'rith says: There are fans, and there are *devotees.* Elay may very well be Garth's most devoted admirer, having loved him since his earliest Aqualad days. I'm honored that she accepted the invitation to play in the Sea & Sky universe--it's much richer for her involvement. My grateful thanks to her for this story, and for ongoing discussions about All Things Atlantean. :)

Sea and Sky:

Affairs of State

by Elay

'rith will forward feedback



Author's notes:

They ain't mine, with a few exceptions. Alianne, Mauri, and a few other hangers-on are mine, and not to be used without my permission. All others are the property of DC, and no profit is gained here and no infringement is meant by use.

Thanks to 'rith for letting me play in her tidal pool and for letting me bring some of my friends along.

An appendix to Atlantean vocabulary appears in the archived version, educate yourself at whim. All appendixed vocabulary is mine, with one exception--a tip of the hat to my old, dear friend, Heather, who derived asti'tuth ('friend of my heart'). The concept of Sai'a'thash and surrounding rituals is mine and not to be used without my permission.

~ telepathy ~


It's so complicated, I'm so frustrated. I wanna hold you close, I wanna push you away, I wanna make you go, I wanna make you stay, Should I say it, should I tell you how I feel? Oh, I want you to know, but then again I don't, It's so complicated
--Complicated, Carolyn Dawn Johnson

#####



"Mauri, need I remind you that the banquet's tonight?"

"I know, youngling. And this will be ready if you'd only hold still." The elderly seamstress circled Garth's seated figure one more time, checking the alterations to the collar of the formal tunic he wore. She was so tiny, it was necessary for Garth to sit for her to reach his shoulders and neck. Her wizened hazel eyes nearly disappeared in the wrinkles around her eyes as she smiled. Patting Garth's arm gently, she said, "There. More comfortable for you, I'm thinking. Now, get changed and bring that back to me. I'll have it for you before you know it."

Garth ducked behind the screens in Mauri's tailoring room--her sanctuary, as she liked to call it--quickly shedding the formal suit in favor of a casual tan-and-navy tunic and leggings. He reappeared, the suit folded neatly over his forearm, soft navy boots in his other hand. Sitting down to tug the boots on, he said, "Thank you for doing this so quickly, Mauri. That collar was choking me!"

"Collars always choke you, sheishe," she chuckled, setting the suit down next to her sewing supplies. "Now off with you. Enjoy your aftertide. You'll be busy tonight."

Garth laughed lightly. "And you know how much I enjoy state affairs," he drawled.

"About as much as you enjoy being encircled by hungry sharks, I know," she replied, pushing him toward the door. "Out with you. Get."

I like the hungry sharks better, Garth thought, and got.

***

Gazing pensively at her image in her dressing table mirror, Mera sat patiently as one of her ladies finished the last touches on the waist-length waves of her hair, absently admiring the series of soft coils that encircled her head. "Don't fuss so, Arthur," she soothed, even as her attendant gently arranged her golden tiara within the coils. Satisfied with the handiwork, she nodded thanks at the attendant, who offered a small bow before leaving her royal chambers. Once she had gone, Mera stood, the folds of her swirling thread-of-gold gown settling around her feet. "All will be well."

Arthur finished fastening the clasp of his blue and white robe, draped in pleated folds over his shoulders--one of his insignia of state, and one he wore very well. "I hope this is the right thing to do, Mera."

She brushed an imaginary speck off his shoulder. "It is. How can it not be? It's best for all involved, and once accomplished, will benefit the kingdom as well." She smiled warmly at Arthur. Although their marriage was still a thing of the past, in the last few months she had again become his confidante. It had not been unpleasant. There had been changes in both of them, and in recent months, they were seeking out times to spend in each other's company beyond matters of state, as if getting to know one another all over again. More and more lately, Mera was reminded of why she fell in love with the strong, bombastic man standing before her in the first place.

"You *have* apologized to Garth, haven't you?" she asked.

"Once he finally started taking my calls again, yes," Arthur replied with only a hint of a growl. "We spoke again briefly last night. Mainly about his presentation. There was," he said with emphasis, "no yelling."

Mera smiled with approval. Arthur returned the smile, Caribbean blue eyes glittering in the soft light of her chambers. To his surprise, she tiptoed slightly, offering him a small kiss. "It's a beginning, then...hopefully leading to a happy ending. And we shall have a happy ending for once, Arthur. We...we *all* deserve one, don't you think?"

"And perhaps...new beginnings, Mera?" His large hand captured her smaller one, fingers curling around it gently, almost as if it would break if he held on too tightly. He gave the chambers, once shared together as husband and wife, now hers alone, a meaningful gaze before returning to study her. "Perhaps once your task is done, and affairs of state have been tended to, we...maybe...." He hated it when words failed him. He loved this woman; had never stopped loving her, and now, memory was fusing past with present and gave him hope it would be their future. "Mera--I...."

Her gaze held a reserved affection. "Not yet, Arthur. Not yet. I am pleased that we've been able to begin to reconnect with each other. It would be an untruth to say I do not feel what you are feeling now...but I also don't want to rush us along." She gently uncoiled his fingers, turning for the carved, ornate outer doors of the bedchamber.

At the door, she turned, paused. "You are rediscovering how to be a monarch. Rediscover how to be a lover. Court me. Find the words you could not find before."

Arthur stood behind her. Gently turning her by the shoulders, he caught her hand once more, but this time, pressed it to his lips, a kiss that was formal and courtly...yet something *more*...at the same time.

Mera smiled. "Now, *that's* a new beginning, Arthur. One I like very much indeed."

***

Garth handed his small personal compadd to a retainer, silently thanking Pallais that he had finished his formal presentation about the proposed partnership between the Ministry of Science, the Embassies, and Wayne Enterprises. He had followed his notes closely, managing to keep his voice level and steady, and had stifled the nerves that still had a tendency to rise up whenever he had to engage in such public speaking.

He accepted the vial of sweet nectar offered by a server, punctured the drinking seal, and downed it in several long swallows. The large gathering of nobles, councilors, diplomats, and economists had begun to dissipate, breaking up into smaller groups as discussions began about the proposal. Garth wished Dick were there--he was much more comfortable in settings like this and with the dance of words required at such times.

Tugging at the collar that since Mauri's alterations no longer needed adjusting, Garth ambled slowly through the room, trying to pick up bits and pieces of conversations swirling around him. His proposal had surprised many--and the palace's great hall was abuzz. There would be many changes for all Poseidonians if the enterprise were undertaken. Those who welcomed exchange of trade and ideas with the surface world would be scrambling to find their opportunities. Those who were wary would proceed cautiously; and there would be those who would oppose any and all connections with the surface and would fight to remain segregated from the world above. There was also a part of him that wondered if they were taking what he proposed seriously or, gods forbid, scoffing at it just because *he* was the one who proposed it. It was a good proposal, Garth knew; the potential benefits to Poseidonis were enormous. He wanted it to be accepted and considered acceptable.

Before that train of thought got to spiraling out of control in ways Garth did not want it to go, his eye caught a hint of movement that somehow looked very familiar...yet, in some ways, not familiar at all. The figure of a young woman, the badge of Poseidonis' Diplomatic Corps on the shoulder of her gown and coppery red hair piled up in loose spiraling curls that tumbled down the back of her neck, faced away from him as she talked to another woman. There was something about the curls, the way they almost seemed to dance against the woman's neck as she talked. It jogged a memory of similar movement emerging from a much more casual ponytail and before he knew it, Garth had taken several long strides over to stand behind her and tapped her lightly on the shoulder.

She turned. Mutual smiles of recognition lit up two very different faces. "Garth!" the woman replied, her arms swinging up as if to throw themselves around his neck. The movement stopped, the arms dropped to her sides and instead, she lowered herself into a full curtsey. "Nadiv." The title was spoken seriously and respectfully, but when she looked up, emerald eyes twinkled with mischief.

"I liked the first gesture better." Garth drew her up with an outstretched hand and with one fluid motion, drew her into an embrace. "Gods, Ali. I haven't seen you in ages." He pulled back to study her. "When did you get so grown up?" he teased.

"About the same time *you* did," she shot back, matching his grin. "You just weren't around to see it happen."

Garth put his hand over his heart and a mock-wounded expression on his face. "Ow. I guess that's one way to remind me I've been away so much."

"Too much," she replied softly. "So, can you spare a moment to chat with an old friend?"

"Several moments. Many moments, as long as the old friend is you." He shook his head again, taking in the sight of her, resplendent in a figure-hugging gown of shimmering brocade of a copper so dark it was almost brown. The corset-style bodice drew in her waist and emphasized a bustline that Garth hadn't even remembered she had. Below the hip, the gown flared out into a scalloped, weighted hem that drifted around her feet. Her curls were caught high in a delicate gold circlet, the crest of her House centered above softly curling bangs. She wore little jewelry save for a woman's filigreed torque that rested against her bare collarbone and a simple emerald ring that he remembered from her pre-teen years. The face he remembered had changed a bit, too. Maturity sat on her features, her jawline and cheekbones more defined, wide green eyes enhanced by lightly but skillfully applied cosmetics. And although she looked less carefree than the girl he remembered, the twinkle in her eyes hadn't changed at all.

"Come, Navi," he said, offering her his arm. "I think we have a lot of catching up to do. Walk with me. I'm trying to get a sense of what everyone's thinking about my proposal."

***

"Mera, look." Arthur tapped her arm lightly. From their vantage point at the far end of the room, he saw Garth offer his arm to his childhood friend and noted the ease with which she rested her hand in the crook of his elbow as they began to stroll through the banquet room.

"Ah...well and good indeed." Mera nodded in satisfaction.

"Excellent choice of gown, my lady. Whoever would have guessed that she had such a figure beneath those Embassy tunics she usually wears?"

"There seem to be others who agree with you," Mera replied, noting that others of the Court were taking a good look at Alianne as she passed by. Most of them were older Councilors, known to her family and her House. She tsked good-naturedly. "Old men leering. But yes, the brocade turned out well...it suits her."

"Let's hope that *younger* men will follow the oldsters' lead," Arthur replied.

"And get him back home where he belongs."

***

"It's creepy."

"What's creepy?" Garth asked.

"All the old Councilors are staring at me." Alianne pretended to shiver as if repulsed. "And they're grinning at me like I'm prey."

"Considering you're half falling out of your dress...."

Alianne's hands instinctively flew to cover herself. "I'm not!" The low, straight line of the bodice was what surface historians would have equated to Elizabethan styling. Her breasts were pushed up by the heavy boning of the bodice, swelling gently yet very visibly above. "Am I?"

Garth laughed. "No, not really...but you have to admit it's a new look for you."

"And how would *you* know? You haven't--"

"Been around much, I know," he interrupted. "But I know you, Ali. C'mon, are you trying to tell me that this is a regular thing for you?"

"Okay, fine. It's not. I admit it. There. I admit it. But being stared at by men my *father's* age is still creepy. Ew."

"I agree. You should at least be started at by younger guys," Garth smiled.

Alianne shot him a look. "And...?"

"And nothing. I'm just saying, that's all." He wasn't blind; certainly he appreciated how she looked. "But I'd rather hear your opinions about my proposal." A little bit of tentativeness crept into Garth's voice. "You didn't think it stunk, did you?"

Green eyes narrowed. "Why would you think that?" Alianne caught Garth's brief averted gaze and she sighed. "Oh no. Not that again. Garth, you can be such a shellhead, did you know that? No one thinks you're stupid. No one thinks you're inferior...well, not anymore...and not for a long time now. Can't you see that?"

"I guess," Garth replied slowly. "Old habits and all. They're hard to break." He'd found old memories and hurts even harder to banish.

"Well, break that one," she said firmly. "For what it's worth, I thought your presentation was wonderful. We have a lot to offer the landsmen."

"And they have a lot to offer us," he pointed out in return. Some more than others, he allowed inwardly with a tiny mental leer of his own, thinking of some of the things Dick had been offering him lately.

Alianne nodded. "That, too. But the thing *I* like most about it is that if it goes through, it'll give me more to do at the Embassy."

"Embassy?"

Laughing lightly, she gestured to a gold and silver insignia pinned near her hip. "That's something you didn't notice, eh? I've been assigned to the New York Embassy, once it's finished. I'm going to be a Cultural Liaison...and since *you're* the Ambassador there, that kind of makes you my boss."

"That will be a change," Garth replied wryly. "Me getting to push you around for once."

Alianne sniffed, tilting her nose up. "I only pushed you to not let those idiots," and she gestured expansively, her arm sweeping to take in the collective gathering of people, "get the best of you. Anything else, you were on your own."

A server approached them, carrying a covered silver dish. "Nadiv, Navi," she greeted, extending the dish, "A special treat for you, compliments of Lady Mera."

Garth lifted the hinged lid. A generous portion of coastal fruits and berries were arranged artfully within. He looked over to where Arthur and Mera stood, quietly observing the gathering together. He caught Mera's eye, and inclined his head to acknowledge her gesture. She returned the gesture with a smile. It disarmed him a little; Mera had always been civil to him, and more often than not friendly, but he had always sensed that she kept a fairly wide current of emotional distance between them. But even at this distance, he saw warmth in her eyes and he wasn't sure why it was there.

And Arthur...Garth had stopped trying to read him a long time ago. There were chasms of distance between the two of them, and had been for years. Arthur stood next to the woman who was no longer his wife nor Lady Consort, his expression schooled well into neutrality. It was a vast improvement over the explosive anger triggered by Arthur's discovery of his and Dick's relationship. Arthur's furious embarrassment had faded in the two-and-a-half months since, and all things considered, Garth was satisfied with neutrality. Then again, Garth had been surprised when Arthur hadn't rejected the idea of working with Bruce out of hand on the spot...particularly when Arthur had accepted the reason for it with no more than a curt nod.

Garth was still amazed that the idea of Arthur the King having a working relationship with Bruce the Entrepreneur so that their 'kids' could be "out" publicly without compromising Dick's ID hadn't given him apoplexy. Arthur could barely stand the Bat...and Garth knew it rankled him that Dick and he were together. But then, Bruce hadn't had a fit about it, either. Maybe, Garth thought with a small inward smile, they were both growing up after all.

He absently popped one of the fruits in the dish into his mouth and then not so absently as a pleasant, tangy flavor exploded in his mouth. "Mmm. These are excellent," he commented as he gestured for Alianne to take one.

She took several. "Thank you." In a very un-Ladylike manner, she put them all in her mouth at one time and chewed. "I like to mix flavors," she commented, noting Garth's amused expression. "Go on, try it."

"Hey, you're right. That's even better." Garth repeated the gesture a couple more times, as did Alianne; the dish quickly began to empty.

A change started to come over the great hall, as a group of musicians moved to the overhead gallery that was their customary place during formal Court affairs. The mingling would soon cease to be replaced by music and dancing for the rest of the night. Attendants began setting food out on long tables set along the perimeter of the hall, all designed for the guests to serve themselves as they wished. Since there were no visiting dignitaries from other kingdoms present, Arthur had viewed this gathering as being less formal than a full sit-down banquet and more formal than a working Council session. Despite his personal differences with Bruce and the hidden agenda behind Garth's reasons for such a relationship between Poseidonis and Wayne Enterprises, he thought the proposal had merit for the kingdom...and he felt creating a social element would put Court and Council in a more receptive mood. Mera had agreed.

A short while later, Alianne set her empty plate down on a receiving tray. "I want to assure you that you have my complete support for the proposal."

Garth set his down as well. "I'm sure that all the entire Diplomatic Core will listen to you, Liaison," he teased lightly.

"Not only as a Liaison," she replied, puffing out her cheeks in small frustration. "You forget that I now carry the voice of my House." She tapped the crest on her coronet for emphasis. It was not merely decorative; the crest signified her ascendance to control of her hereditary role as Lady of House B'Shirak. Until recently, her father, Lord Gavor, had worn a similar, but masculine version at affairs such as this...but after his death, Alianne, as his only child, wore the coronet.

"Oh. Of course. I'm sorry, Ali. I forgot."

"It's all right. You've had a lot on your mind. Truth to tell, sometimes *I* forget, too. Whenever I visit my mother, I keep expecting Imi to call me into his study."

"Would you like to get out of here?" Garth asked gently, noting the hint of tears in her eyes. A few months were simply not long enough to finish mourning. He knew that as fact.

She blinked hard. "No...no. I'm fine. I'll be fine. Besides, it would be unseemly. I too have my duties."

Garth nodded. That, he understood, and he admired her for her tenacity. Then again, he always had. "A dance, then?"

"*You* want to dance?" Alianne allowed herself a smile. "That's got to be a first."

"Don't push it, or I'll withdraw the offer," he grinned. "Your dress looks like it should be danced in. Shall we?"

Taking his offered arm, she replied, "Lead on. And don't step on my feet."

Feeling more relaxed than he had felt all evening, Garth laughed as he led Alianne out to the center of the hall where others had already begun several rounds of dances.

***

"Ah, I think your plan is working, Mera."

She nodded as she handed another bowl of fruits to an attendant, instructing him to see that the pair currently enjoined in one of the more lively Court dances got the bowl when they were finished. Turning her attention back to Arthur, she commented, "I think you're enjoying this."

"Hmph. It'll be good for him. And it's necessary. You've convinced me of that."

"Maybe Atlan's ways are starting to rub off on me. This would be worthy of him, you know."

"'The tides of fate must turn as they will,'" Arthur quoted a favorite expression of his father's. "'Even if one must pit one's strength against the gods themselves to turn the tides oneself.' Is that the way of it, then? We had decided to let Garth's choices fall where he willed them, and not put obstacles in his path."

"Alianne is *not* an obstacle, Arthur," Mera replied. "Yes, Garth says he's happy living an imitation landsman's life with the Grayson boy...but for how long? When will he finally weary of making all the sacrifices, all the compromises? How long before he can no longer deny what he is and where he must ultimately be? We don't just live in the sea. We are *of* the sea. He will not be able to stay away forever."

"I know, but...." Arthur paused as Mera held up a finger in a 'shush' gesture.

"Poseidonis is no longer what it was. Someday, Garth will understand this, accept this. And when he does...on that day, he will come home. His youth and strength and magic only delay the inevitable. He will come home. Why should he be lonely when he returns? Why should he not have someone who knows his every mood and who has been steadfast to him for years?"

A thought occurred to Arthur, and his blue eyes narrowed slightly. "Mera, what does Alianne think of all this?"

Mera's eyes widened to a demonstration of bluer-than-blue innocence and she smiled a thin-lipped smile. "Love will find itself where it will...and sometimes from unexpected places and in unexpected ways," she said enigmatically.

"I see," Arthur replied slowly. "She doesn't know. She's as much in a closed shell as he is."

Mera chose not to reply to that statement, instead focusing her attention on Garth and Alianne; watching closely as the dish she had sent over to them began to grow empty. She noted with interest the ease in which the two young adults appeared to be chatting while enjoying the treats, inwardly satisfied as they put the dish down and made their way to the dancing.

"Sometimes, a little encouragement is all that's needed, my Liege." Mera fell silent, and made a mental note to herself to make sure another dish of fruit was sent their way.

***

Several long dances--and another bowl of tart fruits later--Garth leaned back in an overstuffed settee at the far end of the hall, aware that Alianne was studying his face. "What?"

A slender finger hesitantly reached out and traced the two black markings that started at his right temple to meet and end in a single point beneath his eye. "I don't think I'll ever get used to seeing those," she said softly.

"A mark of...difficult trials," he replied, his voice almost a whisper.

"They were once scars, right?" He nodded in reply. "How did you get them?" Alianne asked, her finger still positioned lightly against his cheek.

"If I could tell you, I would." At the confusion in her green eyes, he continued, "Part of a ritual...one which Atlan swore me to secrecy. Besides, it's not a pretty tale. If I *could* tell you, I wouldn't now anyway. I'm almost having fun and I wouldn't ruin the night by telling it."

"I see."

Garth realized that she was still gazing at the markings. "Do...do they make you uncomfortable, Ali? I could spell them away if you'd like."

She shook her head. "No, I'm not uncomfortable with them. I was just thinking...."

"What?" A dark eyebrow raised in curiosity.

"You--you look rakish with them. Like a rogue." Almost despite herself, Alianne began to giggle. "Ready to pillage and plunder, sending ships to their ultimate fate." The giggling intensified, as if she couldn't have stopped herself if she tried. "Avast! Ahoy! Prepare to be boarded, matey!"

Garth rolled his eyes. "Someone's been watching 'surfie movies', methinks," he teased, trying to keep his own laughter suppressed. He was *supposed* to be dignified tonight. He was going to *remain* dignified, even if it killed him...but she was making it damned hard to maintain his composure as she was losing hers.

"P-part of--my--my job," she sputtered. "Can't under--understand the c-culture if I don't immerse myself in it."

"But pirate movies?" Before she had a chance to reply, Garth stood and grabbed Alianne by the wrist. "C'mon...I'm getting you out of here," he laughed. "You're gonna ruin your rep with the other Households if they see you giggling like a little kid. They'll never take you seriously."

"So? Who wants to be serious?"

"You do. And I need to be," he replied. "And if I don't get you out of here *now,* I'm gonna lose it and nobody'll take *me* seriously, either." His tone belied his words; he was finding himself being pulled into her merriment. Still holding her wrist, he headed for the nearest exit he could find. Unprepared for the abrupt movement and its swiftness, Alianne was literally lifted off her feet and she found herself being towed out of the hall in a very undignified manner.

Once they were well away from the hall, Garth stopped, almost stumbling over his own feet as Alianne bumped into his back.

"Whoops!" She found her feet again with a small assist. "Sorry 'bout that."

"'S'okay," he replied, suddenly feeling as if his tongue had grown thicker. "You are a very silly girl."

She shook her head hard, her coronet threatening to tip off her head. "I am a very silly *woman,*" she corrected, reaching up to adjust the coronet. "So, are we going back in? I thought you want--wanted to see what everyone was saying about the proposal."

Suddenly, that was a concern that seemed very far away. "No, I'll find out tomorrow. 'Sides, I've had enough of Court for one night."

"Me, too," she agreed. "An' I'm tired of worrying about my posture." This time, it was Garth's turn to look confused. "Never mind," she sighed. "What d'you want to go?"

"Away from everybody." After all these years, Garth had never grown truly comfortable with crowds, nor with feeling reigned in. Even the dome over their heads could make him feel claustrophobic. Leaving the city wasn't an option, so he opted for the next best thing. "I know just the place." He set off down the marble corridor, with Alianne managing to keep pace at his side.

The walk seemed to take forever. The corridors seemed to grow longer with each step. Part of Garth's mind recognized that there was an increasing sense of fuzziness creeping over his senses, but there was a larger part that enjoyed the haze and didn't really care. Must've been more stressed out about the presentation than I realized, he thought muzzily. Too much stress makes Ambassadors very shaky. Have to try not to get so damned stressed out about stuff.

As if she'd read his thoughts--which she could have, but wouldn't unless he invited it--Alianne looked up at her friend. "I'm glad that's done with. I don't think I like being Lady of my House. Too much to think about." She gathered her wandering thoughts and concentrated on standing upright. "You like being Ambassador?"

"I guess," Garth replied as they rounded a corner. "It's what I chose."

"There's the difference, then. You got to choose. I didn't.

He held up a hand in a 'stop' gesture. "No more of that. We're gonna leave that all behind for awhile and relax, remember?"

"Oh, right. Gods, I was more stressed about tonight than I thought. If it hadn't been for Queen--I mean, Lady Mera, I'd have been a quivering slug in a corner somewhere."

Garth smiled thinly. Alianne's referring to Mera as 'Queen' was a common error--one that spoke volumes of how most Poseidonians had come to care for her. Even though her divorce from Arthur had also cost her co-rule with him, in the hearts and minds of many, she was still looked upon as their Queen and treated accordingly. "How come? Wha'd Mera do?"

"She picked out this gown for me an' helped me get myself together," Alianne replied. "She said it'd make the other Householders and Councilors take me seriously, like a Lady. K'ach, I'd have settled for achieving 'grown up'."

"Oh, I think you managed that," he commented, allowing himself another look at her tightly corseted figure, noting how the gown wafted back and forth with the very womanly sway of her hips. One more quick turn and Garth stopped. "Well, here we are."

Alianne looked around. "Your balcony! We used to sit up here and talk all the time!" She crossed to the carved, coral railing and gazed out over the gleaming upper spires of the palace grounds and the rest of Poseidonis beyond. She turned, her smile almost overbright and eyes glittering. "What a great idea."

"I thought so," Garth agreed, undoing the high collar of his crisp white doublet and letting his Ambassador's sash slide off his shoulder, watching it carelessly drift down past his narrow hips to rest on the balcony floor. He nudged it aside with the toe of his highly polished boots. "That's much better," he smiled as he flopped down on the only piece of furniture on the balcony, a wide, heavily padded reclining chaise. Leaning back with his hands behind his head, he stretched out his legs, ankles crossed. "Yup. *Much* better."

"Very ambassadoritor-- ambassadori--ambassadoriorial-- aw, shells!" The giggling that Alianne had managed to suppress not long before came roaring back like a tidal wave as she crossed to the chaise and attempted to sit down next to Garth. The restrictive bodice of her gown made it difficult to bend and ease herself down onto the low seating and her own growing mental fuzz made it difficult to keep her balance. Once lost, she flopped onto the chaise, twisting so as not to fall off.

"Easy, there." Garth reached out to keep her from falling, but wasn't overly helpful in the attempt, as her head swung forward, clonking their foreheads together.

"Ow!" Alianne briefly rubbed her head.

"You hurt?"

"Only my dignity," she replied. "Damn dress. I can't move."

They were nose to nose. Garth blinked. Her face kept weaving in and out of focus. "Y'know, you're awfully fuzzy looking."

"Oh, thanks," she replied, her own vision wandering. "So are you."

There was a long pause, almost as if words had escaped them both. The silence engulfed them in a companionable quietude, but eventually, even too much silence can be overwhelming.

"Hi," Garth said softly, his arm still around her waist from when he had kept her from falling moments before.

"Hi yourself."

"I don't know if I told you earlier, but you really look beautiful."

To Garth's surprise, Alianne blushed. "You didn't, but thank you."

"An' I *know* I didn't tell you earlier, but I really appreciate you staying with me in the hall. I'm glad you were there."

His surprise grew as her blush deepened. "You're my best friend," she said simply. And just when he didn't think he could be surprised any more, she dipped her head and quickly brushed a feather-light kiss against his lips, a gesture between friends. "Asti'tuth."

Pressing her hands against the chaise, Alianne tried to lever herself into a sitting position when she was stopped by Garth's hand reaching up to rest behind her neck. She leaned into the gesture, bringing her face close to his again, drawn by a sudden urge to feel the softness of his lips against hers again. Their mouths met; a kiss gentle at first, then becoming more intense.

"Garth?" she murmured against his lips. "--wha--?"

He felt her hands sliding up to rest on his shoulders. "Ali," he smiled, eyes crinkling. "I'm gonna tell you something I haven't told you since you were fifteen."

"Wha's that?"

"Shut up."

The kiss quickly turned searing. It didn't matter much that neither of them were truly capable of forming coherent thoughts because *thinking* was no longer on their minds.

Garth hitched his hips backward and pulled Alianne's legs up from where they had been dangling half way off the chaise when she had lost her balance. A jolt of unexpected desire shot through him as his tongue touched hers and he pulled her hips closer to his. Facing each other, he felt her hands pattern up his back in ripples, tickling his neck before taking up occupancy in his hair, fingers weaving in and out of his curls. His mouth migrated to her eyelids, her cheeks before wandering down the side of her neck, his lips furious against her skin. A particularly sensitive spot at the base of her collarbone was found just as her mouth and tongue found his ear; the soft moan that echoed there made him tremble. His hands cupped her bottom reflexively through the heavy fabric of her gown and he felt her hands matching the gesture as she tugged at his hips, rolling him on top of her.

He had a sudden urge to get the gown and her body to part company, but his mind refused to allow his hands the fine motor control to undo the complicated fastenings even if he had been able to figure out where those fastenings were. With an inward shrug, he made his way back to her waiting, eager mouth...and when instead of allowing her tongue to return to its prior dance with his, she captured his tongue between her lips and began to suck on it, pulling and releasing over and over, another bolt of desire rocked him and he groaned.

The world had narrowed to a veneer of pure sensation.

***

Alianne wouldn't lie to herself and say that she'd never thought what being with Garth would be like. She'd wondered. Most of her wonderings had come when they were younger, when life was full of overactive teenaged hormones and romantic pairings-off; when Garth and Tula had first become an item and Alianne, friend to them both, watched them go and every so often had wished she had been the one.

But that had been mainly because she'd yet to find a someone of her own at the time and she had been lonely and feeling left out of the lives of the two people she'd been closest to at the time. There had been a boy, one whom she thought she could have a life with, but eventually they grew up and grew apart and life moved along.

Now...now, the one person who had known her better than any other was lying on top of her, practiced hands and mouth driving what little mind she had left completely away. Now, all she was aware of was that the evidence of Garth's need was making its presence known, hard against her stomach and before she knew it, she'd raised her knees, opening her legs, creating a comforting haven for him, even through the fabric of her gown.

Dropping his chin to her chest, he mouthed her breast, creating a delightful friction between his teeth, her gown and her nipple. Alianne whimpered as the sparks that had been streaking through her body from head to toe grew into lightning streaks that jolted straight to her groin.

Her mind reached out to his. ~Garth...where did you learn to do that?~

Garth bolted upright, reeling at the telepathic contact that pierced through the brain fuzziness and his still-surging desire. Looking down, he saw Alianne lying on the chaise, her appearance rumpled. As rumpled as I feel, he thought, and a dart of clarity shot through the haze.

Confusion in her eyes, Alianne struggled to sit up in the restrictive corseted gown. Garth helped her to a sitting position next to him. "What's wrong?" she asked, bringing her breathing back under control. "Why'd you stop?"

There was a long pause and Garth fought the urge to bury his face in his hands. Finally, he said softly, "I can't, Ali. I can't do this. I'm sorry."

"You weren't going to hurt me or anything. I'm an adult. I know what I'm about."

He shook his head. "That's not it. It's not about you. It...it's complicated."

"Oh." Alianne smoothed her hands through her hair, attempting to bring the long layered curls back into some semblance of control; a delaying technique only. "Let me guess: You don't want to ruin our friendship, you don't want to muddy things between us, the boss shouldn't be sleeping with an employee--what? What?"

Garth recoiled at the undertone of anger and frustration in her voice, just as he had recoiled from her mental touch. That touch, something he hadn't known in a very long time--the intimacy between telepaths--was the thing that reminded him of where he was, who he was with--and more important, with whom he was *not* with. For all the vast and varied things he had shared with Dick, this type of contact was one that he had not--*could not* have shared, for Dick was not a telepath. And that was the knowledge that had surged his mind back toward coherence.

"Ali, if this were another time, believe me...." He paused, wanting the words to be right. "Please, understand, it's not you. You..." He put his fingers beneath her chin, studying her. "Had things been different, you are everything I think I'd be happy with for a very long time. You're intelligent, you're lovely, you're funny, you're loyal. Gods, but you're loyal."

"The loyal *buddy.* That's me, all right." She averted her gaze, trying to hide the sheen of tears that were beginning to form in her emerald eyes. "But. There's a 'but' here, isn't there?"

Garth nodded slowly. "Do you remember me talking about Dick Grayson?"

"Robin," she replied. A long time ago, Garth had told her much of the Titans. Since Atlantis was so isolated, and she was so trustworthy, he had felt little need to fall into the 'hide the ID' pattern that governed their lives on the surface. To Alianne, they were just names, but it had made it easier for Garth to speak of his friends by their given names, so she knew.

"Nightwing," he corrected. "There's another Robin now, but that's not the issue. Anyway, you remember him. He and I...are involved."

"I see." Alianne took a deep breath, forced her tone to be light. "So, you're telling me you can't handle being involved with two people at the same time?"

"I wish I could." Garth let his fingers drop from where he'd rested them against her chin. "I think you'd be amazing. But I've made promises to him...certain commitments. Being with you would betray them--and him, Ali. It's not fair...to him...or to you. I'm so sorry."

She waved her hand in a dismissive gesture. "No, no. It's okay. Listen, we got a little carried away. It happens. 'Sides, I'm not sure if *I* want to risk our friendship on something that might not even work out. Let's just write this off as one of those things and be done with it. It--it wouldn't work anyway. I have obligations, too."

Garth nodded, a little uneasily. There was truth in her words, but he sensed that part of it was a bit of a defense mechanism--one he understood much too well. With renewed coherence came the awareness of a throbbing in his skull. Leaning his elbows on his knees, he groaned. "My head hurts."

Alianne nodded, matching his gesture. "Mine, too. Too much damn fruit."

"'Damn fruit?'" he echoed.

"Yeah, it was enhanced. Couldn't you tell?" Alianne's head turned and for the first time in long minutes allowed herself a small but genuine smile. "You've never been intoxicated, have you?" He shook his head, wincing. "I was, once. Well, now twice. At first I wasn't sure about the fruit; the intoxicants give it that sharp tang, but some just taste that way naturally...but by the time I was sure, well...you looked like you were finally relaxing and we were having fun, so I figured, why not just let it be?"

"Hmmm. Ali, d'you think we would've...would've...well, you know...."

"Ended up liplocking each other? If we had better control of ourselves?" She laughed a small laugh. "Probably not. But it was nice."

A dark eyebrow was raised in humor. "It was," Garth agreed. "You kiss good."

She poked him playfully in the arm. "You're not so bad yourself."

A long pause. "Are you okay?" She nodded in reply. An even longer pause. "Are *we* okay?"

Alianne gave him a very small, very light peck on his cheek. "Yeah. We're okay. Well, pretty much okay...and what's not quite okay now will get better." A particularly strong wave of pain spiked and she closed her eyes. "Argh. It feels like the Dark Gods have been dancing on my brain."

"Maybe you shouldn't try to get home, then, " he said, concern in his violet eyes. "You could stay here."

This time, it was Alianne's turn to raise an eyebrow. "Are you sure that's wise?" Admissions aside, and assurances that they hadn't ruined their friendship, the encounter was spinning her thoughts places they hadn't gone in long years. She trusted Garth, but wasn't quite sure if she trusted herself. If he turned back to her now...she didn't think she could turn him away.

"It'll be fine. You can have my bedchamber--I'll use the sofa in the sitting room. All very safe, very brotherly. Okay?"

Alianne finally nodded in agreement. "On one condition."

"What's that?" Garth asked.

She winced against the boning of the corset. "You find me something to change into. I am *not* sleeping in this torture device."

"I think I can manage that," he replied, making his way to his feet and giving her a hand to help her stand. The slight sway of their bodies made them both aware that the effects of the fruit hadn't completely left and probably wouldn't for awhile yet. Garth laid his hand on Alianne's shoulder as he steered her into his suite. "C'mon, asti'tuth, let's get you to bed."

***

A short while later, Alianne came out of Garth's inner chamber, drawing the sash of a wine-red silk robe tight at her waist, the gown replaced by a soft casual tunic of his that hung to her knees underneath. She'd pulled her hair back into a high ponytail. Garth grinned. Dressed like this, and with her hair like that, she looked much closer to the mental picture he held of her in her late teens than the sophisticated Lady of House that she'd been just a little earlier. "Ah, that's so much better," she sighed, taking in the sight of him in sleep shorts and matching robe. "You look a lot more comfortable, too."

"I hate dressing up," Garth admitted. He picked up the coverlet he'd found in a chest and began to shake it out over the sitting room sofa.

"You don't really need to do that...sleep out here, I mean."

"Ali," Garth began slowly. "You know...."

"I know. But honestly, Garth. It's your bed. And it's very big. Nothing will come of it. But you need to sleep someplace comfortable or you're going to feel awful in the morning. *Friends* can share a sleeping space without anything happening. C'mon." She gestured with her head back to the bedchamber doorway. "Don't be silly about it."

He was clearer headed now; so was she, and Garth knew she was right. He glanced at the sofa. Although comfortable for sitting, it really wasn't quite long enough for him to stretch out fully; he'd be cramped and confined all night. Deliberately, he folded the coverlet and set it on the arm of the sofa. "Robes stay on?" he teased.

"And we stay opposite ends of the bed--buddy."

In the chamber, they each took an end of the thick, full bed covering and folded it back before sliding in on opposite sides. Garth looked at the wide expanse of bed between them and almost sighed with relief. It *would* be all right. He sensed that she was challenging him in some way--almost a test of sorts, to see if they could do this without letting the memory of what had passed between them surge back and give in to any sort of temptation. 'Friends can do this,' she'd said. He was going to prove her right.

He turned out the bedside light and turned. "Good night, Ali."

Nothing.

"Ali?" Her back was toward him, her arms wrapped around an overlarge pillow. He heard the sound of her breathing, already soft, slow and regular.

Garth gave his own pillow a fluff before resting his head down, hoping it wouldn't take long to fall asleep himself. He had thinking to do, and didn't want to do it now. Tomorrow, he would be returning to 'Haven. Home to the life he'd chosen for himself and when he got there, he knew there was something he'd have to gather up the courage to do...

...tell Dick about what had happened at the banquet.

Tell him *all* about it.

***

Alianne watched with amusement as Garth lifted lids off several covered dishes that had been brought to his suite. The morning saw them fairly well recovered from the events of the night before--a fresh change of clothes, a long stint getting buffed in the refresher and analgesic transkin patches had all done wonders for both their outlooks.

The small table in one corner of the sitting room was crowded with the serving dishes along with several plates and Garth, not knowing where to put the lids, shrugged and tossed them lightly onto the sofa that he had not slept on the night before.

Garth set several items from each dish onto two plates and handed one to her. "Hmmm...what've we got here?" she asked.

"Let's see...tern eggs cooked solid, grain wafers, cucumbers, some salmon for you, shredded kelp...oh, Ali, here. Try this," Garth said, handing her a small wedge shaped piece of something fairly firm and slightly orange.

"That's good," she mumbled around the bite she'd taken. "What is it?"

"Cheddar cheese. I brought it back with me." He set several more wedges of cheese, not only the cheddar, but several other types, on her plate as well. "There's the cheddar, one called Monterey Jack, muenster...and the little round ones are called Gouda."

"I may have to make sure you get home more often just so you can bring more," Alianne grinned as she set to the task of taste-testing.

Garth picked up a small tern egg and popped it into his mouth. "You can have all you want once the Embassy in New York's up and running."

Alianne realized something was missing from their breakfast. "What, no fruit?" she teased. Garth raised an eyebrow at her and grimaced. "Right. Swearing off fruit for awhile, huh?"

"Something like that," he replied, handing her a large sealer vial of juice and taking one for himself. "I still can't believe that we ate so much of that stuff."

Nodding, Alianne commented, "I know...and more bowls just seemed to keep appearing...." Her voice trailed off as a thoughtful expression settled on her face. "Garth...remember how the first dish was sent with the Lady Mera's compliments?" He nodded in reply. "And every time the bowl got empty, a new one would show up. I wonder...."

"What?" Garth asked, leaning into the question. His violet eyes narrowed. "Ali, what are you thinking?"

Setting the juice vial down, she put her elbows on the table and rested her chin in her hands. "Something I don't *want* to be thinking," she admitted finally. "Garth, what if the Lady Mera arranged for there to be a steady supply of the enhanced fruit?"

"Why would she? Ali, I'm not sure where you're going with this."

"Let me free-range my thoughts for a minute. How does the King feel about you being involved with a surfie?"

"'Landsman'," Garth corrected, not liking the slightly derogatory slang to be used in conjunction with Dick.

"Sorry."

"It's okay. Anyway, well...when Arthur first found out, he was upset, but I think that was more because I didn't tell him before he found out from a mutual colleague and friend. I get the sense that he objects, but I'm not sure if it's because Dick's male, or because he is a landsman. Mera seemed more accepting, I guess...but I do know she'd prefer if I would be here more often."

"What if they object more than they're letting on?" There was a very long pause and then Alianne's hand flew to her mouth, her vivid green eyes wide. "Garth...I think we were set up!" When he didn't reply, she continued. "Okay, they're not dancing in the Center Gardens over this relationship. The King's not happy about something about it. Lady Mera prefers you stay here. They know you and I are best friends. What if the enhanced fruit was sent over repeatedly on purpose with the hope that we'd get intoxicated, lose control and end up in bed together?"

Garth fought the urge to groan. "That almost happened."

"I know!" Her voice rose a little in both pitch and volume as she became more excited. "We almost did. But we didn't. But--but...would either the King or Lady Mera think that if we slept together, because we're already close, that you'd decide--from interest, or guilt, or obligation, or--" a wicked grin crossed her face-- "because the fabulousness that is me, would override your interest in your friend...or whatever...that you'd abandon your landsman and stay here with me?"

Alianne watched with interest as a variety of expressions flitted over Garth's features--ranging from confusion, to recognition, to denial and finally, to a slow, icy anger. "Garth?"

"I'm going to throttle him. I can't believe Arthur would do this to me--or to you! Manipulative, conniving, scheming...Pallais, Ali! How could he do this?"

"Wait. Wait, Garth! We don't know for sure that's what happened. It's just speculation. Maybe that's not the reason. Maybe they just saw that we were having a good time...."

"Do you believe that?"

"I don't know what to believe."

Garth looked almost grim. "Finish your breakfast, Ali. We're going to go find out."

***

Arthur's aide Dannel set a silver tray down on the large desk in his personal study. Two large sealed vials sat neatly in the middle. Arthur took a heavily insulated one for himself and handed the other to Vulko, Minister of Poseidonis. He drew a long sip and smiled. "I wish I'd figured out how to have coffee prepared here long ago," he said. "I used to miss it when I was home."

Vulko chuckled. "How you stand that bitter beverage is beyond me, Sire." His own vial, full of a combination of mixed nectars, sat at his hand.

"It's an acquired taste, I admit. So," Arthur continued, gesturing to a stack of documents on the desk, "which of the proposed ventures with Wayne Enterprises do you feel we should make first priority?"

Picking up a dossier with one hand, Vulko stroked his white beard thoughtfully with the other. "My personal preference is for the water purification technology they want to develop for surface waste treatment plants. Considering the rise we've seen in pollution-related birth defects in recent years, it would be wise to put that at the top of our list."

Arthur nodded. "Garth spoke of that one with particular passion. The Councilors were drawn in by his strength and most seemed to be approving of it. It would be a good one to start with."

"Done then," Vulko noted, scribbling notes onto a compadd. "I will make sure to express approval at the Council meeting this eventide, sire. And," he commented wryly, "if last night was any indication, I am confident that House B'Shirak will also be voicing approval."

"Oh, so you noticed?" Arthur asked, eyebrow raised.

Vulko chuckled. "The proposals weren't the only topic of discussion on the floor, sire. I specifically heard Lord Pirtain saying he wished he were several decades younger. Lord Elkresh has all but discarded the thought that his second son would have a chance of creating an alliance with his House and House B'Shirak, Lady Marlina thinks the Ambassador has met his match. And," his grin grew, "several wagers were made as to how long it would take for Lady Sailyn to approach *you* regarding a betrothal."

Arthur's eyes widened at that. "So much speculation about two friends swirling around each other, don't you think?"

"Come now, Arthur," Vulko said, dropping his formal posture. "You noticed them as well. They looked magnificent together. Tell me you wouldn't approve."

"My approval isn't important. Garth has made that abundantly clear."

"But you wouldn't object. Even if she were common, you wouldn't object."

A brief silence. "No. I would not object."

Vulko finished his vial of nectar and sat it back down on the silver tray. "So. Shall I print out the agenda for today's public audience before I take my leave of you?"

"I'd appreciate that, Vulko. I'm feeling a bit...distracted today. A written prompt would be..." A pounding at the large carved doors of the study gave him pause. "What was *that?*"

As if in answer, the doors pushed open. Garth and Alianne stood in the threshold.

Arthur and Vulko exchanged glances. "Good morning," Arthur began. "We were just talking about the banquet. Would you care to join us?"

"I would," Garth replied, and it was then that Arthur saw that he was not smiling. "Vulko, would you excuse us, please? I need to speak with Arthur in private."

The Minister nodded as he rose and walked toward the open door where the young pair stood, nodding in greeting. "Good day, Lady Alianne...Ambassador."

Garth stood silently as Alianne muttered a low reply as Vulko continued on past them, closing the doors behind him.

Arthur gestured to the chairs near his desk. "We were just talking about you," he said.

"I'll bet," Garth snapped, choosing not to take a seat. Alianne followed suit, head lowered, hands in front of her, folding and unfolding. "Just what the hell did you think you were doing last night?"

"Excuse me?"

"Don't try to tell me you didn't concoct this little scheme of yours, Arthur. I know you don't approve of Dick, but gods below, this maneuver is a new low, even for you."

"I don't know what you're talking about, Garth. Sit down and we'll discuss it--whatever it is you're ranting about."

At that moment, there was a brief rap on the study's inner door followed by Mera entering, a vial in her hand. "I know you're busy, Arthur, so I thought I'd bring you more coffee." She noticed Garth, Alianne standing at his side. She smiled warmly. "This is a surprise."

"No thank you. But stay, Mera. Witness the manipulator your ex-husband has become." Garth began pacing two steps back and forth. "Did you think we wouldn't figure it out," he seethed. "How could you do this to me? How could you do this to *her?* If you want to try to interfere in my life, fine...but leave my friends out of it!"

Arthur stood in protest. "Garth...."

Mera put her hand on Arthur's chest in a silencing gesture. "Arthur, no." Then, "Garth, stop," she said softly. "I'm assuming you're talking about last night...and certain...refreshments...that were offered to you?" At his sharp, brief nod, she continued. "It was my idea."

He blinked at her in surprise. "Yours? I find that hard to believe."

"Believe it, then," she replied. "I meant no harm...to either of you. I just thought that given how close you two already are, that it might be possible to, well, to get you to look at each other in a new way."

"Why?" The anger Garth had directed toward Arthur fused into confusion as he turned his attention toward Mera.

"I know your feelings for Richard," Mera said. "I don't deny those feelings are real, but Garth...please consider this: How long can you continue to be the one to make the sacrifices between you? What will happen when your duties--and what you *are*--make you realize where you truly belong? And when you do, why shouldn't you be happy with the one person who knows you better than anyone here?" She averted her eyes. "Arthur's not to blame for this. I'm sorry. I only thought I was doing what was best for you in the long run."

"Let me decide what's best for me," Garth said simply. There was a very long silence. "Mera, I hadn't expected this from you. I'm disappointed."

He turned and headed back the way he and Alianne had come in. He strode out, not realizing that she hadn't followed.

Alianne continued to stand, hands folding and unfolding. She blinked, and as if suddenly remembering where she was, she dropped into a deep curtsey. She remained there quietly. Gesturing for her to rise, Arthur noted there was a rather odd look on her face. "My Lady?"

Mera was a little less formal. "Alianne, was there something you wanted?"

Rising to her feet, she softly said, "Before last night, I would have said no. Today, I would have to reply differently."

Surprisingly, it was Arthur who understood her meaning. "Are you all right?" he asked, not unkindly.

"I will be," Alianne replied slowly. "Not today. Probably not for awhile. You've made things change. They can't be unchanged." She drew a deep breath, held it, then released it, trying to gain composure. "Please, Sire...My Lady, forgive my upset. You've put thoughts in my head that have no right to be there and feelings I'm not sure I want--and I'm not sure I don't want. He's happy...for the first time in a long time, he's truly happy. I love him enough to wish him well and hope his happiness continues...yet, I'm selfish enough to hope that his happiness is finite. You've made me think about wanting things I cannot have and this House Holder regrets that her monarch thinks so little of her that he agreed to manipulating her emotions."

"Alianne, that's not it at all. I think very highly of you. I know how you stood by Garth when you both were younger, when his self-worth often took a beating. If I could choose of any woman in the kingdom for him, there would be no choice at all. You are the only one."

Dismay crossed her features. "Please, don't. I know you think you're being kind, but this *hurts* right now. Had things been different, he would have wanted me. He doesn't...and we were both manipulated into these realizations--that he doesn't want me...and that I could easily want him."

"I understand," Arthur nodded, noting with regret the veneer of tears that he saw in the young woman's deep green eyes. "I am sorry."

Slowly, Alianne turned toward the door. "So am I, Sire." And then she was gone, the doors closing behind her. He couldn't begin to imagine how sorry she truly was.

***

Outside in the foyer of the palace, near the study, Garth waited. "Ali?"

"I have to go to work." She walked past him.

"Wait." He touched her arm lightly and she paused. "Talk to me."

She sighed. "Remember how I said we'd be okay?" He nodded in reply. "We will be. Eventually. But not today. Can you understand that?" She touched his cheek lightly. "Let me go now. Like I told you last night, I too have obligations."

"May I call you before I go back?"

"Are you going back today?"

"Late, yes."

To his surprise, she shook her head. "I'd prefer not, then. Let me have some time to pretend that last night never happened. Oh, and my gown? Have it destroyed, would you? I don't ever want to look at it again."

He nodded mutely. "I will call you sometime soon, I promise."

And for the second time in minutes, she was gone.

It was only then that Garth noticed the tears.



{end}


Glossary of Atlantean terms (not all used in fic)

a'ach'é : 'daughter of', patronymic used in Poseidonian names. A'ach'é is placed between a woman's first name and her father's first name.

a'ach'ée: 'son of', used in the same manner and same reason as a'ach'é. Example: Arthur's full given Poseidonian name is Orin a'ach'ée Trevis (at least according to the official Chronicles).

asti'tuth: 'friend of my heart' (gender neutral), a term of endearment signifying very close friendship; of love, but not of being in love; no romantic connotation is implied.

Avi (AH-vee): (f.) Term for one's mother, equivalent to 'Mommy'. Again, usually used by younger children, but not exclusively so.

Imi (EE-mee): (m.) Term for one's father, equivalent to 'Daddy'. Usually used by younger children, but not exclusively so. k'ach (again, with a guttural 'ch' sound): mild expletive, gender neutral. Usually used when expression frustration, no translational equivalent, but used under similar circumstances to using 'damn'.

k'dach (k-DACH, with the 'ch' the harsh, 'Germanic' back of the throat guttural sound, not 'ch' as in 'cherry'): expletive (m.). To cast aspersions on one's parentage, i.e., akin to calling someone a bastard. No feminine equivalent. Can be used along with 'bastard', i.e., "k'dach bastard" if one wishes to be really insulting.

Nadiv (nah-DEEV): Equivalent to 'M'Lord'. Can also be used as a title proper, as in 'Lord So-and-so'

Navi (nah-VEE): Equivalent to 'M'Lady'. Can also be used as a title proper, as in 'Lady So-and-so'

Sai'a'thash (SIGH-a-thash): "Two Bound As One" (literal translation) Poseidonian ritual joining two telepaths empathically. A rite of the Orinite faith, Sai'a'thash transcends marriage, as in Poseidonis, marriages are not always love matches. The Bond of Sai'a'thash cannot be dissolved without mutual consent of both partners, although it can be severed by the death of one of the Sai'a'théeh (sigh-a-THEY-eh) The empathic bond is so strong that if severed, the surviving partner will usually follow the partner into death. Non-telepaths cannot enter into Sai'a'thash. And although rare and considered anathema, there is a phenomena of using Dark Magic to force a Severation of a Bond between Sai'a'théeh by one of the partners--in slang terms, a Forced Severation or Dissolution of a Bond is known as a 'mind rape', and usually causes great psychic and emotional trauma, sometimes irreversible.

Sai'a'thash is a private ritual; unlike a wedding, no guests attend. The couple and two members of the Orinite priesthood (with at least one having achieved Adept status) are the only participants. The ritual itself consists of several elements:
- Each partner must ask formal permission of the other partner's Matriarch or Patriarch and consent must be given. If consent is not given, Sai'a'thash may not take place at that time (though the couple can certainly try again later).
- A period of 10 days in which specific psychic instruction is given (called 'Mind Lessons') is undertaken immediately preceding the day of the ceremony.
- Ritual clothing is provided.
- The ceremony begins at lightrise, the equivalent of Poseidonian 'dawn'. The parent(s) or Matriarch/Patriarch of each partner's families escorts their child/relative to Poseidonis' Center Gardens. At this place, the Sai'a'thiih proceed on to the Orinite shrine alone; symbolic of children leaving home and beginning a new home and family with their chosen Consort-to-be.
- Immediately following Sai'a'thash, the newly bound couple goes into Seclusion in specifically prescribed housing for a period of 7 days. During this time, they do not return to Poseidonis, nor do they receive visitors. This period allows the couple to become acquainted with the new empathic link they now share and to explore its possibilities.

Related terms include Sai'a'thi (SIGH-a-thee) (f., literally 'Pledged in Bond, equivalent to our 'fiancée'); Sai'a'thii (same pronunciation,) (m., same definition, equivalent to 'fiancé'); Sai'a'thé (sigh-a-THAY) (f., [She Who Is] Joined in Bond, also used interchangeably with 'Consort', the title used by Sai'a'théeh; (sigh-a-THAY-eh) (gender neutral, refers to the Bound couple as an entity), also Sai'a'thée, (m.) (same pronunciation as the feminine ending) Those who are Pledged but not yet Bound are referred to as Sai'a'thiih. (sigh-a-THEE-ih).

In all cases the 'th' sound is soft, as in, well...Garth , and not as in 'they', as in 'they are going outside'. The tongue stays behind the teeth, closer to the roof of one's mouth.

Sheisha (shy-EE-shah): 'little one' (f.) Usually used by someone older to someone younger, as in a parent to a child. A term of endearment. Also sheishe (m.) (shy-EE-sheh).