Disclaimer: All characters belong to John Flanagan!
Halt and Will rode up the familiar path to the cabin in the trees. They had just returned from Castle Araluen following the battle in Skandia, and after a brief meeting with Baron Arald, the two rangers were eager to return home. Will's heart fluttered as the cabin came into view. It was his home. He subconsciously stopped Tug, and Halt looked back at his apprentice curiously.
"Will? Are you alright?"
Will looked back into Halt's eyes and broke into an ear splitting smile.
"We're home, Halt," he answered contentedly.
Halt understood well and truly what Will meant, and nodded shortly back. "That we are, Will. That we are."
The two dismounted and led their horses to the stable behind the cabin. There, they unsaddled and brushed Tug and Abelard, then left the horses with a healthy supply of grain, water, and an apple apiece. Even Halt had no qualms about the extra treat, Will noticed. The horses had earned it.
The rangers stepped up the veranda and into the cabin. The interior was dusty and the smell from lack of ventilation for over a year was less than welcoming. Without a word, the two rangers rolled up their sleeves and got to work. Will set his and Halt's packs in their respective rooms, and got to work dusting the cabin while Halt set to making a pot of coffee. Frowning, Halt realized what little provisions they had. He and Will would have to visit the village tomorrow to restock, he thought. For tonight, they would join the Baron in a Welcome Home feast, much to Halt's annoyance and to Will's embarrassment.
After a couple hours and more than a couple cups of coffee, the cabin was as homey as ever. It had been swept and dusted, the rugs beaten, the pots and pans rinsed and shined, and some welcoming wildflowers had been placed in vases in each room. The windows were open and the air smelled of pine and coffee. This is home, Will thought.
It was now evening, and Will and Halt were due at Castle Redmont soon. Once the rangers had cleaned themselves up and changed out of their travel-stained clothing, they were ready to leave.
Will felt his anticipation building the closer they got to the castle. He was excited to see some of his old friends again. Jenny, George, Alyss. Alyss. Will's heart warmed at the thought of the young courier's apprentice. Yes, he was particularly excited to see Alyss.
Halt could see the impatience radiating from the boy's body and smiled slightly to himself. He understood Will's impatience. The thought of the beautiful and graceful Lady Pauline was enough to make Halt blush. He was thankful, not for the first time, of the shadow that his cowl cast over his face.
After what seemed like hours to Will but what was in reality a few short minutes, the rangers crossed the bridge leading into Castle Redmont at last. They tended to their horses before finding their way to the dining hall.
Immediately Will was tangled in a knot of arms from his former wardmates. As Jenny, George, and Alyss greeted their long-lost friend, they found their way to their seats at the long table. Alyss sat to Will's right, Jenny to his left, and George to the left of Jenny.
Halt watched warmly as his apprentice laughed and caught up with his old friends, then slipped discreetly into a secluded hallway just outside the dining hall. A few moments later, a familiar graceful silhouette approached him. Halt felt all his walls break down and he gathered Lady Pauline in his arms.
"Oh thank God," she breathed, her voice hitching with emotion. "I've missed you so much. I was so worried."
Halt didn't trust his voice, aware of the tears building up behind his eyes, so he chose to instead pull Pauline even closer.
They stayed like that, with their arms around each other, for several minutes before reluctantly pulling apart. Before she could turn, Halt gently reached up and cupped Pauline's face, pulling her down into a soft yet passionate kiss. They broke apart and gave each other small smiles, before putting back on their public masks. They then returned to the dining hall, Halt waiting a few moments before following Pauline.
Once everyone was seated and all the greetings were out of the way, the attendees eagerly broke into the feast. Much to everyone's relief, the Baron's speech was brief.
Throughout the meal, Will caught his gaze drifting to Alyss at his side. After a few minutes, Will gingerly reached under the table for her hand. Alyss, caught off guard by the sudden gesture, pinked slightly, but grasped hold of Will's hand eagerly.
Halt, of course, noticed that the two youngsters ate the majority of their meal using only one hand each, but decided to not say anything. He made eye contact with Lady Pauline, and knew she had come to the same conclusion.
As the feast drew to a close and people started to file out, Halt told Will he had a meeting to attend and that he would see him in an hour. Will, engrossed in Alyss' eyes, didn't notice the shared look between Halt and Pauline, and agreed to see Halt in an hour. Will and Alyss, still hand in hand, moved to the courtyard. George, who had seen the pair get up, moved to follow them, but was stopped by Jenny's grip on his wrist.
"Best leave them be," she said softly.
Once outside, Will and Alyss sat on a stone bench. Illuminated by the moonlight, Alyss had never looked more beautiful, Will thought.
"Will?" Alyss asked tentatively.
"Are you alright?"
"Of course I'm alright," Will answered quickly, without a second thought.
Alyss frowned. "Are you sure? I heard about Skandia, being a slave - I don't know much about what happened, but it must not have been easy."
Will smiled reassuringly. "I'm sure, Alyss. I'm okay."
She looked at him for a long while, still not completely convinced.
"Alright. But if you need anything, anything at all, know I'm here, and you can always talk to me."
"I know, Alyss. And thank you. For always being there."
She smiled warmly at him, and leaned in ever so slightly. Will also leaned in, almost imperceptibly. Will could feel the air around them still, as if waiting for something to happen. His eyes flickered down to her lips, and back up to her eyes.
Then the space between them closed as their lips met. Will could feel his lips against hers, incredibly soft. Alyss' hands gathered behind his neck, and his hands rested on her waist. She sighed contentedly into his lips, and smiled as she felt him pull her closer. They kissed for a long time before breaking apart, breathless. They stood together, and embraced each other tightly. Alyss leaned her head in the crook between Will's neck and shoulder. Swaying slightly in the moonlight, dancing to a song nobody else could hear, they young couple felt safe and complete with each other.
Author's Note: Hey guys! This is my first ever fanfiction! I've read so many and honestly i love the stories about how Will has coped and wanted to give it a try. Please leave reviews! Constructive criticism welcome
Honestly I'm not sure how many chapters this story will have. I have a lot of concepts I want to include but I don't know if they would all fit into one continuous story, but there will be at least one more chapter! Also, I need a new name for this fic, so leave some suggestions please!