Disclaimer: I own none of this.

Author's note: Despite certain similarities, this story has no connection to "The Dragon Army", which Solid Shark allowed me to post via his account some time ago. This is completely separate. A.U. also, specifically Nanami and Kiba are still alive. This is for anyone who wishes there was an option to save jowy and rule the new nation.

***

"Hai!" Nanami Genkaku swung her rod in an arc.

"I don't think so!" Her brother Riou, leader of the Dragon Army and holder of the Bright Shield Rune, countered with a jab from his tonfa.

The siblings were sparring in Dragon Castle's dojo. In the year since the defeat of Highland, things had settled down. Riou had reluctantly agreed to become the leader of the new Dunan Republic, so named because Dragon Castle was on the shores of Lake Dunan. He proved well suited, commanding the allegiance both of the City-State and what was left of Highland.

"You're doing better than ever, Lord Riou." That was Wakaba, a young warrior Riou had met in the Forest Village the previous year. "I knew I was right to come along."

"You've been a great help, Wakaba." Riou looked at his sister. "Ready for a break, Sis?"

"Sure." Nanami leaned her rod against a wall. "Never thought I'd say it, but this is way better than living in Kyaro."

"Yeah." Riou trailed off, remembering his hometown, Kyaro. His hometown, and his best friend, Jowy Atreides. He shook his head. There was no reason for them to return to Kyaro. Genkaku was gone. Jowy had joined Highland, briefly becoming king before the Dragon Army defeated him. Since then, he'd vanished. Jowy, my friend, I miss you. I hope you're alright.

Nanami saw Riou's eyes fill. "Thinking about Jowy?" she asked gently.

He nodded, wiping his eyes. "I wish I knew what happened. We were always close, since the day we met. We joined the Unicorn Brigade together, and he saved me when Viktor and Flik captured me, after the massacre. Then, when we infiltrated that Highland camp at Muse, everything changed." Riou turned away. "He murdered Lady Annabelle, and joined Luca's army. Even after he became king, he wouldn't make peace. He insisted we were destined to fight each other forever, because of my Bright Shield and his Black Sword."

Nanami hugged him. "But you did make up, sort of. When Gorudo tried to kill me at Rockaxe."

Her brother sniffed. "He said he'd kill me, but when you were shot he forgot all about it. We fought together, and defeated Gorudo. I didn't see him after that." Riou managed a smile. "That was one battle I honestly enjoyed. Jowy and me, together again, if only for a moment." He sighed. "After we destroyed the True Beast Rune, I wanted to find him, but there wasn't time. We had to escape."

Nanami smiled. "I'm sure he's alright. Jowy's not going to die that easily."

"I hope you're right."

Viktor walked in. "Hey Riou. How's it going?"

"Great." Riou smiled, feeling his spirits lift. He'd made a lot of friends since taking command, but Viktor was more than that. The mercenary was almost a second father to his young leader. Good old Viktor. No matter what happened, he always stayed with me, Riou thought. "What brings you here?"

Viktor smiled. "I have someone who really wants to see you." He stepped aside, and Riou froze, his eyes going wide. He recognized the figure instantly: the sleeveless blue outfit, the blue eyes, the long blond hair, tied in a ponytail, the staff on his back. It's him, it's really him!

"J-Jowy?" Riou said, peripherally aware of Nanami's squeal of delight.

"Riou." The onetime king seemed uncharacteristically nervous.

"JOWY!!!" With a cry of joy, Riou lunged forward and hugged his old friend. "Oh, Jowy!" He sobbed, unable to hold back any longer. "Jowy, I missed you."

Jowy returned the embrace. "I know. I'm sorry…for everything."

Riou pulled back. "Don't worry about it. As long as you're back-" He was interrupted when Nanami crashed into them both.

"Welcome back, Jowy!" Nanami exclaimed. "You're finally here!"

Despite his nervousness, Jowy grinned. "Always full of energy. It's good to see you." His grin faded, replaced by worry. "Riou, about the war…I wish it could have turned out differently. I never wanted to fight you."

"Like I said, don't worry about it." Riou gripped his friend's shoulder. "You'll always be welcome here. I insisted on it."

Jowy still looked nervous. "You alone?"

"Not even close." The young ruler grinned. "Viktor and Flik supported me, of course. They know how close we are. The circus trio, naturally. Shu, even Teresa."

"Why her? I thought she'd hate me, since I commanded the invasion of Greenhill."

Riou shrugged. "I was surprised, too, at first, but her explanation made a lot of sense. She said that if it wasn't for you, that idiot Rowd would have burned Greenhill to the ground. Shin backed her up." He shrugged again. "The only one who's likely to have a problem is Jess, and I can't say I blame him."

"Neither do I." Jowy sighed.

Riou looked him in the eye. "Jowy, I know we can't go back to how things were before, but that doesn't mean we can't have a future. I hope…we can be friends again."

A broad smile spread across Jowy's face. "I'd like that. A lot."

Riou laughed. "Come on. I'll show you around the castle."

***

For the next two hours, Riou and Jowy wandered around the castle, chatting happily. For Riou, it was a dream come true; at last he had his friend back, after a year of war. For Jowy, it meant almost a rebirth; forgiven at last, though the guilt would never completely fade. He wasn't worried. Now that he was with Riou again, he could live with his guilt.

"This is the theater," Riou said.

Jowy gazed around in amazement. There was a play going on right then, starring a pair of Kobolds, Gengen and Gabocha. "I remember Gengen, but who's the younger one?"

"His name's Gabocha. We met him just after I chased Kiba and Klaus out of Two River." Riou laughed. "Gengen didn't want him to come along, but he followed us home." He looked closely at his friend. "That reminds me. Are Jillia and Pilika with you?"

Jowy nodded. "I tried to stop them, in case something bad happened here, but they insisted on coming along."

"It's all right. They're welcome here, too."

"That's what Viktor said," Jowy replied. "Pilika remembers how to find her way around the castle, so she and Jillia went to set our room up."

"Makes sense." Riou was silent for a moment. "Jowy, I have an offer to make you."

The other raised his eyebrows. "What kind of offer?"

"Shu suggested you be put in command of an army unit." Riou held up his hand to forestall a comment. "I know, you think no one will serve under the last King of Highland, but you're wrong. First, you're my best friend. That's going to carry a lot of weight with the troops. Second, you're a bearer of a True Rune, like me. And third, you already have volunteers for your support."

"Who?"

"Camus and Miklotov. Since you helped me kill Gorudo, you're an alright guy as far as they're concerned." Riou grinned.

Jowy chuckled. "Since you put it that way, how can I refuse? Count me in."

Riou shook his hand. "Thanks, Jowy. That means a lot to me."

The rest of the day was spent getting Jowy and his family settled in, and introducing Jowy to his new unit. To his surprise, he was accepted immediately. Riou was right, their friendship carried a lot of weight with the troops. He found himself looking forward to his new duties.

Jowy smiled to himself. Riou was right. We can have a future. This time, I'll stay by his side till the end, no matter what.

***

Note: Hope you liked it. This is a one-shot for now, but if I get a good enough response, I might add more to it. Please review.