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Devotion

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He keeps things from her.

"Did you want to surprise me?" she asks him lightly. "I don't like surprises." They're still so new together that she doesn't like the idea of being angry around him. Her mother uses wrath judiciously; when Maichen is angry, she feels as though others are using her, because she is conceding to them something she doesn't want to give.

But the issue here isn't what Maichen holds back from Auvry. It's his secrets. Every size of secret, from tiny and new to heavy and old. He doesn't like to present her with his thoughts, only with his conclusions. Not all of his plans; only all of his accomplishments.

She catches him at it, of course. "You shut me out," she says.

"I see," he says. Not I'm sorry, and Maichen's mother's daughter catches herself waiting for that apology, as if there is no other way the sentence will end.

She is not her mother.

("He won't heed you," Allynis Ambrai told her daughter, in the last few dragging, uncomfortable weeks before the engagement was announced. "I won't have a man husbanded to an Ambrai with no respect for our Name." But everyone around Allynis recognised Auvry's devotion for what it was, and that argument failed.)

("I have raised you too obedient," Maichen's mother said, growing more bitter before her concession. "Every daughter must rebel in her own way, and you come to yours late, I suppose.")

Her choices regarding Auvry are not mirror reflections of her choices regarding her mother, either.

And she does come to understand why there is a part of Auvry that he will not share with her. It's not that it belongs to him, and not to her. He loves her with everything he has to give.

But he fears giving all of himself away, and having nothing left to give. He fears coming to the end of his formidable skill and courage more than he fears anything else (far more than Allynis Ambrai's anger, far more than the politics of her court, far more than Maichen's own anger and pettinesses, and she loves him for it).

He is reserved, because always, he must keep something in reserve. He is a man who, having starved, can never again bear to see his cupboard bare.

Reserved against what need? She doesn't ask. She sees the Wraithenbeasts in his eyes.

And yet: she wishes she had all of him for her own, in the present moment, not just some future hour of greatest need.

She does, and doesn't, get her wish.

Auvry is present in the room for the birth of her First Daughter. She has his hand in a bruising grip, but he returns her strength to her. She is whining, despairing, poise stripped from her like polish by the end of it, but he is calm.

And more than calm. From the moment their daughter opens her eyes, he is hers completely. It is something to laugh at, it is something to cry at; it is a tiny miracle adjunct to the miracle of birth. There are so many cliches about the ennobling love that fatherhood brings to a man. She never would have dreamed that they would apply to her Auvry. Watching him watch Glenin, she sees more of him than she has ever before seen.