DISCLAIMER! Insert your own version of 'this isn't mine' here.

The trap clattered to a halt on the gravelled sweep of the driveway, and was instantly the complete centre of attention. Hidden eyes watched from every secret corner of the main house, as the coachman lowered the steps and diffidently offered his arm to help the first passenger down. He was waved away curtly as this passenger stood up; she instead jammed a hat on her head almost defiantly, and made her unaided way haltingly down the steps. At the bottom, the figure paused triumphantly, before reaching back up to help the other occupant descend. The more careful of the concealed observers would have noted the ostensible helper was leaning rather heavily on her plain oaken walking stick, and the beauty accepting her help didn't seem to need it. Few, however, would have noticed these things even if they had been so careful – they had more important things to consider.

The whisper flew round below stairs as if gifted wings – "Miss Kruger has come home!"

The two figures paused at the base of the trap to simply look at the house. The taller of the two smiled slightly mysteriously.

"Natsuki is home again. She must be pleased."

The younger girl turned to her companion, looking a trifle unsure. "Well… was this a good idea Shizuru?"

Any reply was abruptly prevented by a loud, crashing bang.

At the top of a set of granite stairs, just outside the tasteful main entrance to the house, stood a man. He was a big, rolling, bear of a man - but clearly a gentleman. A thick shock of dark hair contrasted sharply with his salt-and-pepper beard, and beetle-black eyes sparkled under heavy eyebrows. At that exact moment, the whole of that rather pleasant face was frozen in open astonishment. He gave a strangled, inarticulate cry.

Natsuki paled. Shizuru's smile grew fond.

In an instant, the man had flung himself down the stairs to stand before the two girls, his arms outreached as if to grab Natsuki. "You're back…" he murmured, sounding disbelieving. He paused to shake his head – as if his eyes were deceiving him. Natsuki offered a sickly, hesitant smile. The man blinked rapidly. Then he exploded.

"You're back!" he roared jubilantly, actually leaping in his elation. He carefully moved forward and wrapped his arms around his daughter, making sure not to jostle the still healing leg, or squash tender ribs. Then he sprang back and exuberantly swept Shizuru up in a bone-crushing embrace. "You brought her back home to me!"

Even the legendary composure of Shizuru Viola couldn't withstand being picked up and waved about in triumph; Natsuki felt compelled to step in.


The hulking admiral continued his celebration, practically dancing with the fullness of his delight. His enthusiasm had clearly overflowed his reason. Only a smacking kiss on Shizuru's cheek finally galvanised Natsuki enough to curb it.


The man grinned at his daughter, winking cheekily. "Now, now my girl – it's just a little thank you; I'm not trying to steal her, so there's no harm." He practically skipped back up the steps. "Are you two hungry? We've got food." He turned to Shizuru, eyes alight with glee. "You're staying forever, right?"

Natsuki looked entirely nonplussed.

"Good!" barked the Admiral, oblivious to this. "Good! Go tell James set up the bedroom for you both, Natsuki. Lunch will be ready shortly."

Grumbling, the slightly shell-shocked woman hobbled up the stone stairs, servants hovering should she require assistance. They smiled indulgently as she glowered at them, and followed her discreetly as she headed inside.

The Admiral turned again to Shizuru, who was looking stunned, and in both sets of eyes the other saw great depths of feeling.

There was a brief silence.

"Thank you." Natsuki's father said softly, in entirely different tones. "Thank you for helping her. Thank you for staying with her, and thank you for bringing her back."

Shizuru's expression flickered through many responses; surprise, embarrassment, fondness.

The Admiral turned to look at the still-open door and smiled slyly. "You realise I'm that girl's father, right? I know her. Hell, I remember when I met her mother; I had that same look in my eye… well. I know everything about that trouble you had in Eastgate – and to my mind, Natsuki couldn't have chosen better. Welcome to the family."

His smile dissolved back into genuine delight and pleasure.

Shizuru's expression rivalled the sun for brilliance.

As servants bustled around the trap, gently removing baggage and whisking it away, two figures climbed the steps and entered their house together.

AN: Done and dusted. Thank you Black Mephistopheles.

This is an important note: if you want to see this kind of thing done much better by a much cleverer person, try Dezopenguin's 'Elementary, My Dear Natsuki' stories, as they're made of win.

Once again, and for the final time, my deepest and sincerest regards to every person who reviewed.