The Long Way Home

A/N: Femslash. Takes place after Bound.


“Lord General! Lord General!”

Hanna looked up from the missive she was reading, one delicate brow lifting in query at the flustered look upon the faces of the three foot soldiers running toward her. “Yes?”

“Lord General! There is a woman here to see you! A foreigner! She said to tell you–”

“–That she is here for a rematch!” Another one finished. “She speaks like the men in Verdant!”

Snorting in amusement, because that could be any one of a number of the women she met when her father sent her abroad to study several years ago, Hanna said only, “I’ve received word that bandits are on the rise along the Fallen Star Road. Give this to my Commander and tell him to do something about it. Then go beat each other up in the practice ring, for at least an hour. You’ve too much energy being wasted, running around in a fluster like that. I doubt my guest is that terrifying. You are Scarlet, act like it.”

“Yes, Lord General!” the men dutifully chorused. Then one broke down and said, “It’s only, she’s got the most amazing hair, red and gold, and her eyes don’t match, and she seemed quite determined–”

“I can guess,” Hanna said sharply, though her heart began to thud rapidly in her chest. It could not be. Rebeka had made it quite clear that she had plans, and a Krian Princess did not fit into them. No, it must be someone else. “Get going.”

Sensing her sudden shift in mood, and not willing to risk the wrath of the Scarlet Dragon (and if her men though she was unaware of that incredibly stupid epithet, they deserved the thrashings she periodically gave them). She watched them go a moment, then sighed and left the familiar, comfortable chaos of the barricks to return to the palace proper.

Everyone fell silent as she passed, save to murmur polite greetings of ‘Lord General’ or ‘Good day, Highness’, clearly just waiting to see what the fuss was all about, and if their fierce princess was about to cause more turmoil by beating up yet another foreign dignity.

She entered the grand hall amidst the silence, long used to ignoring it–and felt her heart drop into her stomach as she saw, patiently waiting and chatting idly with Erich, the very last person she had ever thought to see. Hair the orange and gold of a blazing fire, falling in heavy ringlets down to her waist when she did not bind it up, eyes as golden and sharp as any hawk’s. Her entire face was a mass of freckles, softening features that otherwise would have been too sharp and severe to be pretty.

Oddly, she did not wear armor. Hanna could hardly remember a time when Rebeka had not been in some form of light or heavy armor. Well, she could remember a few times, and quite vividly, but thinking of Rebeka and her pale skin, that beautiful hair, spread out on silk sheets–

She just preferred not to think about it.

Though she wore no armor, she did wear her sword belt, from which hung the peculiar long, slender, curved sword she favored, along with a matching dagger. Her tunic was of a dark, rich purple, trimmed in gold, and she had never looked more beautiful.

Hanna refused to be moved by it–by anything, clinging only to the stinging rejection when Rebeka had said her future was elsewhere, that they had been fun, but never meant to last. “Your Grace,” she said coolly.

“Princess,” Rebeka greeted, sweepign her a graceful–and oddly humble–bow. “I am gla to find you alive and well. I hope you do not too terribly mind the abrupt arrival of an old friend.”

“Friend is one word,” Hanna said, then went straight to the heart of the matter, because she had no time for games. Not with this woman, not with anyone. “How is your husband?”

Rebeka’s smile faded, mouth twisting bitterly as she said, “Dead, by my hand, for being a worthless traitor.”

Hanna scowled, immediately furious. “Bastard. Winter’s Tits, what happened?”

Erich chuckled, breaking into the conversation. “Go talk elsewhere, Hanna, so that I can get the court doing other things again.”

“Yes, father,” Hanna said with a grimace. She leaned up to kiss his cheek, then looked to Rebeka and jerked her head to the door behind the thrones, indicating she should follow. They walked in silence through the halls, and Hanna hated it.

When she had been sent abroad to study, she had known practically nothing. Speaking to anyone had taken months and months of practice, and she had felt a perfect fool while she struggled to learn all knew languages that sounded nothing at all like the three she knew. Until she’d met Rebeka. Tough, smart, clever, and so very talented with her tongue. She’d helped Hanna in so many ways, made travelling fun for the first time ever. And gods above, could the woman use a sword. In countries where women and weapons did not often seem to mesh, Rebeka had been a treat.

And what a treat she’d been. Hanna had been gone, had been so certain–

“What are you doing here, Rebeka?” she asked, no longer able to bite her tongue, angrily pushing open the door to her private parlor, slamming the door shut behind them. “You made it quite plain you were done with me, done with us, and that you had a husband waiting. Why in the name of the Autumn Prince do you think you have the right to show up here and request to see me? And what is this nonsense about a rematch?”

Rebeka stared at her hands as she slowly stripped off the leather riding glove she still wore–and Hanna saw with a painful twist to her gut that Rebeka still wore the silly little pearl ring Hanna had bought her years ago for her birthday. Finally Rebeka looked up, and said quietly, “Us. That rematch. I screwed up–”

“Yes, you did,” Hanna cut in coldly, folding her arms across her chest before she did something stupid, like reach out to stroke that severe but pretty face until the unhappiness was soothed away.

“I’m sorry,” Rebeka said. “If nothing else comes of my journey here, then it will have been worth it to look you in the eyes and tell you that I am sorry. I was so certain of my course, of the life I had planned out, I wasn’t willing to deviate from that course even though the alternate route you offered–well, I should have taken it. I am sorry I did not.”

Hanna did not immediately reply, not even certain what she wanted to say. Forgiven? That would be a soft move, a weak move. “What happened with your husband?”

“We never married. We were engaged, but then I found him out to be a traitor, and plotting the assasination of the Grand Council. The efforts to capture him and his accomplices went sour, and I wound up killing all of them. After that, enough was enough for me. I came to see you, and make it right as best I could.”

“Surely your King must be salivating to reward you for your deeds,” Hanna said. “That would get you everything you wanted, Duchess.”

Rebeka sighed. “He said for my deeds he would restore my famiy’s good name, and that restored to honor of course the Duchess of Katona would be fit to marry one of his sons, and should. I refused and came here. I don’t give a damn anymore, Hanna. You wanted me when I was still in dishonor, and I should have realize that. I’m sorry. I think it’s better if I go. Farewell.”

Hanna tried to let her, but at the last, simply couldn’t. “Wait.” Rebeka stopped at the door, hand still on it even as she turned around. “Don’t leave.”

“You seem pretty certain you don’t want me to stay,” Rebeka said slowly, regarding her warily, and Hanna realized that none of Rebeka’s usual reckless brand of confidence was present. She hadn’t really smiled once. “I don’t know how to change that.”

Unfolding her arms, Hanna crossed the room and took Rebeka’s hands in her’s. “You were the one who was determined to go. I never knew how to make you stay. We went our seperate ways. Why should I believe you’re here to stay?”

“You’re you, starlight,” Rebeka said softly, fondly, exactly as she always had before when they lay in bed together. Starlight, such a peculiar thing to call someone. Hanna had not heard it once since returning home, hadn’t realized until then how much she missed the way Rebeka said it. “I’m me. You do things as quickly and efficiently as possible, and I always took twice as long. It just took me longer to get here, but can’t it count for something that I am here?”

Hanna did not quite allow herself to smile, but she stopped frowning as she said, “Maybe. We’ll have to see if you’re brave enough to survive the rampant curiosity following us about.”

Rebeka laughed. “That’s what the sword is for, starlight.”

“That doesn’t work on Krians,” Hanna remined her lightly, and finally smiled. “Get here faster next time.”

In reply, Rebeka only tugged her close and kissed her, tasting of mead and bread and a home sorely missed. Hanna bundled her close, ignoring the discomfort of armor and swords, wondering how much grief she would catch for not attending the afternoon drills but not really caring. “Welcome home, Duchess,” she said, licking Rebeka’s soft lips, hands lightly tracing up and down her spine. “Want to see your new quarters?”

Rebekka laughed. “By all means. I’ve had nothing but sweaty, filthly sailors and soldiers for company for the past three months.”

Hanna grimaced in sympathy, and took another kiss, the fee of them still familiar, still right. “Come along then, and I’ll banish all thoughts of men from your mind.”

Laughing again, Rebeka tossed her hair playfully, and smirked in a way that Hanna felt all the way down to her toes. That was the look she had first loved, and had missed. “Do please, Princess.”

Matching the laugh and the smirk, Hanna did.