Title: Gifts of Warmth
Author: Lady Queenscove/Quatre-sama
Disclaimer: Tortall and its inhabitants belong to Tamora Pierce, and are used with her direct permission.
Jonathan had stayed day and night by his mother’s side, waiting for some appearance of change in her condition. Her fever remained, high enough to make Duke Baird worry—low enough to lengthen the Queen’s suffering, rather than swiftly taking her life.
“Jonathan,” the duke said kindly, “you need not sit here night after night. You are tired. Certainly Lianne would rather see a fresh face when she wakes in the morning—not a pale shadow of a man.” He patted the prince comfortingly and gently pushed him out of the room.
Jon sighed. Baird was right. While worrying was natural, it certainly wasn’t helpful to ruin himself over it. He needed rest. He needed comfort.
His room was silent, and empty. She’s probably taken to sleeping in her own bed, since I’m rarely around, he realized. Since May he had shared his bed with Alanna. It looked large and unsettling without her. He crossed to the door separating their rooms and knocked softly. There was no answer.
He didn’t like the idea of going into her quarters without her permission. It wasn’t a fear of seeing her with another man—he knew that was out of the question. And there was no longer any hesitation to walk in on her dressing or bathing. It was more a matter of her privacy. Alanna had always been a very private person, and she trusted him not to infringe upon that right.
She’s certainly asleep, he thought. If she were awake, she’d certainly let me in. So why should I not go in now? He shook his head and laughed silently. They had been lovers for months—nearly half a year—there was certainly no question as to whether or not he was welcome in her room. He went in.
She was sleeping peacefully, a softer expression on her face than he had ever seen before. Faithful was curled up beside her on the pillow, and blinked twice as Jon approached.
I wouldn’t wake her if I were you, the cat meowed softly. This is the best sleep she’s had in weeks. He stood and stretched, then padded off into Jon’s vacant room.
“Have you been sleeping poorly?” Jon murmured, brushing wisps of red hair off Alanna’s cheek. “You’ve been worried, haven’t you?”
Her bed was half the size of his, but he couldn’t imagine sleeping anywhere else. He undressed quickly and slid under the covers with her, wrapping himself around her tightly. It was as much a spatial concern as an emotional necessity.
“Cold feet,” she murmured with a frown. Yet she clung to him. He could feel her Gift transferring from her fingers to his chest, then working its way down to his frigid toes.
“Better now?” he asked. He used his own Gift to fill the clay bricks with heat. Alanna couldn’t survive from October to March without bricks banked around her bed, keeping her warm.
She nodded sleepily.
“When I am king, I’ll move the capital to Persopolis, if it means you will be happy,” he whispered. “Would you like a sunny life of sand and wind?”
Again she nodded, this time her lips forming a gentle smile. “But I would miss the changing leaves, and the mountains of Trebond.” Her eyes opened finally, revealing the shade of purple that never ceased to amaze Jon.
“You aren’t so easily satisfied, are you?” he smirked.
She grinned back at him. “Coram always says that you wouldn’t recognize me as Trebond unless I was being difficult.”
“As accurate as that is,” Jon whispered, his eyes burning into hers, “I’d rather not think about Coram when I’m alone in bed with you.” He kissed her thoroughly, and she responded in kind.
“I’ve missed you,” she murmured when they finally broke apart.
“Me too.” His voice was gruff, and barely recognizable to his own ears. He caressed her shoulders, relearning the feel of her body. It had been far too long since they had last been together. Her soft noises and the way she pressed against him were an affirmation of his sentiments.
“How is the queen?” Alanna asked softly, fully awake now. She ran her fingers through his hair as his expression darkened.
“Not well. I should be with her.” He felt guilty for leaving her. But he needed Alanna.
“You have a headache,” Alanna said, rather than asked. Jon was bewildered by her healing Gift, but never let her know. He was able to conjure spells she had not even begun to think about, but she could recognize his pain, and heal it.
He nodded, and felt her Gift—cool, this time—ease into his throbbing skull. Her fingers massaged his temples slowly, remnants of magic tingling against his skin.
“If you keep furrowing your eyebrows like that, you’ll have a headache again in no time,” she chided. As grateful as Jon was for Healer Alanna, he didn’t like being treated like a young boy. He brushed her fingers away and returned to his goal—to have his hands on her.
Their lovemaking was passionate, and still it wasn’t enough for Jon. “I need you,” he whispered into the darkness, holding her tightly in his arms. She nuzzled against his neck, saying nothing. He understood—she needed him, too. But Alanna would never say something like that, and right now he needed to hear it.
He pinned her under him and kissed her fiercely. He tried to convey all of his pent-up passion, everything that had been boiling beneath the surface since their separation, since their first night together, since he first realized that he loved her. He wanted to let her know he loved her without frightening her off, since the proper words were not permissible in her presence.
Her fingers tugged at his hair, pulling him impossibly closer. Her breath was ragged against him. “I’ve missed this,” she panted. Her eyes were wet—tears of happiness or frustration? “Are you here all night?”
He nodded, feeling his heart constrict. He’d been thinking of only himself and his family—of course Alanna would be miserable with worry. She always worried about him, even when there was little wrong. He closed his eyes, guilt washing over him.
“Alanna, I have to tell you that I—”
She cut him off, placing her fingers over his lips. “Don’t say it, Jon,” she whispered. “Just don’t say it.” Her eyes revealed deep fear that he hadn’t known she was capable of feeling. Alanna was one of the most courageous people—if not the most courageous person— he knew. Was she that afraid of love?
He studied her carefully. She refused to meet his eyes, burrowing into his shoulder. Her entire body shook against him. Was she afraid of love, or was she afraid of not being loved in return?
Jon shook his head, a wry smile on his face. Only Alanna would confuse him like this. He kissed the top of her head gently. “Look at me,” he commanded, lifting her chin gently; her eyes met his. “You’re freezing. I can’t give you warmth with my Gift, the way you can. So pull it out of me.” He offered his hands to her.
“I could just use my own to warm up,” she frowned.
“Just do it,” he sighed. He knew, whether she admitted it or not, that she was afraid of using her magic for anything but healing. “It’s not like the time you brought me back from the Sweating Sickness—nothing so complex. Just take strands of my Gift and use it inside of you.”
She laced her fingers through his and closed her eyes, and for a brief moment Jon could feel the strange but comfortable feeling of her magic inside him, wrapping around the threads of his own Gift. He loved the intense feeling of her drawing it out of him and into her.
He broke the connection with his Gift the moment it made contact with her body. He watched in silence while Alanna dealt with it. He nose was twitching as though it itched; he tweaked it gently.
“Your magic isn’t cooperating.” She frowned. “It’s like it won’t stay in my arms, but it doesn’t want to leave, either.”
“Really?” Jon feigned innocence.
She opened her eyes and searched his face. “But it’s so alive. And it’s not fading out, the way a warming spell would wither. It’s almost like—” She cut herself off, confusion crossing her face.
“Yes,” Jon agreed. “That’s exactly how I feel. This… this thing between us isn’t withering. And sometimes it’s not cooperating. But it’s always going to be there, and I’m always going to need it.” He kissed her forehead. “Always.”