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Author's Chapter Notes:
dedication: Written for June in Yuletide 2006
notes: The quoted line in the text is from Outcry From the Inferno: Atomic Bomb Tanka Anthology.

Evvy misses the jade-plant boy.

She fills the hours, days, years stretching between them with secret readings about plants, and uses their names as an ineffective spell, a chant which brings him closer in her mind, though her thoughts are nearly useless, intangible, when she wants Briar there to touch.

The jade-plant--

plantae

tracheobionta

magnoliophyta

magnoliopsida

rosidae

Rosales

crassulaceae

crassula

ovata

--boy is more of a man, now, full adult, and so far from the thief he claims he was before.

She once asked Rosethorn why the plants had so many names, at least in the books for those who used plants without magic. The classifications made little sense, but Evvy looked at the words for jade-plant, the word for Briar, and in them she began to see Rosethorn and his sisters and Tris as the phrases broke down into letters, into ink strokes.

Briar's kingdom is plantae and his order is Rosethorn and his family is Daja and Sandry and his everything else is Tris.

~~*

When Briar comes home, to the house he shares with Daja and Tris, there are jade stones around all of his plants. Some are stuck to the pots, but others are scattered across his worktables and even half-buried in the dirt, as if they, too, need nourishment, sunlight, water.

Every time he comes home, even from a journey of just a few days, he finds them, all seeded with silver, with the trace of activated ambient magic. They line the windows and circle his tools, spells he doesn't recognize and can't read.

"She's obsessed," Tris says, holds up one of the stones, not a particularly interesting specimen, and peers at him over it, her eyebrows drawn in tight. "You're going to come home one day and not be able to fit through the front door for all the stones."

Briar grins. "Evvy's a good kid." He uses the slang term on purpose, as a habit, and Tris reacts the same, crosses her arms and gives a little huff of annoyance. They each have their role to play.

"She gives you a fortune." Tris closes her hand around the stone. "You don't need her wealth, you and your trees. You can take care of yourself." She pushes her glasses up her nose and scowls deeper than ever.

"You can, too." He slings his arm across her shoulders. "Are you going to lecture me about the price of everything or are you going to enjoy your time away from the university?"

"Calculating costs is something I enjoy," she says, and sniffs.

He tweaks the end of her nose. It is the answer he expects, but knowing it is coming doesn't make it any less welcome. Sometimes, when he thinks about Tris, studying under an assumed name, he expects her to come back different, to come back wrong.

She hasn't so far, not on the surface, but to be safe he plans to check a little closer.

~~*

The plants miss Briar like water in a drought, when the ground cracks and bakes under the heat of the summer sun and everything green fades and turns brown, crackles at the edges and flakes away into dust.

At least, Evvy imagines these things are so, anthropomorphizes the garden until she can almost hear them cry out for him, beg her to find him and bring him home. She would if she could, if Discipline was his home still, because she misses him, too.

Instead she walks through the plants when Rosethorn isn't around to stop her and trails her fingers across their flesh. The stones in the ground call to her, and she sits in the middle of Briar's legacy and touches her magic.

~~*

Briar thought his world would be grayer without Rosethorn, darker somehow, as if she actually sucked the sun from the sky and took it with her when he left Discipline. It's not true, there's just as much light as ever, even though he misses her, even though he thinks about her often, and her garden, and the way she moves through it and the plants rejoice.

Evvy is less on his mind. After all, she is with Rosethorn, and calls Discipline and the garden home. He is too often in his own thoughts, his own hidden places, to worry for her much.

She is busy with her studies and never woke from nightmares as often as he did. She will be fine, with Rosethorn, even the cold of stones can be warmed by the sun.

~~*

beneath the grass, / lay hidden ten thousand / angered souls - Kiyo Hakushima

Elsewhere the plants grow over dead land, the places where the ground was torn and shredded by war. It creeps in, slow, inevitable; there are few things which can keep out the weeds, and they break soil for everything else.

Evvy dreams of the land of the dead, of burnt flesh and hair and bone, of the stench in her nose and coating her throat. She makes noises like the sound of living human pyres and moving stone.

Each time she wakes, she can't remember she's safe, and there are too many strangers in the rooms nearby. She muffles her screams and curls up in the corner of the room, pockets full of stones, and the sun rises to find her in a circle of cats.

All she wants--

is to never have seen the world

is to be back in her little den in Princes' Heights with the cats and the constant growl of hunger in her belly

is to not hear the singing in the stones because bad things come of magic

--really is to be wrapped with leaves and vines in a cocoon, thorns pointed out, her world narrowed to jade-green everything.

~~*

Briar examines the offered stones with care. They are common-place, but carry the faint glow of Evvy's magic in them; they are still warm from her hands and he wants to know if that's how they feel to her always and if she can find a phantom heartbeat in them, if they seem to pulse against her palms.

Evvy watches him in spurts, stares and then walks away, circles the room, and then comes back to stare some more before the whole pattern repeats. She carries the miniature tree he gave her, her arms wrapped around its base, cradles it like a child's security blanket.

"This one," he says at last, and plucks one stone away from the others. It has a slight green tint, swirled with milky white, and it, out of all of them, feels the most like Evvy. It reminds him of a garden, all mixed up so there's nothing left but a wash of color, a garden after a terrible rain. He pockets it, and turns to watch her finish another circuit. "Thank you."

She just stares at him, big eyes and a pinched face.

He should probably say something comforting to her, but it's not like he's leaving her with strangers. She has Rosethorn, and she has Luvo, and she's living in his old home, she should be happy.

Sandry would know what to say to her, and for a moment he's tempted to let Sandry in his mind, to ask for her help, but he can't do that. There's too much inside she can never see.

"Evvy," Briar starts, but she doesn't give him the chance to finish. She lunges at him, and it takes everything for him not to jump out of the way, not to reach for his knives, not to stop her forward motion, but this is Evvy, his student, he's perfectly safe with her.

Her thin arms tremble when she wraps them around him, but she's able to squeeze him until he can't breathe, as if she's part stone as well as flesh. He returns the hug, and the moment his hands settle on her back, she's gone, up the stairs, probably all the way to the roof, because her bedroom is on the bottom floor.

Briar gathers his things and heads for Daja's house, his new home. At the gate he glances back and can just see the top of Evvy's head, peaking down at him. He waves, but she doesn't move, and it's time he walks he away.

~~*

Evvy fakes sleep until Briar and Rosethorn really doze off, and then sits and watches him, his old worry stone cupped in her hands. He hasn't woken from nightmares since they boarded the ship, but Evvy still expects it, and waits, marks time.

She fills the stone with heat and puts it close to him, just as she has every night.

End


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