Returning
By Simply Shelby

A letter arrived, addressed to Sarah.

The second Mrs. Ludwick handed it to her, she ripped it open and began to read, hungry for any word.

Sarah, it read in James's familiar scrawl,

Dr. Franklin's words echo in my ears now, "We must all hang together, or, most assuredly, we will all hang separately", and I must beg your forgiveness for keeping you in the dark. Even without war and treason and independence at the forefront of our minds, this statement holds true. By prohibiting your participation, I realise now, several ideas that should have had your input ran their course without it. A mistake I mean to rectify in the future, I give my word, Sarah. Although, in my defense, I decided upon this course of action solely in an attempt to protect you. From what Ludwick has written, I succeeded on this front only to fall short with the battle of reassuring your worries. You have my sincerest apologies for my oversight in this matter.

I would never, on any account, ever abandon you, Sarah.
You may cease your worrying, as I will not be far behind this letter.

Missing you,
James Hiller

Sarah looked up from the letter to the Ludwick's expectant faces. "I'd forgotten how beautiful he could make words sound." She swallowed thickly, banishing back the tears from the corners of her eyes. Joyful tears, thankful tears. "He's returning."

Mr. Ludwick nodded. "He mentioned that in his letter to me."

Sarah clutched the letter as if it were James himself and glared accusingly at the baker. "You never told me you had contact with him."

The man smiled, indulgently. "I was under strict orders not to."

If Sarah Phillips were anything but the daughter of a Lady, she would have cursed the baker and the journalist. Instead, she turned to Mrs. Ludwick and declared with a shake of her head, "Men." And made her way quickly up the staircase and shut herself in her room, intending to have a good cry.


Early the next morning, so early, not even the sun had thought about rising, Sarah heard horse hooves lightly pounding against the cobblestone outside. Throwing the bedclothes to the edge of the bed and moving quickly to the window, Sarah caught a glance of Mr. Ludwick leading a horse into the barn. Her eyes widened in realisation and she snatched up her dressing gown, skipping steps to make her way down the staircase.

Mrs. Ludwick was standing by the stove and Sarah could smell the familiar scent of biscuits baking in the oven and sausage gravy bubbling on the stove. Her hopeful green eyes met with Mrs. Ludwick's confirming ones. Sarah turned to rush out the front door, only to have it open. She jumped back in surprise.

James Hiller stepped through the door, looking ragged and rugged. His blonde hair was almost brown with dirt and his skin was tanned a darker colour than Sarah remembered. His clothes were tattered at the edges and torn in some places, but it was nothing Sarah couldn't mend, she was sure. And, if she looked close enough, she could identify a few new cuts and bruises, but it was nothing that wouldn't heal with time. And his face… his eyes were dazzling with happiness and a small smile was quirking at the corners of his mouth.

She couldn't seem to breathe.

He lifted the leather strap of his pack and ducked under it, setting it gently by the doorway, not taking his eyes off her for a second. Finally, finally, he spoke. "Sarah?"

At the sound of his voice, Sarah flew into his arms. He stumbled a bit at the contact and winced as she hit a few bruises, but wrapped his arms around her, nonetheless. Burying his nose into her hair, he breathed deeply. "Oh, Sarah," she loved the way he said her name, "I've missed you," he admitted softly, exhausted.

She couldn't speak. Tears soaked the front of James's shirt and she burrowed herself deeper into his arms.

"I'm back now, though. Nothing to cry about." His hands petted her long, fiery hair, soothingly.

"Nothing to cry about," she repeated, with a bit of disbelief. "Nothing to cry about?" Pulling back from him and summing up her most powerful glare, she looked up at him. "You go off and disappear for weeks on end, without giving me a hint as to what you were doing or where you were going and putting me in the care of people I've never met before—that's nothing to cry about?" she said lowly, but vehemently.

He shrugged, unconcerned as ever. "Maybe a little bit of tears," he conceded. "Then you can read about it." He reached for his leather pack and pulled out a stack of papers.

She stepped back. "You left me," she asked, disbelief lacing her tone, "For a story?"

He frowned. "Not necessarily. It was a matter of national security, but I decided it needed writing up."

She snorted, quite unladylike, and shook her head, "Always the journalist."

He held out an arm, inviting her back inside his embrace. "Of course." She stepped inside and grabbed the papers from him. "You wouldn't have me any other way."

No, indeed, she would not.


AN: This chapter is dedicated to SMARTALIENQT for reminding me there was a story that needed updating.