"Expectin' someone important, milady?" the scruffy dock hand asked Alanna jovially.

She smiled. "In a manner of speaking, yes." She was indeed expecting someone very important, but not in the way the man meant.

"Well hopefully they'll be arrivin' soon, you've been here long enough. But at least you brought somethin' to do," he said, nodding at the book in her hands.

"Always be prepared for boredom," she agreed, though the truth was she had been far too excited to even open it.

The dock hand grinned as he ducked his head in a goodbye, then returned to his busy work, stacking cargo on the docks, preparing it to be taken overseas and sold.

Alanna wished George was with her, time never seemed to crawl so when he was around, but unfortunately work kept him tied up in his office.

"I know I'll hear the horn when they arrive, but gods curse it all! His Majesty can't possibly think I can keep up with all of this," George complained over breakfast that morning.

"His Majesty thinks you should find a new assistant, as do we all," Alanna reminded him. Her tone had a sharp edge to it, but she couldn't help from reaching over to squeeze his hand as she spoke. They both knew why George continued to fire assistant after assistant: none of them were who he really wanted to be helping him. As much as she wanted to be annoyed by George's apparent inability to face reality, it was impossible not to find this side of her husband adorable. He just misses his little girl, she thought sadly. She desperately tried to resist the urge to climb into his lap, wrap her arms around him, and coo soothing things into his ear, as she so often found herself doing ever since Aly had left them.

George had flushed red after her gentle rebuke. He removed his hand from her grip in order to lean over and tweak her nose. "You need to stop being the calm, sensible one. That's supposed to be my role. And besides," he added, waggling his eyebrows, "I like you best when you're unreasonable and insatiable."

A shout from the docks shook Alanna from her revery. A ship was on the horizon.

Finally! she thought, leaping to her feet.

If she had thought the wait prior to seeing the ship was excruciating, it was nothing compared to the eons that passed as Alanna watched the vessel draw nearer. It transformed slowly before her eyes, from a speck just barely discernible from the sea, to an actual recognizable ship.

Once it reached the dock (long after Alanna had died and been reborn at least twice waiting on that damned dock, of that she was certain) the sailors aboard began tossing out ropes to the hands ready and waiting.

The gang plank had barely kissed the ground when three tiny dark streaks zoomed down it, heedless of the shrieks of "DON'T JUST RUN OUT THERE" booming out from behind them.

"GRANDMA!" the three voices screamed in unison, just before Alanna was bombarded with hugs.

She knelt to return the love, disappearing beneath their bodies. The noise was deafening, they were so excited that they were all yelling in her ears.

"Oh look at you! You've all grown so much, " she called out over their squawks and cries for attention. Once she was certain she had hugged and kissed all of them at least three times, she stood. As they calmed themseves the cacophony began to turn into recognizable words.

"Will Grandpa take us sailing again?" Ulasu asked, dancing in place.

"Are Uncle Thom and Aunt Rose here? Last time he showed us magic tricks!" Junim's tugged on her arm excitedly as he spoke.

"Will you help me with my swords? I've been practicing real good, Grandma! You'll see!" Of all her grandchildren (Or at least the ones born so far, Alanna reminded herself, thinking of Thom's recent good news) Ochobai alone had inherited anything close to her grandmother's famed violet eyes. Ochobai's siblings both had dark eyes, like their father. Ochobai did too, but in certain light, such as in this bright morning sun, Alanna could see they were actually a deep damson purple.

"Yes, yes, and yes! We'll do everything you like, and more, how does that sound to you all?" Alanna asked, beaming happily down at them. They cheered, flinging their arms around whatever bits of her they could reach.

"I thought I said you three needed to wait on the ship until it was fully docked!" a familiar voice chided from behind the happy group.

Alanna whirled to find her daughter standing next to her, looking cross and exhausted, but no less beautiful.

"Aly!" Alanna cried. She tugged her grown child into a tight embrace. Aly sighed gratefully, squeezing her mother back just as hard.

"Mother, oh I've missed you," Aly whispered to her. Alanna leaned back, wiping away tears, first from her daughter's eyes, then her own.

"Well then," Alanna said, once she had mastered herself again. "How was the voyage?'

Aly shook her head. "It was-" whatever she was about to say was interrupted by the clatter of hooves. They all turned to see George sliding of his mount at the end of the dock.

"DA!" Aly shrieked, and just as she had ever since she first learned to run, she sprinted down the dock and threw herself into her father's already outstretched arms. George responded exactly as he always had, by lifting her and holding her tight, spinning her around as though she were only a girl again.

Alanna watched as father and daughter clung to each other joyfully, her fingers on her lips, and her eyes threatening to spill over with fresh tears.

"As you can see, we're all very happy to be here," a droll voice at her elbow said. Alanna turned to see her son-in-law standing there, a crooked smile on his face.

She grinned down at the children still clinging to her body, then returned to meet Nawat's happy eyes. Joy bubbled up inside of her, making her feel younger than she had in ages.

"And we are just so happy to have you here," she replied, meaning every word of it.

Author's Note:

Sometimes Aly being so far away makes me sad. I wanted to write something happy instead.