You can’t tell anyone who I am, Adrienne tells Bedelia over and over, shushes her every time Bedelia slips out a “princess,” until she’s saying “sweetie” enough of the time to keep them kind of out of trouble. Adrienne doesn’t stop to analyze why a pet name works for them. They’re busy, they’re on an epic quest, Bedelia somewhat avoids blabbing, and Adrienne’s identity is sort of a secret.
The first time Adrienne meets Raven she says, “I’m Adrienne Ashe,” like she’s so eager to learn this girl’s name, she forgot to lie.
She was sixteen years old, she tells herself later. Everyone is dumb at sixteen. Well, except for Devin, which will just never be fair. They shared womb space, the least he could do is be equally awkward, and not all well-spoken and self-aware and good at thinking on the spot. It's not fair.
So she’s sixteen, and every eligible man she’s met has been vapid and incompetent, and every female friend she’s made has been amazing and talented and gorgeous. Raven is particularly stunning.
This doesn’t mean she’s into women.
It totally means she’s into women.
It absolutely means she’s into Raven.
There’s a journal, beaten up with bent in corners, traveled miles and miles and miles from a lonely little tower, a page marred with “STUPID PARENTS” in Adrienne’s big chunky sprawl. In another, slightly newer, journal, in the same lettering, a page of Adrienne’s diary reads “STUPID ME.”
When Raven discovers her father has gone missing, long months unseen, Adrienne doesn’t know the same is true of her mother. She doesn’t know until after Angoisse rescues herself, until they’re on the road to Alize and they meet Devin, on his own quest to find an absent family member.
It’s years later when Adrienne meets Raven again, two diplomats sent to negotiate an alliance. Raven’s cool during the talks, hands folded precisely over each other on the dark stained wood of the long table. Adrienne has never been able to maintain her calm in conversation, she’s here because she’s personally acquainted with most of the participants, and because, ultimately, her siblings trust her decisions.
They’ve left days to come to terms and they halt late that night, dispersing to whisper amongst each other or contemplate in silence. Outside, Adrienne breathes in the fresh night air gratefully. She’s ready to head to sleep when long fingers wrap around her wrist. She stiffens for a moment, ready to twist away or grab a finger and yank, when she recognizes a smile that’s haunted her dreams for years.
“Hello, knight,” Raven says.
“Hello, pirate queen,” Adrienne says, and watches Raven’s smile slide into a smirk.
“Would you want to come back to my quarters with me? Catch up and tell me of your quests? I’ve heard tales of your exploits, but I’m not sure the details match up with the girl I once knew who slammed face first into a ship's mast.”
Adrienne hopes the shadows and her dark complexion hide the deep flush she can feel warming her cheeks. She nods and turns her hand in Raven’s grip until she can wind their fingers together.
They end up sitting cross legged on Raven’s bed, sheets bunched up underneath them while their knees touch. Raven fetches them a tea set and rests it upon her bedside table. Adrienne lets the steam from the two cups of chamomile draw her eyes whenever watching Raven’s animated face gets to be too much. Despite what Raven said about wanting to hear after Adrienne’s life, they spend a long while discussing Raven’s crew after Adrienne asks a simple query. Adrienne’s glad to hear that Raven’s kept good company, that she’s not lonely in a tower or surrounded by people who want her to be anything besides what she is.
“You obviously made the right decision with an all female crew,” Adrienne says. “Jayla would never let you fire cannons on deck.” Raven guffaws at that. “Though don’t think I didn’t notice how much more time you spend describing Ximena and Sunshine. Does the captain play favorites?”
“Of course not!” Raven says, faux-indignant. “Every crew member is important. Some are just—easier— to talk about than others.”
“You mean more important.”
“No,” Raven shakes her head. “Just,” her fingertips brush Adrienne’s forearms as she gestures. “More exciting, maybe a little. My first mate Katie, for example, is indispensable, but she’s hard to describe in words.” Raven shakes Adrienne’s arms a bit with her frustration. “She has such a sense of presence, it’s hard to say. You should meet them.”
“Yeah,” Adrienne breathes. “When would that happen?”
“When we make it happen.” Raven purses her lips in a frown. “If you want to make it happen.”
The silence stretches for a moment as Adrienne fails to fill it. She breaks it though, or Raven makes her break it, when she brings her thumb up to brush against the hinge of Adrienne’s jaw and Adrienne draws in a sharp breath. She can feel the puckered scar tissue that Raven’s tracing, so she’s not surprised when Raven finally fills the silence with a question.
“How did you get this?”
“A minotaur tried to head-butt me.”
Raven stills. “A minotaur,” she says slowly. “Really?”
“I dodged.” Adrienne’s shrug dislodges Raven a bit. “Obviously not completely, but well enough.”
“A minotaur,” Raven repeats. “I didn’t know those still existed. Where did you find one?”
“At the end of a maze.” It’s Adrienne’s turn to smirk. Raven shoves her, but Adrienne catches both her hands. They lace their fingers together as Adrienne continues her story. A few tales later, when their heads start to droop, they lay down. Raven falls asleep with her head pillowed on Adrienne’s shoulder and Adrienne joins her in slumber a few minutes later, halfway through a sentence. In the morning Adrienne has to rush back to her lodging to fix her hair and change her clothes. That night Raven follows Adrienne back to her room. She spends a long time admiring the suit of armor that Bedelia made after Devin dubbed Adrienne a knight of the kingdom.
“The first suit was never the same after it soaked in salt water,” Adrienne says. “And I did grow a bit, over the years.”
Raven looks over at her, trailing her eyes from the top of Adrienne’s head to her toes, and back. “I noticed.”
Adrienne turns her gaze away from Raven’s. “Tomorrow’s the last day of delegations.”
“I know,” Raven says. “Come with me, back to my ship. Meet my crew, set sail with us.”
Adrienne meets Raven’s eyes again. “I can’t. I have to travel back to court after talks conclude.”
“You ‘have to’?” Raven arches a single eyebrow.
Adrienne rolls her eyes, feeling sixteen years old again. “I should. I will.”
“Fair enough, knight.”
Adrienne chews her lower lip for a moment before she blurts out, “I could arrange a leave. In a few months.”
“Tell me when to be in port,” Raven grins.
Adrienne nods, then braces herself, “There’s something else I need to tell you first.”
“Oh?” Raven asks. After she finished inspecting Adrienne’s armor she had sat down, casually, in the only chair in the room. Adrienne stands up from where she’d been perched on the edge of the bed and walks over to her, stopping precisely in the space left when Raven let her knees fall apart in a relaxed sprawl. Raven tips her chin up, keeping her eyes tracking Adrienne’s face. Adrienne leans in to cover Raven’s mouth with her own. Raven tilts her head to push her lips back against Adrienne, molding together in a kiss Adrienne’s been imagining for years.
Adrienne breathes in and out through her nose once, straightens back up, and squares her jaw.
“Are you sure you can’t come with me tomorrow?” Raven asks.
Adrienne doubles over, presses her face into Raven’s shoulder, and laughs and laughs and laughs.