Dusk was just beginning to engulf Pirate's Swoop when George Cooper finally thundered up to the castle gate. He assumed Landfall was close behind, but at this point he lacked the energy to turn around and check. Ah well, that's what the men-at-arms are for. He was thankful the guards recognized him, because he didn't feel like speaking to anyone, not today, maybe not ever. He rode into the stables, and slid off his filthy and weary mare. Although he usually looked after his own mounts, today he was more than happy to pass the reins to a hostler.

As Aly predicted, it had been a muddy and grueling ride to Port Caynn. A disturbing and grueling debriefing with Landfall followed that, and then, to top it all off, there was an even muddier and more grueling ride back to the Swoop. Just like he suspected, Landfall had been found out and escaped just in time. This meant that George was looking at potentially months of exhausting work, finding, training, and installing a replacement for Landfall in Hamrkeng. Furthermore, George quite liked Landfall, and listening to the man recount the horrors he had narrowly escaped set George on edge.

All of these complications were weighing heavily on George as he stepped into the courtyard, making his mood dark.

That was the moment he saw her.

A diminutive copper-headed woman was flying across the courtyard towards him, and George felt his heart stop. At first he refused to believe his eyes. George had dreamed about walking into this courtyard to find his lass finally home and sprinting into his arms so many times that he was unwilling to trust it was finally happening now. But I've never dreamed her with a limp, or looking so frail and worn, he thought. This is it, this is real he decided, just as she met his outstretched arms.

He scooped Alanna up, bringing her to his height. Her legs wrapped around his waist as her arms encircled his neck. He had one hand on her back, holding her tight to him, and the other was tangled in her hair, forcefully bringing her lips down to meet his.

She tasted of salt, and it took him a moment to realize that he was tasting the tears running openly down both of their faces. The refrain of she's here she's here! echoed in his head as he gripped her fiercely. Real, solid, and true, she's here. For a split second George felt utter terror, as though this were all a cruel hoax and someone was about to take her away from him again, but Alanna's tongue darting between his lips brought him back.

He had no idea how long they embraced, but when he finally pulled back from her kiss he could hear the entirety of the courtyard whistling and whooping at them. Alanna went bright red as he gently set her down, and George felt his own face grow warm. That had definitely been a highly improper way to publicly greet each other, but George found it difficult to feel sorry.

Still gripping her firmly, he looked down into his wife's teary eyes. "Maybe we should, uh, head inside," his voice rough with emotion.

Alanna nodded. She brought a hand up to wipe at her wet cheeks, her other hand holding tight to George's bicep.

He suddenly recalled Landfall, and sighed. "I just need to-I'm sorry love, I just need to sort something out."

"Is it that?" Alanna asked, pointing over his shoulder.

He craned his neck looking for the spy, only to see Maude and a serving girl already there, gently leading Landfall away. Some days it's good to be a noble, he thought.

"Yes." Something else occurred to him, "Is Aly about?" He wasn't surprised at her absence from the courtyard; their children generally went out of their way to avoid having to see any exuberant displays of affection from their parents.

"She left for Port Legann just this morning, before I awoke," Alanna's mouth turned up in a wry smile, "I think she was trying to avoid having to talk with me about her future again. I noticed that she left you a pile of completed paperwork on your desk, though."

George grinned, "That's my girl." He thought for a moment. He knew there had been a whole host of things weighing on him just minutes ago, but for the life of him he couldn't remember what any of them were. The listless weariness he had felt before was completely gone in the face of Alanna's electrifying presence. She's here, she's here!

"Well then, my darling," he smiled down at her, feeling his heart expand in his chest, "Looks like we're free to get reunited." Before she could react he picked her up and flung her over his shoulder. Alanna yelped and pounded on his back in protest as he trotted towards the castle, but he could hear her laughing all the while.

Inside the keep he set her down gently at the foot of the stairs. She turned and began climbing up them slowly. He hung back slightly, enjoying the view. Her clothes were looser than they ought to be on her, he would have to make sure that she was eating plenty during this visit, but he could still see the curves of her body underneath. He admired her legs. His eyes hungrily followed the shapely muscles of her calves as they swelled out from her thin ankles, dipping back in at the knees. He enjoyed watching the way her rounded, firm thighs flexed as they took her up the stairs. Then finally, above it all, the gorgeous sweep of her small, yet shapely ass.

This was what she caught him staring at when she finally reached their bedroom, and whirled back to face him.

"I saw that! You lecherous old Rogue," Alanna's eyes danced while her voice accused.

George laughed, and snatched her up again, hoisting her over his shoulder as he opened the door. Even after all these years she was still a little thing, easy to pick up and carry. When the day finally came that he was too old and weak to be able to lift and toss his wife around as effortlessly as carrying a kitten, well, on that day he would probably have to break down and cry.

The light outside was finally starting to fade in earnest, lending their darkened room a soft amber glow. With a lazy wave of her hand Alanna's Gift lit the fireplace and all of the candle branches, bringing the room into light. George smiled. Of all the many reasons he enjoyed having his wife around, somewhere towards the bottom of the list was that her magic just made everything so much more convenient. It would have taken him at least ten minutes with flint and steel wool to do what she could in a matter of seconds.

George settled Alanna on her feet near the foot of their bed. He could see that she had already put most of her things away where they belonged, although he felt his heart clench as he noted her trunk remained out. I've no idea how long she's even going to be here, he realized. But now wasn't the time for the crushing disappointment of reality. He had her in his arms now; he would make the most of what time they had together, starting with this moment.

Alanna reached up to touch his face. Her gentle fingers traced the lines that framed his eyes and mouth as her wide purple eyes took careful stock of him. Her hands roamed to run through his hair, probably greyer than she had last seen it, then came down to settle on his shoulders.

She gripped his tunic, and in a choked voice whispered, "Great Merciful Mother, I've missed you so."

He couldn't find the words to reply properly, so he crushed her to him so tightly that he could feel her heart beating against his chest. This was the beauty of being married to someone for twenty-three years; when words were a woefully inadequate medium of expressing the depths of your love and desire it was fine, because nothing more needed to be said anyhow.

He inhaled deeply, intoxicated by the scent of her. She smelled as though she had just recently come from a bath and for a moment George hesitated, thinking of his filthy mud spattered state. However, if the way she was nuzzling his neck while one hand was busy untying his breeches was any indication, Alanna cared not a whit if he was dirty or clean.

Just then her hand snaked its way into his breeches to cup him gently, and any coherent thoughts he might have had were eclipsed by his intense burning need for her.

He groaned as she withdrew her hand in order to eagerly yank his tunic over his head. He did the same for her, and then set to work on the buttons of her shirt. It didn't take long before they were standing naked, surrounded by hastily discarded clothing.

Alanna climbed onto their bed, then beckoned at him. "Well, come on now laddy-buck, don't make me wait, I've had enough of that."

George laughed, and clambered after her. Once in bed he quickly pinned her with his knees, using his free hands to mercilessly tickle her. "Hey, who gives the orders around here, me or you?"

Alanna squealed and shrieked, "I do! I do!"

George chuckled, "You do at that, it's true." He stopped tickling her, his hands now running gently over her body, re-familiarizing himself with the soft silky feel of her skin. He gently cupped a breast, running his thumb over the nipple.

"You don't know how I've dreamed of this moment," he murmured, enjoying the way her skin tightened and pebbled under his gentle touch.

"I've some idea, " she said softly, her eyes heavy-lidded with pleasure. "Some of your letters were quite descriptive. You made it very hard for me to be a good girl, and stay at my post up north, when all I wanted was to ride down here and beg you to fuck me senseless."

George felt his groin tighten; oh how he loved it when she was crude. "Good. Did you get the sketches I made of you?" He switched to give the other breast some attention, softly squeezing it and toying with her nipple.

Alanna turned bright pink. "Yes. I think the boy who distributes the mail reads it, he couldn't look me in the eye for weeks after you sent those." Despite her discomfort at the memory she obediently arched up, thrusting herself into his cupped hand.

"Lucky boy." George couldn't hold himself back any longer. He bent to kiss her in the sensitive spot under her ear, then nuzzled his way down her neck to her collarbone. He paused briefly, to swipe his tongue over the delicate hollow of her neck, making her shiver, before continuing down. He kissed each of her nipples, then set to work. His mouth eagerly enveloped her breast, tongue flicking out over the tip.

She moaned, and wriggled under him, letting him know he was on the right path. Her hands began to creep over his body, her nails gently dragging over his back. He groaned into her chest, and she took advantage of his lack of focus, gently rolling him over and settling herself on top.

Straddling him, she grinned down wickedly and murmured, "I can't let you have all the fun." She tried to tease, but she wanted him too badly to be coy. Her mouth found his again, kissing him fiercely as she ground down against his erection. Feeling how wet she was elicited a growl from him, and she smiled against his lips. Before he could make another move she was up off of him. He hissed at her brief absence, only to be rewarded with the feeling of her tongue licking him up and down, inch by inch.

"Lass…" his voice was a low growl. She knew what he wanted. Her fist wrapped around the base of his cock, gently pumping up and down while her mouth took the rest of him in. As she bobbed up and down he rested a hand on the back of her head, careful not to exert any pressure. Her eyes met his, and he felt a jolt of desire run through him. Great gods above she was gorgeous, her eyes filled with lust and her mouth spread around his girth.

Suddenly he was right on the edge. "I can't hold out much longer," he gasped. She released him gently, her lips twisted into a smirk.

He quickly flipped her onto her back, eager to do some tormenting of his own. His fingers gently slid down her body, teasing her while she whimpered underneath him. He grinned, then plunged two fingers into her, making her squirm and gasp.

He knew he ought to take it slow, seeing as she loved to be teased and tormented, but he couldn't. The need to have her was all consuming, shattering any self-control he might once have possessed.

He had missed this so much. He missed her smell, and the feel of her skin pressed against his. He missed the way her breath caught in her throat when she was excited. He missed the sound of her laugh, and the soft sighs she'd make while she was sleeping. He had missed the softness of her lips, and the silkiness of her coppery hair as he ran his hand through it. He missed being able to look into her round purple eyes anytime he felt like it, to luxuriate in the honest love he saw in them. He missed the taste of her, Crooked God, the way she tasted.

Unable to resist any longer he brought his lips in a careful trail down her body, brushing over soft curls to come to the apex of her thighs. Eagerly she spread her legs for him, revealing her slick, swollen sex. He slowly dragged a finger up her cleft, gently circling the sensitive little bud at the top.

Alanna bucked up, "Please George, please" she pleaded, her voice ragged. She could barely get the words out before his mouth was on her.

She was wet and velvety, beautifully hot and slick. He devoured her, savoring the taste of her desire. Her wetness filled his mouth, and he delighted in the feeling of it. She writhed underneath him, senselessly urging him on, until the words "please" "yes" "oh gods" and "more" lost all meaning. Her thighs clamped around his head as he suckled and nibbled, and he forced them apart again. He liked having her open to him. Her hands clutched the bedspread and her whole body tensed. Knowing she was close, George poured his attention into her swollen clitoris. Her back arched suddenly, and she climaxed with a pitched wail.

George came back to her mouth, hungering for her. She gripped him fiercely, that was another wonderful thing about his wife. She was strong, and when she held you she meant it.

He wanted desperately to be inside of her, to feel her surround him. She must have wanted it as well, because before he could act she was already guiding him to her entrance. He pushed into her slowly, relishing every inch.

"Oh gods George," she breathed, and it sent a thrill through him.

Their lovemaking started out slow and tender, but their mutual desire and eagerness quickly turned it into something much headier. He thrust into her, her hair wrapped around his fist and his lips on her neck. She lifted her hips to meet him, tightening around him, her teeth biting into his shoulder as she jerked and groaned beneath him. He came into her with a shout, and then stilled. He rolled off of her carefully, then tugged her into his arms. Her fingers traced soft patterns on his chest, and he could feel the wetness of her tears on his skin. It was alright; he was crying too.

He didn't know how long she would be there, he didn't know how many more moments they would have together, but for now, holding her on their bed, stroking her hair and listening to her breathe, it was enough.