A Matter of State

Disclaimer: I don't own the Wheel of Time. Honest.

~

Morgase was bored. Bored, tired and frustrated. Her breasts ached, from milk that was rarely sucked. Sometimes she regretted passing Elayne to a wet nurse...yet it hardly seemed proper, did it? A Queen suckling a child...

Quickly, she shook off the momentary regret, listening, albeit half-heartedly to whatever Reen Halfar was saying. Tiredness she felt keenly at that moment.

The clerk eyed the single sheaf of paper he held, licking his lips, and smoothing his hair - or what little he had of it - absently. She watched, slightly amused, even when Elaida, who sat in a chair a little way away, tutted absently. She loathed vanity in men...but then Elaida loathed all men.

A slight flush crept up the Queens neck as she thought of her Aes Sedai Advisor...like that. It was hard to imagine Elaida with anyone, but even harder to imagine her a virgin...

Indecent thoughts, Morgase reprimanded herself silently, indecent thoughts for any woman, least of all a Queen...

But still...

She concentrated on Reen, even ignoring the ache in her breasts.

"As I said, Your Majesty," He said, puffing up on his own self-importance. "The grain is spoiled. Rats in the cellars, you see -"

"I don't like rats," Elaida said absently, watching her knitting needles intently.

Reen's lips quirked. "Who does?" He practically purred. Fool man, thinking he could quip with an Aes Sedai. Maybe a less stern one would quip back, but not Elaida.

She regarded him coolly, before turning to Morgase as if he did not exist. "Cats," she said simply. "And I'll place a ward,"

She didn't ask permission, as would be proper, but then Morgase did not want to argue with her, the serpent ring on her right hand suddenly seeming very heavy. Elaida had gone through the training and Morgase could only imagine how powerful she was with saidar, when she herself could only channel a trickle. If it came to a battle of wills, Morgase had no illusions. Elaida would win without so much as raising a finger.

"Certainly," She agreed cordially, even though it hadn't been a request. Yet appearances had to be kept, even in front of Reen Halfar.

Elaida nodded to herself, sinking back into the cushions, her dark eyes again intent on the knitting.

"Shall I buy more grain?" Reen inquired.

"Of course," Morgase said, irritated. "Unless you want us to starve,"

"Permission must be -"

"Obtained. I'm aware," Morgase's voice and mood were becoming darker. "Well, Master Halfar," She said, voice honeyed and mocking. Reen's cheeks burned. "I give you permission to see the Royal Household doesn't starve,"

"Yes, indeed, Your Majesty," He muttered. Then he bowed. "May I leave?"

She nodded.

He backed away, not turning his back, even fumbling with the knob without looking, and then bowing low, before clicking the door shut again.

Elaida's eyebrow had half-raised as she looked at Morgase.

Morgase said nothing, looking away. Let the Aes Sedai judge her and think her foolish for being irritable and sarcastic.

The knitting needles took up a steady rhythm, a constant tempo, and Morgase felt herself soothed as she listening to the click that seemed so permenant in a world were everything was falling to pieces around her.

Thom Merrilin. The name came unbidden to her mind. Her forehead creased as she thought of the Court Bard. Too friendly by half, too comfortable in her presence...too dishonest.

Morgase flushed, as she thought of the Former Court Bard. Former if he ever dared show his face again. Promising he would not leave her. She had believed him, too, burn him. It had been so easy, so easy, to believe him...especially when she had been lying in his arms.

She missed that.

The days after Taringail's death were...hard. Whatever the rumours surrounding him was, he was her husband, the father of her children, and...something warm to sleep beside. Thom had been there, so warm, strong and comforting. Never forcing her, always easing, never forcing...

But then he had gotten a message. What it was, Morgase did not know. He wouldn't tell her, though his face had gone ashen and he had sat, plucking idle tunes on his harp for days, not lifting his eyes to look at anything or anyone. Morgase had considered calling a physician.

And then he had practically assaulted Elaida Sedai.

Morgase had awoken to find him gone from sitting dully by the window.

Elaida had informed her, with ruffled dignity, later that morning that Thomdil Merrilin, Former

Court Bard of Andor, had assaulted her while she ate breakfast. Almost. He hadn't actually laid hands on her, but that was only because Elaida had slammed him against the wall with a flow of air.

"Why?" Morgase remembered asking, aghast that Thom would do that. Aghast that he would be so foolish.

"The current business of the Tower has upset Master Merrilin," Elaida said, her voice icier that Morgase could ever remember it being, then or since. "He attacked simply because he assumed I was involved,"

"In what?"

"Tower business. Aes Sedai affairs," Elaida said dismissively and Morgase knew she would get no more a conclusive answer. And she would do herself no favours by pressing the Aes Sedai.

Morgase was shaken out of her thoughts when the steady click ended. She looked over at Elaida, who was examining her knitting, all the delicate stitches and loops. In a deep blue wool. Morgase's lips twitched.

"What are you making?" Morgase asked finally.

"Nothing," Elaida paused for a moment. "A scarf, maybe,"

"Who for?" Morgase grimaced as the ache increased, absently touching her left breast, gently rubbing it in circles.

Elaida followed her hand, then looked away abruptly, colouring gently. "No one,"

"No one?" Morgase felt an unexpected surge of pity; not only for the Aes Sedai, but for herself. For some reason it seemed immensely sad that Elaida had no one to make a scarf for. "Then why bother?"

"I like knitting," Elaida said softly, an edge creeping into her voice, as if Morgase was going to challenge her.

Morgase shrugged, pressing harder at her breast. Elaida pretended not to watch. "Are you in pain?" She asked finally after a moment.

"A bit," Morgase admitted. "Its the milk, you see,"

"Yes," Elaida looking a bit disconcerted. She was not a maternal woman. "Yes, I see...I think there's a...salve. Yes, salve, that you can use on it,"

"On my breasts?"

Elaida coughed nervously. "Yes...there,"

"I would try it," Morgase said vaguely. "I'd try anything to relieve it...but Lini wont let me suckle Elayne, says its un-Queenly. People don't want their Queen to be a real woman,"

"Oh," A deep flush was settling on Elaida's face.

"Sometimes it soaks the front of my gown, you know," Morgase wasn't completely sure why she was telling the Aes Sedai this. It wasn't something she could tell to someone who wasn't her equal; in a sense every Aes Sedai was equal to a queen - or at least thats what they let you believe. And it would embarass both her and Lini. Lini was like her mother...and there was some things that you didn't discuss with your mother, including how tender your breasts were. "It leaks,"

"Ah," Elaida looked awkwardly down at her hands. "Well...some Yellow sisters think...that...massaging the breasts can be beneifical,"

Morgase smiled. "Thats what I'm trying to do," She nodded downwards.

"Ah...obviously," Elaida replied.

"Its not helping much," Morgase continued. "I think you have to get someone to do it for you,"

A strange look came to Elaida's face, then went so quickly Morgase couldn't quite identify it.

An idea formed. She could never ask anyone else...and since Thom had gone...and who would the Aes Sedai tell?...she had no one...

"Will you rub them for me?" Morgase was surprised at how coy she sounded. This could almost be taken as...flirtation. Morgase had never been with a woman before. Never. But...it didn't seem entirely unpleasant.

Elaida looked stunned. Her mouth actually dropped open for a moment. "Well...ah...would that be appropriate? I..."

"Please," Morgase stared directly into her eyes, blue eyes meeting dark eyes. "It hurts," And it did. Morgase didn't enjoy pain, nor was she used to enduring it.

The Aes Sedai smoothed her gown. "All...alright," She said shakily, shocking Morgase. Elaida's voice had shook.

Slowly, very slowly as if delaying the moment, she got up and crossed the short space between them, knelt, then, with trembling hands, gently pressed them to Morgase's breasts, one thumb over each nipple. She breathed out slowly, then began to rub in circles.

Morgase was shocked when her nipples hardened as Elaida rubbed, becoming more confident with every stroke, gently easing the pain from her.

"You're so gentle," Morgase found herself whispering, almost as if she had no control over her own voice.

Elaida smiled vaguely. She wasn't so hard anymore, Morgase thought, not so hard by half, not when the fire bathed half her face in soft orange light, playing on her dark hair. "I should have been Yellow," She joked quietly.

"Maybe," Morgase agreed, "You have the hands,"

Elaida's flush deepened.

"It's been hard, you know," Morgase said sleepily. "Hard, since Taringail died, since Thom left..."

"I know, Morgase, I know," There was a strange timber to Elaida's voice, as if she truly understood.

Morgase felt her eyes close, her head loll back against the chair. It was nice, warm and comfortable, with a friend...a friend, who Morgase wanted as something more in that moment...

But she didn't say it, too tired, lying half-asleep against the chair back. The rubbing stopped and Elaida withdrew, but not far. She stood, standing over Morgase, observing the dozing Queen. Morgase had not the strength to look back. Gently, Elaida's fingers brushed hair from her face, running a warm forefinger down the side of her face and across her lips. "It was for you, you know," She said suddenly, huskily. "The scarf, for you, Morgase. Always for you,"

Morgaze didn't answer, though inside something tore and something warmed at the same time. Her eyelids flickered but didn't open.

She felt a soft kiss at the side of her mouth, then another on her temple, then another gentle stroke from a thumb down her cheek.

Then she heard the soft click at the door, as Elaida left the Queen to sleep by the fire.

~

The End

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