I sat on the bed as Tristan started unpacking his trunks. I frowned, seeing how he’d come back with four more than he’d brought.
“You travel like Alex now?” I said. He looked at me.
“You’d be amazed,” he said, “Alex is practically a minimalist compared to the people up there.” I nodded. “Most of these were gifts, Thena, from when we got engaged. Which is more about Grandfather than me.” I raised an eyebrow and he sat down. “You don’t approve?”
“It doesn’t matter, how I feel,” I said, “you seem changed, though, mostly for the better.” He looked at me. “Maybe I’m being unfair.”
“You aren’t,” he said. “I feel it too. I don’t know how I’ll fit anymore.” I looked at him. “And I have no idea what I’ll say to Lisette.”
“What did Marina say?” I asked. He frowned and stood up. “What did you do?”
“I didn’t do anything,” he said, “Lestoff showed up and she seemed rather annoyed.” I nodded.
“They’ve been arguing quite a bit,” I said. He frowned at me. “She talks to me, we’re friends now. I thought that was what you wanted.”
“I don’t want you telling me these things,” he fell back against the bed and I stood up. “Part of why it was so easy for me to let go was thinking that they didn’t,” he drifted off.
“Are you really just going to escort Carolina into that room without talking to Lisette first?” I raised my eyebrows. “You already didn’t say goodbye when you left. Just reappearing probably won’t help.” He glared at me. “And Marina is most certainly over you, though she was on her way even before you left. Lisette,” I stopped. “I don’t know that she ever will be Tristan.” He was just staring upward.
“Of course she won’t,” he said softly and I looked at him. “I won’t ever get over her either. I think that’s what you all don’t understand. How we love each other is permanent, Thena.” I frowned at him. “It isn’t that I don’t love Caro, that I don’t want to marry her, that I’m going to throw all of that away. It’s simply a fact of my life. I love Lisette and she loves me.”
“That sounds terrible,” I said.
“It really, really is.” He groaned. “I’ve been trying to tell you for a year how terrible it is, and you thought I was being ridiculous.” I laughed. “What about you?” I sighed and stretched. “Aaron said it was bad for a while.”
“It was,” I whispered, “it was dark, and he was wonderful about it.” Tristan smiled. “I never realized how much I relied on you, when it was bad. I’m sorry for that.”
“Athena,” he said, “it was never a burden. I was worried about you though. There were a lot of changes all at once, and that usually makes it worse.” I smiled. “Do you disapprove of the wardrobe?” He sighed.
“I don’t disapprove,” I said, “but I am going to tease you about it, forever. It used to be a struggle to get you into a clean shirt.” He laughed.
“Even when I wore some of it,” he said, “Caro didn’t like it. She likes the uniform.” I smiled.
“Oh, she and I are going to get along very well,” I said. “Come on, time to reintroduce you to the troops, Commander.” He groaned. “Unless you want to continue your hiatus. I’ll recommend whatever you want.” He followed me out the door.
“Do you know how weird it was to go up to the Fort in Dorin and see everyone and then go back to that damn house,” he said and shook his head. “I did manage to keep up some training, but I’m going to be rusty.”
“Hm,” I nodded. “Well, we’ll whip you into shape.” He laughed when we reached the hall and Marina was running in. “Oh, is it that late already?” I asked. She looked at us.
“Mercy said we have to pick her clothes at least,” she shrugged. “And then I have to change.” I sighed.
“Why don’t you get changed?” I said, “and go down into town and retrieve Tristan’s bride.” Tristan stared at me.
“I hate that idea,” Tristan said flatly. “You’ll terrify her.”
“I will not!” Marina said. “People very much enjoy me.” I giggled. “And then you’ll introduce her to Lisette.”
“Yes,” Tristan said, “that is the point of this whole evening.”
“No,” I said, “not the presentation. Take her to go see her. You’re worried Marina will terrify her. Lisette in full Sword of The Goddess, Protector of the Realm mode is the scariest thing in the world.” He frowned.
“I think she’s right,” Marina said and kissed Tristan on the cheek. “What a wonderful idea, Thena.” She bounced away. I grinned at Tristan.
“I have officially decided I do not like you two as allies.” He grumbled. I giggled.
“Come on,” I said, “we have work to do.” I pulled him outside.