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Not A Night To Be Alone

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The bells woke her. She heard the rustle of long robes in the hallway, the quick steps of a great many women, whispers and breathless laughter. After a while it was quiet again.

She lay in bed, wide awake now, thinking of many things. Eventually, because it was Maidaladan, her thoughts went back to an incident from the day before, and, after weighing it and lying still a while longer, she rose, washed her face, and put on her own long robe with nothing underneath.

She went along the curving hallway and listened at a door where a dim light yet showed. It was Midsummer's Eve, in Gwen Ystrat. She knocked, and when he opened it, she stepped inside.

"Kimberly?" There was shock in his voice. "Are... Are you all right?"

"Yes." She looked up at him, searching for some hint of the strain he must be feeling, but the High King's expression was calm, if a little surprised at her appearance. "As well as anyone can be on this night," she amended. The corners of her mouth turned up in a tiny smirk.

Aileron nodded once, the movement fiercely controlled. "Good," he said. "What you did last night was a very great thing. I am... glad that you have recovered."

"So am I," Kim replied. He had cried, she remembered, and cradled her head in his arms until she woke. "Although I'm sorry to have missed the banquet."

"There wasn't much to miss." Aileron shifted uncomfortably. "The mood was..."

"Wild?" Kim supplied.

A hint of colour appeared in Aileron's cheeks, visible even beneath the thick black beard. "Yes," he answered. "The power of the Goddess is a formidable thing."

"To which not even the High King of Brennin is immune?"

She could be quick in this, even after it all, and he had never been equal to her teasing. He clenched his jaw for a moment before replying, and she could mark the strain in his voice this time. "I may be High King, Seer," Aileron said, "but I am still a man."

"As I am a woman," Kimberly answered. She was many things besides – she was a Seer; she carried another's soul within her, a vellin stone on her wrist and the Baelrath on her hand – but beneath those, beneath everything, she was still Kimberly Ford, and she could be intuitive about these things. "And tonight, I think, you need me as more than your Seer, Aileron." She took a step towards him. "It is not a night to be alone."

His whole body tensed like he was preparing to flee. She watched the muscles in his throat work as he swallowed. His eyes, deep-set and dark, were fixed on hers. "Are you sure?" the High King of Brennin asked. His voice was rough.

"I'm sure," Kim replied, and closed the door.