Don't own the characters.

"Eile? Eile, are you in there? Can I come in for a while?"

Eile shut the wooden chest in the corner of the room which now served as her clothes store, and swung the door of her chamber open, having recognized the voice too well. On the bed behind her sat her 3-year-old daughter Saraid, humming to Sorry, her shapeless rag doll. Upon seeing Faolan, however, the child immediately dropped the doll and hastened to the door.

"Feeler come back! Feeler come back!"

The Gael's usually serious, wary face broke into a smile, as he knelt and embraced the child, stroking her soft brown hair and lifting her into the air. Eile merely smile quietly, as she watched them with her bright green eyes. Faolan, the king's chief bodyguard and spy was far from handsome, unlike his Caitt friend Drustan from the north, yet Eile did not think she could ever forget those features: the long, solemn face, the well-tanned skin, the dark hair and guarded dark eyes.

And the kindness and courage he had displayed throughout the journey.

"You're late, Faolan," Eile remarked, brushing a strand of fiery red hair from her temple. "Thought you'd be back before this, surely."

"Had some things to handle on the way," he replied, setting Saraid back down on the ground gently. He made no attempt to embrace Eile; she had little trust and liking for a man's touch, and Faolan respected that.

"I see." Her shrewd eyes took in the pack strapped to his back, his plain bluish-grey garments, his sturdy shoes.

Faolan did not fail to notice her observing him. Suddenly nervous, he cleared his throat, and begin, "Eile, I don't want to run away again and leave you and Saraid, but-but…"

Eile fixed her gaze on the ground, at Faolan's feet. "King Bridei requires you to go away again."

Faolan sighed heavily, trying to find the right words. "I'm sorry, Eile. Bridei needs me to bring back news that could be vital for Fortriu's safety. I have no intention of running away and abandoning you two. You and Saraid will be better off here, I promise, with the king's and queen's protection and friendly folk around you. Better than you two always living a life of flight. Like me."

Eile said nothing. Faolan's words made a kind of sense, she could not deny that, but she could hardly tell him White Hill was not home. Living at court with grand folk and rulers, and Priteni nobleman, it was just not a real home.

"I'm sorry, Eile," Faolan repeated tightly.

"Saraid," Eile said, turning to her daughter, "why don't you go off and play with Derelei instead? I'm sure he's missing you. You could go and show him Sorry."

Unaware of Faolan's soon-to-be departure, the child skipped away gracefully, clutching her pink-clad doll in her arms. Best if she didn't stay to witness the farewell; her innocent heart would be broken. No child should have to endure ages and ages of waiting for a loved one to return after a long departure.

"I have to go, Eile. Time is precious. Tell Saraid…"

"I will, Faolan." Eile knotted her hands together tightly, a lump in her throat. "Goodbye, then. Keep safe." She could not stop her tight voice from wobbling just a little.

Faolan nodded absently, shuffling his feet slightly. It was clear he wanted to say something, anything, but could not find the right words.

"Promise me, Faolan. Promise me you'll return safely."

"I promise, Eile." He stepped forward at last, and, very slowly and cautiously, folded her in an embrace, very gently. Eile herself was surprised at how good it felt, so safe, so warm. Tilting her face upwards, her eyes met his; it was all the could do to remember to breathe normally.

Shutting her eyes, Eile drew in a deep breath and leaned forward slightly, her lips meeting Faolan's. She could feel Faolan's body tensing, clearly surprised at her gesture, even as his hand came up to rest against her flushing face. But nothing in the world could have stopped them, as Faolan's lips returned the pressure in a gesture of utter love and passion, before drawing back, his face tinged with a pale red.

"Slàn leat, mo cridhe." With that, Faolan, her lover, her only friend, her protector, was gone.

Hi guys! Hope you like this. It's my first ever Marillier fanfic, so please don't be too harsh on me, and please review and let me know what you honestly think. Thank you!

Oh, and a little pronouncation guide:

Faolan is pronounced FEE-lan

Eile is pronounced AY-lay

Saraid is pronounced SORR-id

'Slàn leat, mo cridhe' means 'goodbye, my heart'.