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Prompt: 80. Realization
Characters: Aniki, Beka, Kora, Rosto
Words: 1090 (A little long, sorry!)
Rating: PG-13
Contains Terrier spoilers, femmeslash and mentions of pretty extreme violence.




There were times when Aniki had come home with battle wounds that would bring a lesser person to tears, weathering them with only a pained smile and a feeble joke. Now, her face was drawn taunt and her eyes were wet as they raced frantically back and forth from the door to her hands. She had worried her nails past the quick, peeling back the skin, dotting it with small cuts and sores. A flow of distraught Scanran bled from her lips.

"What's she saying?" Beka whispered to Rosto next to her. The two of them and Aniki were penned up in the hallway outside of Beka's room, just waiting for the door to open. "And what exactly happened?"

"She's cursing strong enough to make me blush," he said worriedly. When he continued, a fierce anger coupled with distress coiled in his words. "Kora went out to get some herbs from the Nightmarket as Court was wrapping up. On her way back, only one alley down from here, some cove caught ahold of her. She used some of her Gift to call Aniki and used the rest of what she had to try to get at him, but he must have had something to ward off magic because nothing stuck. He bloodied her up pretty bad without any weapons before he drew a dagger. By the time we got to her, he'd started cutting her out of her dress. He stabbed her when he saw us and said it was a gift for me, to show me how much he appreciated outsiders coming in to take the Rogue's throne. I don't think you want to know what happened to him."

Aniki's sword lay unsheathed where she had dropped it, red liquid beads still clinging to its edges, Rosto's knuckles were turning a brackish purple, and despite her duty to uphold the peace of Corus, Beka felt glad they had taken what vengeance they could. She even wished she could have helped.

Whatever Aniki had done to the man seemed to have tempered her anger for the moment; now she just seemed lost.

She broke from her rumblings in Scanran and said with a voice that seemed much too small for her, "I always thought it would be me."

Rosto broke away from Beka to grab Aniki's elbow and pull her in close. "What?"

"I never thought she'd go before me. I'm the one that's out fighting and getting into any violence. Kora... She's innocent in all of this. She never picked a fight, or even much stood by one. I never, never thought I would be the one mourning." The tears in her blue eyes began to overflow and carve tracks down her cheeks.

Catching her face in his hands, Rosto locked onto her gaze. "She's still alive, so don't mourn yet. The healer thinks she still has a chance and crying over it isn't going to help her any."

Aniki seemed to have barely heard his words. "Is this how she feels? When I come home hurt, is this what it's like for her? The knot in your throat that refuses to leave and only thinking 'please don't let her die,'" her words turned into a rolling plea, "don't let her die, please don't let her die, please don't-"

Breaking from her spot frozen to the floor, Beka moved to lay her hand on the distraught woman's shoulder. "She won't die. Elspeth is one of the best healers in all Corus; the Dogs even use her when someone is hurt too badly for the Kennel healers to handle."

"How can she do this?" Aniki asked desperately. "How doesn't Kora go mad with worry?"

Finding no satisfactory answer, Beka just ran her fingers in soothing circles along the the muscles of Aniki's upper back. The swordswoman closed her eyes as if attempting to anchor herself to some new, kinder place.

Her eyes snapped open immediately when she heard the faintest scritch from the door. A wizened, pale face peeked out from the entryway. Motioning to the tall blonde, the healer said, "She wants to see you. Now, she's still in a bad way, but as soon as she came to she wouldn't stop asking for you. I'll let you see her, but only for a few minutes; I have more healing to do on her yet and she needs rest."

Aniki's hands shook as she followed Elspeth into Beka's room. The healer had managed to draw a curtain around the bed, shielding Kora from view, and once Aniki stepped past it, she knew why. The bed sheets had been stained the color of yew berries, and Kora's body still looked shockingly battered. Aniki reached out a hand to cup the other woman's face, then thought better of it, leaving her fingers hovering a few inches away.

"A touch isn't going to break me, you know," Kora said hoarsely, brown eyes fixing on Aniki from between swollen lids. "Just because I'm hurt doesn't mean I don't want to feel you here."

Unfurling her fingers, Aniki brushed them against the other woman's cheek. She was surprised that despite the purples and blacks dyed into Kora's skin, it still felt the same under her hand.

"I was so worried about you," she said in voice that tried to be strong, but never quite gained the security to become so. "I couldn't stop thinking that I might have missed my last time with you. If you had gone..."

Kora smiled wanly, though she could feel bruises protesting the simple movement. "I'm not planning on going anywhere now. There's too much I'd miss. You, for one thing."

"You'd better not. I don't think it would be a fair fight if I had to challenge the Black God to get you back," Aniki tried to joke with a sniffle.

Sighing deeply, Kora leaned her head more against her lover's hand. "I think she wants you to leave."

Aniki cast a look behind her to see the old woman staring critically at her. She leaned over to brush Kora's lips with her own.

Still bent over the other woman, Aniki whispered in her ear, "I'll be back as soon as the warden over there lets me in again."

As she edged her way out, the knot tied itself in her throat again and she returned to her place lost in helplessness.