dedication: to Anna and MaCall.
notes: Thom the Dick-Whisperer is real
notes2: don't look at me like that, you know you wanted this.
title: don't worry, no one needs to know
summary: Let's be alone together. — Delia/Alanna/Alex.
It was like this:
Delia was lovely.
No one had ever contested that. The Prince wrote bad poetry about her eyes. Of course no one had ever contested it. Delia was lovely as the hot late nights in the palace gardens, thick with the sweet perfume of the Queen's favourite flowers. She was lovely as laughter in the afternoon, sunlight off water, snow on the mountains.
And she had Alan of Trebond exactly where she wanted him.
"Alan, why do you never join us? Come dance with me!" Delia laughed. She wore her favourite green dress, that night. The emerald silk rustled when she moved, cut to her body. The Court watched her, the candlelight burning along the chestnut mass of her hair to leave her all in gold.
How could they not? She was exquisite.
And so the Court watched Delia, and Delia watched Alan.
All was as it should be.
She caught his hands, tangled all up in hers, and brought them to her chest. Alan was such a slight thing: his hands were small to match the rest of him, tapered but tight with strength. The calluses on his palms felt strange against her skin.
"Why do you never join us?" she repeated the question. "Why do you always hide?"
"Not because I dislike you, my Lady," Alan said. "My dance masters tell me that I have two left feet."
Delia threw her head back as the laughter hit her in the stomach. "Oh, Alan, you can't possibly be as bad as His Highness!"
Something akin to disgust flashed in his eyes—those eyes, those strange purple witch-eyes that had drawn her in the first place—and he shook his head. "No one's as bad as His Highness, Lady Delia. If you'll excuse me, Sir Myles is beckoning."
Delia wasn't going to let him go that easily. She held onto his hands, and didn't let him go. Panic crossed his face as she tugged him close. Too close to be quite proper, but that was alright. She had to fight a smile.
Poor Alan. He was just so easy to tease.
"Come back to me," she murmured into his ear. She kissed the words there, simple and warm with gratitude.
Alan coloured high in his cheeks. It was a terrible blight upon his complexion; he looked like someone had just dunked him in the pond and he'd come out sputtering, red as he was. It was awful, and it clashed magnificently with his hair.
Delia was charmed despite herself.
She was really going to have to do something about Sir Myles. The man was a drunk, everyone knew that. Delia couldn't have him constantly pulling Alan away to help him to his rooms.
And, really, she couldn't have that.
He was ruining all of her fun!
Delia tossed her hair over her shoulder, one long sweep of curled chestnut silk, and decided then and then that she was going to get Alan of Trebond into bed with her if it was the last thing she did. The Prince was all well and good. He was tall, and he was smitten with her—he could be a good bit of fun. And he was the Prince.
But Alan was stuffy enough that rattling him was going to entertain her for months.
Her mother would be scandalized. Delia of Eldorne, the Lady with Tortall's entire Court right in the palm of her slender white hand—it was a tragic waste. She knew that that was exactly what her mother was likely to say. She could be Queen of the realm. She could be Queen, and instead she was running after some squire?
What are you thinking? I raised you better than this! I raised you to be a Queen!
Delia couldn't quite bring herself to care.
Alan was simply too much fun.
She raised her eyes, and watched as Alan's fire-coloured head wove through the hall to where Sir Myles sat. She watched him until he pulled the man outside, eyes tracking his every movement.
It was only when he was gone that she deigned to return to the other members of court. Alexander of Tirragen looked at her for a moment too long. There was something knowing in his dark, cat-like gaze. She couldn't help but wonder if she wasn't the only one half in the love with the boy—it would make sense. The knowledge was awful, but for now it would have to do.
Delia smiled at him, innocent as poison slipped into a cup of sweet wine.
To be honest, she didn't really want to know anyway.
Alan didn't come back that night.
Delia sighed over it for three days, hands propped beneath her chin as she watched the sky outside turn from blue to white to grey. From behind the glass in the windows of her room, it was a quiet, slow change that she enjoyed far more than she ought.
Winter was coming to Corus. She could taste it in the air—another set of months when the air bit at her cheeks, seeped through the walls, and sunk so deep into her bones that Delia thought she'd never be warm again. Sharing a bed was good to dispel that, but boys were so boring. At least, the ones that paid her attention were boring. Most of them, anyway.
Alexander of Tirragen was not one such boy.
"Really? Alan? I thought you had better taste, Lady Delia," he said.
Delia would have shot him her most withering look if she didn't know that Alex was just as taken with Alan as she was. As it was, she put a finger to her lips and pretended that she had absolutely no idea what he was talking about.
"What do you mean, Sir Alexander?" she asked. It had been a long time since she'd needed to watch what she said—most boys didn't pay attention to what came out of her mouth because they were too busy staring down her dress. Alexander of Tirragen didn't. Alan of Trebond didn't.
It was probably why she liked him so much. One day, Delia knew that her penchant for dangerously intelligent men was going to be her ruin. She reveled in her, because it would be such a sweet slow burn.
"You know exactly what I mean, my Lady. Alan is—" he stopped abruptly and turned. Voices came from inside the castle. The steel at his hip swung, heavy in its sheath.
Once, Delia had mused about what it would feel like to die. She'd thought that perhaps if it was quick, only the swish-thud of a sword across the back of her neck, perhaps it wouldn't hurt. Perhaps it would only sting a bit.
Perhaps she wouldn't feel anything at all.
If only it could be that easy.
The rest of Jonathan's court came from inside like a wave. They unfurled, a messy contingent of pastels and laughter among the slowly-turning red and orange of the trees. Delia looked for her fire-hair boy—he wouldn't be hard to pick out among the mostly dark-haired court, he never was—and found him hovering at the Prince's elbow.
Alan watched the world, and Delia watched Alan. Alexander watched them both, eyes flickering back and forth between them no matter where they were with a terrible curious little smile on his lips. It was like he knew something that Delia didn't—something that mattered, maybe, something huge. Something that maybe would change the entire world, and she hated that look, hated it down to the core of her very soul.
It took conscious effort on Delia's part not to hate him on principle.
But she was so hungry.
Her gait was cheery as she near danced to them, light on her feet. She was honeyed in the mouth but icy in the eyes, and she smiled awfully at Alexander as she slipped her arm into the crook of Alan's.
"Hello, Lady Delia," Alan said on the exhale. He didn't even sound surprised, just exasperated and maybe a little fond. There was a crackling, she thought, just underneath the surface of his face—he was starting to break in the face of her persistence.
Victory was thick and syrup-sweet on her tongue.
"Hello, Alan!" she giggled. He didn't even twitch when she curled her fingers to press into the soft flesh on the inside of his elbow. "Are we going riding?"
"Yes, my Lady," he said, tight-lipped.
"May I ride with you? Moonlight is so lovely," she said.
Alan's eyes flashed resistance, but only for a second. She watched it crumble just as quickly as it had appeared. It was a wonderful thing. "If you wish, my Lady."
Delia clapped her hands, lit up with something akin to real joy. "Thank you, Alan!"
The Prince clenched his jaw a little.
Delia knew the effect she had on men. She knew the effect she had on the Prince, specifically.
She didn't even care.
Because Alan was in her grip, solid as the rock cliffs that she'd grown up climbing. She remembered torn skirts, dirty hands, scraped knees that bled and sometimes scarred. And the way her mother had fussed: Delia, you'll never be a proper lady like this; I don't know what I'm going to do with you, child—
She didn't chew her lip-paint off. It would have been easy to let it get to her. Would have been easy to let it crawl beneath the thin veneer of her skin. It would have eaten her alive, but Delia…
Delia held on to Alan just a little tighter.
And later: with her arms wrapped around his waist and the wind through her hair, her heart near burst right out of her chest. They raced through the palace wood; Alan bent low over his horses' pale mane, Delia clinging to him for dear life. The sun sinking beyond the treeline washed the entire forest in merry blazing red light as bright as Alan's hair.
This was what she'd been looking for.
She had it, now. She did. And not even Mithros could take it away from her—she had Alan. She held on with buried her face in his back, shaking with mirth and barely-constrained joy. Happiness buzzed just behind her lips.
The forest flew past, and Delia laughed and laughed and laughed.
"Jon's going to kill me," Alan said into her mouth. They'd stumbled into his rooms, lips fused, tumbled through the door then to the bed. Her hands had found their way into his hair, twisted in taut to that bright gold-red that had always marked him different. And he was wound so tight, and close, so close.
Just not close enough.
"What he doesn't know can't hurt him, so shut up," Delia breathed. She kissed the words into his ear. "Alan—Alan, your shirt—"
He froze beneath her, hands on her hips. "Uh—"
"Am I really going to have to do this myself, Squire?" she asked.
"No, Delia, I—I mean, Lady Delia, I—the—you—"
"Lady Delia, perhaps you ought to let the Prince's Squire alone," said a bored voice from the entrance of the room. "Or at least have the sense to lock the door."
Delia looked up, one palm splayed over Alan's chest, the other curled into the sheets. Alexander of Tirragen was leaning against the doorframe, hands slipped into the pockets of his breeches.
"Go away, Alexander," Delia snapped. "We're busy."
"Delia, Alan looks terrified," Alexander said. There was absolutely no inflection on his voice, only easy bland conversationalism on his tongue.
"Um, I'm right here," Alan sputtered. He was very red.
"You look terrified," Alexander said again.
Delia narrowed her eyes in his general direction, dark red mouth pulled down into a pout. "Sir Alexander, please leave. Now. We're busy. And close the door."
He did the absolute opposite of what she wanted. Instead of leaving and closing the infernal door behind him, he drifted closer. Delia counted the knives hidden on his person—eight in all—and knew that under those dreamy dark eyes was a killer.
She did not underestimate him.
Alan was burning under her hands. The Black God take Alexander, Delia had more interesting things to get into. Alan's shirt was almost open, almost—
"Alan? Did you get hurt?"
"I—oh, Goddes—" he muttered. "Lady, I—"
"I knew it," Alexander breathed.
The next thing Delia knew, she'd been roughly shoved to the side, Alexander was tugging Alan's pants off, and Alan was squawking rather indignantly.
This had not been how she'd planned her evening.
And then Alan's breeches came off, and everything changed.
"Shut up, Alex," Alan—no, his name couldn't be Alan, because he was—"Shut up!"
"—a girl. I knew it! I knew it!"
If Delia didn't know better, she would have called the manic gleam in Alexander's eyes dangerous. But there was also a fondness there, something bright and sharp that had Delia curling a hand protectively around Alan's shoulder.
He'd taken her riding.
(Delia would not give Alan up to Mithros. She would not give him up to Alexander of Tirragen, of all people.)
"Does it matter?" Delia asked.
They both stared at her.
She dragged her hand across the outside of Alan's thigh gently—he was soft, he was pale, he never took his shirt off, how had she missed it—and raised her eyes. Delia licked her lips and repeated "Does it matter?"
"I—" Alan started.
She pulled Alexander down. She didn't know hatred, not really—she hated circumstance, but she did hate Alexander. He was as hungry as she was. Hungrier, maybe. Alan—whatever her name was—looked between them, purple eyes wide.
"Don't worry," Delia smiled with her teeth. "No one needs to know."