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Three Months

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If Thom had actually died, Alanna thinks, she might not have been able to grieve him. The coronation disaster was just too big, too overwhelming, and one more death would have been met with simple glassy exhaustion.

But Thom isn't dead, and that is somehow worse. Duke Baird and the other healers have already moved to Legann, taking with them all the patients who need proper settling-in, like (much to his disgust) Duke Gareth.

Like Thom.

It's been two weeks, and he is still in the same unresponsive state she found him in after, and Jon has taken to hovering around the healers' ward whenever he has a free moment, which does nothing to ease Alanna's mind.

Jon has been treating Thom like something brittle since the coronation. He keeps looking at Alanna with an apology in his eyes, and it doesn't seem to be for Thom's coma, not precisely. Alanna isn't sure she wants to know what Jon feels so guilty for, and in the moments when that apology flickers through Jon's eyes, some twisted compassion (some subtle knowing she won't acknowledge) makes her hope that Thom never wakes to hear it spoken.

But Thom is in Legann now, and Jon is still here in Corus, working himself to the bone trying to get the court moved. Alanna shakes off her maudlin mood and goes to help.

***

Moving the whole court to the summer palace at Legann is difficult, even with most of the nobles back at their home fiefs for the summer. Getting them to leave was the easy part; nobody wanted to stay near the destroyed palace if they could help it.

Alanna doesn't want to stay, either, but she has a duty to the king - to her friend - and as Champion, it's basically her job to deal with any elementals that escape. Not that any have; whatever Jon and Thom did at the coronation seems to have sealed them in the ruins for good.

Alanna's fairly certain that dealing with rogue elementals was not part of the job description for Champion when she signed on.

It shouldn't be this hard, she thinks, to move the court to Legann. The summer palace there has been the favorite of the monarchy for the last century; in King Roald's time, the court moved there regularly, until Queen Lianne became too ill to travel well. The whole court was uprooted then; surely moving the court now would be much the same.

"It's panic," Gary says, when Alanna asks. "Everybody knows that the move has to take place, but it's so sudden and the disaster last month has shaken people. Nobody's at their best right now."

"There is also a lot more that needs to be done," Myles adds, joining them at the table. They are at Myles' townhouse, which he opened up to serve as Jon's temporary headquarters. "With the typical summer move, there's still infrastructure in place back at the winter palace, and with the court staying only a few months at a time, there are actually fewer people needed in the summer palace, as much as it doesn't seem like it."

"It doesn't help that we're trying this on such short notice," Gary continues. "The palace at Legann is in good condition - Lord Imrah wouldn't let it be otherwise - but it does still need to be inspected, and with ordinary summer moves, staff starts moving to the palace months ahead of time. We're doing a rush job as it is."

"When can we go?" Alanna asks. Her fingers are tapping restlessly along the table, she realizes, forcibly stilling them.

Gary and Myles exchange glances. "Next month, probably."

Alanna's lips twist in annoyance, and she glares at the window.

***

It has been a month and a half since the coronation, and Jon is already collecting gray hairs.

Well, to be fair, he was getting some beforehand, Alanna thinks. The disaster, though, has carved deep lines in his face; he doesn't look like someone who's just turned 23.

"We're moving now," Jon snaps, and Alanna tunes into the conversation. Jon has been arguing with seemingly everyone all morning, all manner of staff and council members who have been in and out of the townhouse, reporting delays and counseling caution. A flicker of movement catches Alanna's eye; George is hiding in a recessed doorway, barely concealing his amusement.

Gary sighs and sits back, rubbing his face. "I already asked Raoul to start moving the Own down there," he says. When Jon looks at him, Gary smiles. "You're getting restless. It's ridiculously obvious to anyone who knows you."

Thayet giggles at Jon's outraged look, and he softens. They're good for each other, Alanna thinks, proud that at least one thing is going right this year. They've only known each other for a matter of months, and already Thayet can curb Jon's temper without even doing anything, and Jon and the whole disaster has given Thayet purpose.

Thayet, more than anyone else save perhaps Gary, has been the mind behind the move. She has organized everyone, running around Corus with lists and charisma, arguing away doubts and cajoling people into moving to Legann faster than they otherwise would have. Much of the necessary infrastructure is already in place, thanks to her.

Now Thayet turns to her not-yet-fiance and says, "It's operating on a fraction of the usual staff, and a lot of the infrastructure - like the page training, or most of the clerks - have not yet transferred, but Lord Imrah assures me it is inhabitable."

Jon, rather taken aback by his friends' agreement, nods as regally as he can manage; Alanna nearly falls off her chair laughing at him.

***

Finally being at Legann, away from the mess that is Corus, is wonderful. Alanna had been to the port city once or twice before on errands, and while it was nice enough, it was nothing special. She hadn't realized how much the coronation disaster had ruined Corus for her; the bustle of the busy port, not entirely normal but more business-as-usual than the old capital is, is relaxing.

Well, it's relaxing as long as she stays away from the palace. There's semi-controlled mayhem there, as the court gets settled in, and Alanna has taken to walking the harbor wall just to get away from the madness.

Thayet, perverse creature that she is, is thriving in the chaos, ordering staff about like a general at war. Jon spends half his time gaping at her, nodding occasionally whenever someone looks to him for permission.

"It's funny," Buri says, leaning on the wall next to Alanna. "If you talked to her before this, Thayet would've told you she hated all this palace stuff. All that … busywork." She waves a hand lazily in the direction of the palace.

"Mm."

"She hated the idea of being trapped running a household, even one as grand as a palace. She knew her duty, but she didn't like it, and she always thought of herself more as a warrior, I think."

Alanna looks back towards the palace. "Thayet's managing the move fantastically, though."

Buri snorts. "And it's giving her an identity crisis. She knew she was good at this sort of administration, but…"

"She never realized she liked it."

"No."

Alanna sighs, then looks back out at the harbor. "We're all glad she does, though."

Buri sighs in turn. "Yeah."

***

Two months after the disaster, a scarce two weeks after the move to Legann, Jon kicks Alanna out of the city.

"You. Are. Fidgeting," he says. "You are driving everybody nuts. You're not needed for this, Alanna - " he cuts off her protest with an upraised hand " - and Raoul and the Own are here and can protect me well enough."

Alanna glowers at her king.

Jon sighs, rubbing absently at the burn scars on his wrists. "We're closer to your tribe here than we were at Corus," he offers. "Why don't you go visit them? Reassure them that you are well?"

"And maybe introduce me to them, all proper-like," George suggests from behind her. He lays a hand on Alanna's shoulder.

She transfers her glare to him, but George only grins. "You are fussing," he says knowingly.

Alanna glares a few moments longer for good measure, then relents. "A visit with the Bazhir does sound good," she admits. "I can check up on Kara and Kourrem."

Jon looks ridiculously relieved. Alanna's glare comes back, and George laughs.

***

Traveling with George is fun, and Alanna finds herself unwinding as they ride through the coastal hills and into the desert.

Funny, she hadn't realized she was so tense.

She still feels like she's neglecting her duty at the capital, but she knows Jon and George are right - the move is not really her concern, and she was going a bit stir-crazy, hanging around the new palace with nothing to do as the staff ran around like panicked chickens.

The desert, like always, is beautiful. Sometimes she thinks that out here, her mind expands to fill the horizon, and she feels like something larger than herself. Alanna shares this with George one night, expecting him to laugh, but he just nods and looks thoughtful.

They travel slowly. By the time they reach the Bloody Hawk, they have discussed philosophy, had one serious fight that Alanna prefers not to think about, and have agreed to get married.

Kara and Kourrem - especially Kara - are overjoyed by the news and attempt to arrange a proper Bazhir wedding with all due speed. But George takes them aside and, with a wary glance at Alanna, whispers something to them, and they subside.

There is no more talk of weddings for the rest of their stay, though there is plenty of silly chatter about the attributes of Alanna's intended.

***

September passes quietly among the Bazhir, and Alanna spends most of her time at the shaman school, learning and teaching in turn like all the other shamans present. She is a bit surprised to see that besides Kara, Kourrem, and herself, there are two other girls present, both new apprentices; for once, though, Alanna is quiet, not eager for another round of discussion about tradition. Instead, she sits with one of the new girls and learns a new spell to keep liquids cool even in desert heat from a wandering master. The girl masters it faster than Alanna does, and giggles at the face Alanna makes.

There is a little talk of the disaster in Corus, and Alanna explains, tersely, what happened; the details don't need to be known. Kara and Kourrem, remembering the old shaman and his attempt at a Gate, make the Sign on their chests, and Alanna knows what they are thinking: that could have been this camp, but here there was no Jonathan, no Dominion Jewel, no stone walls to trap the elementals in, just Alanna, who would never have been able to manage what Jon did.

She is thinking again about Jon - brooding again, really - when her fire abruptly turns indigo as a mage opens a speaking spell.

Even after months, it still takes her a moment to place that Gift. With a sigh, Alanna sits up straighter. "Jonathan?"

"Alanna," he says, and his voice at least is still the same, even if his Gift is now corrupted, blended into oddness by that blasted Jewel.

The hesitance is new. "What is it?" she snaps, and Jon lets out a quiet little chuckle.

Hands on her shoulders startle Alanna, and she half-turns to see George, looking grave, staring into the fire. She starts to ask what's wrong, but he shakes his head and nods slightly at the Gift-limned flames.

"Alanna…" Jon says again. And hesitates, again.

"What?" Her patience has never been her strong suit.

"Thom's awake," Jon says finally, and at Alanna's dead silence, George takes over, quietly assuring Jon that they heard and yes, they'll be back soon, in a few days unless the weather goes bad. The speaking spell ends, and the fire goes back to a more normal orange.

Blue and violet make indigo, Alanna thinks numbly, letting herself finally realize what she's known since the coronation.

Thom is going to be devastated, she thinks.

Alanna leans back against George and finally lets herself cry.