Flash Fiction: Slide (828 words)

Leonne leaned her elbows against the table top, her feet tucked beneath her in the wide seat of the padded chair. Sitting in a loose ball, she tucked her elbows to her sides. She put her hands on either side of her head, holding it gingerly. She would have liked to just rest her forehead in her hands, but that was too much pressure and her skull felt more fragile than bone that morning. So, she just pressed gently at her temples with the full length of her fingers, and shut her eyes carefully.

She heard the door open behind her, and decided it would cost her less to sit still and wait for the person to announce themselves, than it would to turn and see who it was. Her visitor paused in the doorway, then took a quiet step inside, and shut the door. Her skirt rustled against the carpet as she came farther into the room, and then the other girl set a gently steaming mug in the center of the table. The bottom clinked, and Leonne focused a little too intently on the sound. She looked up at Cerena without moving her head.

“Good morning,” Cerena said. She slid into a chair on the far side of the table, so that Leonne could see her more easily, then flicked a rough examination over Leonne. “Congratulations. You’re human like the rest of us.”

“What are you doing here?” Leonne asked. She tried a smile at her friend. It didn’t hurt more than anything else, so she kept it.

Cerena shrugged. “I figured I was a little responsible for the competition last night.”

“You did not ask me to take four matches in a row,” Leonne said.

“I didn’t stop you,” Cerena said.

“I didn’t know that you were in charge of keeping my pride on a leash,” Leonne said.

Cerena cracked a wider smile. “What did you think a best friend’s job was?”

Leonne shook her head, just a little, and stopped quickly. “You’re supposed to be with Vardan today. I heard you two making plans.”

“We did make plans,” Cerena said. She looked down at the table top, continuing in slow, light tones. “And I made plans to spend a whole day with him, because he’s wonderful. And because he’s wonderful, he understood when I explained that you had followed me to the secret and exciting Midnight Practice Courts, tried to keep up with my level of madness, did things even I wouldn’t do…” She looked up long enough to see Leonne reaching across the table to shove her shoulder roughly. She leaned into the shoved, and grinned. “… Overworked yourself terribly, and dropped off your feet before I could even get you home. He even understood why I didn’t send for him when I needed help carrying you.”

Leonne put her hands around her head again, shutting her eyes. “Don’t remind me,” she murmured.

“I barely had to say anything more than that you’d exhausted yourself,” Cerena said. “I always think its funny, how skittish non-keimon get when they hear that we’ve Worked ourselves to sleep. He almost pushed me on my way to come check on you, looked a bit like he expected the next bit of news to fall out of my mouth, might be that you were going to explode.”

“I’m not going to explode,” Leonne said.

“I know,” Cerena said.

“You could go back to him,” Leonne said.

Cerena looked at her sideways. “You’re going to turn down the company?”

“If you’re leaving the choice to me, then…” Leonne shook her head a little, drawing in a breath to think. “No,” she said firmly. “Please, don’t leave me.”

Cerena laughed, then pretended to sigh. “Fine.”

“Thank you,” Leonne said.

“You’re welcome,” Cerena said. She shoved the mug toward Leonne. The steam rose against her cheeks. The sweet spice cooled the inside of her mouth and nose. “Drink up.”

Leonne freed one hand to turned the handle toward her. She braced her thumb against the side before she lifted it other mouth.

Cerena laid her arm flat against the table. Her hand lay palm up between them, and something white and blue flickered against the skin. A little more heat pooled in the middle of the table. On Leonne’s next breath, it cooled the inside of her lungs like peppermint. She sucked it in greedily – energy that she had expended and destroyed last night, and wished she had back running under her skin this morning. It would take a little while for it to come back, a day or two before she would feel all the pieces of her arms and shoulders slide in their proper way.

The energy on Cerena’s hands did nothing to help build it back up, but the coolness of it sank into Leonne all the same. For a breath at a time, her bones and blood and too-tight muscles, melted back into one piece, sliding into their places.

Today is Wednesday, and yes, there should have been a Wednesday Serial today. However, my brain has been muddled deep in NaNoWriMo, and it was hard to drag it back out today. Expect a piece of the Serial next week, at its regularly scheduled time.

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