Flash Fiction: The First Rule of Leaving Home (1481 words)

Silas watched The Winter Woman carefully as he approached along the short dock yard, feeling as if he had just woken up late and come down the stairs to find his mother rearranging the house for a party that no one told him about.

The ship was covered in the same sort of tight, happy flurry, the sailors in their uniforms moving smartly in all directions exactly the way his mother’s servants would take to their invisible courses with their arms full and feet flying. They called instructions back and forth in the same way, threw jokes between them in the same way, and carried on their conversations in bits and pieces in the same way, sharing the work. Even the Captain, her hair wrapped in a tight tail that turned carelessly loose after an inch or two, stood as the center that the rest referenced as they spun while simultaneously threading her way invisibly to put hand or shoulder just where help was needed, like his mother.

He just couldn’t recall his mother ever chartering a crane to bring in supplies, or allowing anyone who worked for her to hang off the side of netted freight that swung about twenty feet overhead.

Captain Britomartis was grinning up at the deck hand though as Silas approached the boarding planks.

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Legal Theft Flash Fiction: Waking (1207 words)

Silas was rarely awake in time to see the sun come up, let alone up, dressed, and walking outside in the crisp last moments of darkness. The air was chillier than he thought it should be, but it had been less than half an hour since he had been asleep under a stack of warm blankets as thick as his arm. It could have been the comparison that made him tuck his chin into the collar of his coat, not the actual bite in the fall air.

It was quieter than he expected too. He had never been so aware of the pattern of the pavement on the main streets, but without a crowd, or even a single passerby, the rectangular, cross-hatched bricks were the most interesting thing in sight. All the doors they passed were closed, as were the windows, except for the few that had swung half open in a forgotten way, like they had bounced when someone slammed them shut. The seller’s carts that took up space on certain street corners were now only boarded up boxes, and while the breeze touched his hair idly, there was nothing hanging out for it to toy with. He expected an echo of his heels at least, but even that noise seemed to be missing, dulled into nothing in the city still asleep.

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Flash Fiction: How to Win (1485 words)

Zain kept his eyes on Silas as the kid realized that they had lost their wager. Zain wondered if Silas had ever lost a bet before, or if he’d seen before how quickly those conclusions came. Zain figured that he’d played through a hundred or two hundred in the last five years, but he still hadn’t figured out exactly where the lever was that turned the long rush of the game into the sudden weight of the ending. The most he’d figured out was how to breathe under it.

He watched Silas, knowing that the kid had been mirroring him all night, and hoping he’d keep the reflection a little longer. It was hard to tell though, whether he was still stunned by the abruptness, or if he was breathing too. Zain waited, one moment, then two, one breath, then four, and smiled slowly.

He nodded to Kibens, beside him at the table. “Thank you,” he said. Collecting himself, he started to rise from his chair and held out a hand for Kibens to shake.

Kibens looked at it, eyebrows rising, then took it firmly. “You’re welcome,” he said. “Any time you want another beating, come on back around. I’ll be happy to deliver.”

Silas was standing, too. He didn’t look at Zain, but nodded to the woman on his right, then the man on this left, and smiled a thanks of his own.

Zain breathed a little easier, smiled a little wider. It was near perfect. Still watching his little brother, he leaned closer to Kibens. “Any other night,” he said, voice low. “You’d be screaming at me for taking fourteen hands in a row, not beaming on top of one.”

Kibens shook his head, glared good-naturedly, dropped his hand and pushed it away. “Sit down then. Play another round.”

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Fiction: How to Gamble Part II (2117 words)

<– Part I

Kibens’ smile stretched while his eyebrows rose. He looked Zain up and down, shocked at his bluntness, and, perhaps a little, impressed. Zain hoped he was impressed.

“I owe you a favor,” Kibens repeated. He shook his head a little, teetering on the edge of a laugh.

“Yeah,” Zain said.

He held Kibens’ eye, purposefully avoiding the others at the table, but let himself blink to turn it into an easy stare. The other three players around the table glanced idly at Zain, then Silas, then Kibens, and continued to play. The one sitting closest with her back to Zain, glanced behind her, raised a quick eyebrow and remained quiet.

Zain knew he’d said it a little loud for Kibens’ taste, but he could see the risk of it threading away as Kibens rolled his shoulders and leaned back in his chair. There was some trouble in saying it in front of these people, but he could see Kibens sorting it out and counting the ways to solve his problem before half a second was past. He was sharp enough, and both of them knew it. He could get out of the questions that would come later, and never explain how Zain had wandered accidentally down a back street that Kibens had found on purpose, or how Zain had gotten him out of deal gone wrong with a little of Fate’s mercy and a well-timed street brawl.

Zain stayed quiet, proving that he was smart enough not to say anything about it either. Kibens finished sinking back in his seat on a breath, relaxed.

“Then what do you need, kid?” Kibens asked.

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Fiction: How to Gamble Part I (1192 words)

Jaera was where she had said she would be, under the only greenery on the South End tall enough for anyone to call a tree. She sat with her back against the trunk, smiling, face tilted up as if the moonlight was warm where it fell between the leaves. Hearing Silas and Zain approach, she raised her head, opened her eyes, pointed her thumb over her shoulder at the weaving stone street that continued behind her.

“Barelman’s,” she said, without introduction. “Has everything you need.”

Zain didn’t stop, touching Silas’ shoulder to push him on as well. “Thank you,” he told Jaera. He turned to give her a smile as he passed her. “I’ll send Terius back for you.”

She might have shaken her head a little, but it was hidden in the dark. It was a stupid thing for him to say, as Terius would find her whether Zain sent him or not. Terius might, if the situation arose, wander across an ocean face if he heard she was free for an evening on the island next door.

After another step or two, Silas ducked his head and twisted to come out from under Zain’s arm. “She’s not coming with us?”

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Flash Fiction: How to Break Rules (744 words)

Silas opened his door sleepily, one hand on his head to keep his hair out of his eyes, though they were barely open. It was past midnight, and the whole house had been dark for hours.

“Zain?” he said.

Zain smiled down at him, hands resting in the pockets of his jacket, shoes still a little wet from the streets outside. “Hey,” he said.

“Why aren’t you asleep?” Silas asked.

“Oh, I don’t sleep,” Zain said. “Haven’t since I was six. Waste of time, really.”

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Flash Fiction: Happy (1484 words)

The kid reminded Zain of Terius. It was an odd thing to think, looking at him from behind as they snuck down the stairs, watching Silas’ curly dirty blonde hair bounce with each quiet jump down the steps, and feeling at exactly the same time as if he were looking at himself through a time-twisted mirror. But Zain thought it just the same.

Silas continued to sneak down the steps, sure of his way around the house. He darted to one side or the other to avoid creaking steps, the same way that Zain might in the mansion he himself had been raised in for the last decade. Where Zain might have looked back and grinned at the chance to show off, Silas stayed facing forward, serious about his sneaking.

He was quiet, too, Zain realized. Not hushed to hide himself as they reached the end of the stairs, but actually quiet, as if he might not have run through the house all that differently had they not been trying to make it to the front of the house without their mother or father catching sight of them.

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Fiction: Broad-Shouldered Dangerous Part II (1107 words)

There were three people hanging off the wall, fingers and toes tucked into whatever holds they could find in the dark wood carvings. The first nodded to him, and gave him another half-embarrassed smile.

The second, a girl with a dark braid dangling off the back of her head as she looked up, simply stopped where she was. Her face showed no surprise, or really anything at all, just a little curiosity.

The third, the other boy, had dirty blonde hair that curled down over his ears, and he leaned out on the full length of his lanky arms. He had a sack tied across his back, and it sagged gently, barely pulling on his rich brown jacket despite the fact that it looked stuffed to the seams. He smiled when he met Silas’ eye, surprised, but not displeased. “Oh,” he said. “Can we come in?”

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Fiction: Broad-Shouldered Dangerous Part I (1325 words)

“Your uncle will be here soon enough,” Tamzen said. She tapped Silas’ shoulder to move him out of his chair.

He slid sideways off his seat as if she’d actually pushed him, got immediately to his feet and stood just to the side looking at her. “I know,” Silas said.

Tamzen looked at him, eyebrows rising, a small disbelieving smile curving her lips. “And what?” she asked. “You think I might just forget that I asked you to scrub up and be in good clothes when he arrived?”

Silas paused. Truthfully, he had forgotten. His breeches had a smudged handprint of red dirt leftover from yesterday, and his jacket was creased and pulled just a little out of shape from a lot of loving daily use. It was what he always wore, comfortable for all his runnings and climbings and sittings and readings. He’d forgotten that he had other options than his thick, slightly scrubby second skin. Sheepishly, he smiled up at her.

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