a sweet smile on her two companions and a sweeter one on the young man come to sweep her into a waltz.

And that left Delia and Josiane, as alone as it was possible to be in a ballroom this crowded. Delia cast Cythera a glance as Gareth the Younger whirled her away, but Josiane (focused, as she always seemed to be, on Delia) did not.
- - -

The ball, though promised to be shorter than the past five, lasted longer than Josiane was prepared for, and it seemed her popularity had risen with the latest exodus of young women to their country estates. She thought, with some envy, that Delia’s had never waned, that knights and lords had always pestered her for dances.

She’d taken refuge eventually on a deserted balcony, ignoring the chilly bite to the air. Anything, icebergs even, would be better than the suffocating heat of the ballroom. There were light footsteps behind her and the smooth swish of silks. Josiane turned, feeling an entirely different sort of chill sweep over her.

“I was wondering,” said Delia quietly, “if I might have a look at those earrings now.”

“Of course,” said Josiane and reached up to remove them. Delia moved three steps towards her, bringing them close enough to touch. And Josiane...almost did.

But then she didn’t have to, because Delia’s fingers closed around Josiane’s wrist, stopping her fingers’ progress upwards. Delia smiled, almost predatorily. Amazing that she lost not one iota of charm in that undoubtedly dangerous smile. “I wouldn’t want you to loose them in the bushes,” she said, directing a glance to the barren skeletons of trees and potted shrubs.

And then Josiane understood that this evening might end in her taking off more than her earrings for Delia.

But because she needed certainty where she could get it, Josiane ignored the lively ball going on inside and leaned in to kiss Delia.

Delia kissed her back.

Current Mood: anxiousanxious
Current Music: FOTR. Again. *headesk*


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Date:December 3rd, 2007 04:25 am (UTC)
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