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Steer Your Own Ship

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After the joy of the reunion; after the revelation of the worm skin; after they lose Alia to Abomination and Death, as they always knew they would; after Leto declares himself Emperor; then, there is the wedding.

She wears the black, and carries her Crysknife, as is their way.

**

And so she is Empress, and it is not how she envisioned the Golden Path; but then, they all have their parts to play.

She does not question the vision.

**

The Houses send their gifts; luxurious silks and beautiful paintings, servants and books and a hardwood table that seats fifty-six. Irulan grins as she puts things away. "They've clearly never met either of you," she comments, and it's true.

Ghanima opens gift after gift, perfumes and paints and a fruit tree cultivated from an ancient Earth strain. She recognises it; knows it needs more water than she is willing to give. She opens a box painted red and pink; draws out a biscuit with a heart stamped out of its centre, filled with red.

"I remember." Ghanima pauses.

"You won't like those," Leto says, and when she looks up, he's leaning against the door frame. "You never liked those."

Ghanima smiles up at him. "It's true," she says. "Raspberry is my least favourite."

She passes the biscuits to Stilgar; laughs when he spits one out.

Sweetness is not a Fremen trait.

**

The gifts languish in storerooms located beneath the palace. "What a waste," she says, once. "We have better things to do than leave things to rot."

"Yes," says Irulan. "We do. But secondhand gifts are hardly advisable for the Emperor and his sister. Perhaps it's time to refurbish the palace on Caladan?"

Ghanima wonders if Irulan is scolding her. "No. Send them to Salusa Secundus instead. Dark and dreary place, I never did like it."

Irulan stands. "It was home, once. Of a sort."

"And Irulan, did you like it there?"

Irulan smiles. "It had its moments, but a Bene Gesserit has no true home but the one she makes for herself."

Ghanima is sure of this, that Irulan is scolding her. Irulan has known her since birth, and yet still she does not understand. It is unfortunate.

Ghanima frowns, but lets Irulan go. She wants to rid the palace of these things, and Irulan, at least, is useful.

"To Caladan, then," she says.

**

Not everyone is so useful, and Ghanima makes lists, and plans. Leto laughs, and his breath is warm against her shoulder. "Sister," he says. "Everyone has their uses."

She wonders what he knows. She has her doubts.

**

She finds Farad'n in the kitchens, breaking pieces of dark sugar from a larger block. He rubs it between his fingers and sucks his nails clean. She is surprised; suspects him of sulking.

"How offworld of you," she says. It is an accusation, but he does not jump: he knew she was there. He has not let the Bene Gesserit ways fall aside, then, now that he has mastered them, and it is perhaps this alone that earns Ghanima's grudging respect.

Perhaps.

"Our ancestors on Ancient Earth coveted the cocoa bean," he lectures her, like she's someone else, as if hundreds of the ancestors she carries in her head were not there, had not eaten the cocoa bean. She reconsiders, yet again, her respect of him, but as always she subsides.

It is her way.

"They fought wars over their beloved cocoa bean," Farad'n continues, unaware that Ghanima is considering casting him from the balcony. "My mother delighted in it, knowing that people died for it. And I, for all its terrible history, do enjoy its taste."

"I didn't realise there was a market for chocolate on Dune," Ghanima says. "When did we start importing it?" She waits to hear his lie, but he surprises her with the truth.

"There isn't," Farad'n says, and finally he meets her eyes. "We don't. These were sent to me by a friend."

"A friend," Ghanima repeats. She is sceptical - the House Corrino has no friends.

"She remembered it was my birthday, and thought to send me something reminiscent of our holidays together."

"I'm surprised your mother allowed you time in which to cultivate friends."

Farad'n shakes his head and smiles up at her. He breaks off a square, offers it to Ghanima. "Try a piece."

Ghanima takes Farad'n's wrist, wraps his fingers in on the sweet; knows the chocolate is melting in his hand.

"I never did like chocolate," she says, and he flinches.

**

Farad'n is too complacent. She thinks about banning sugar, but realises there would be no point; no need to create a black market where no market exists.

She reads his mail instead.

He's the royal scribe, after all, and from the House Corrino; there are still those who would court his favour.

**

The new chef is a gift from the Spacing Guild. "Are you sure accepting such a gift is wise?" Farad'n asks, as if she were as inexperienced in the arts of statecraft as he. She turns her gaze upon him, and he wavers, but doesn't look away. Into the silence, Irulan speaks.

"It is the wisest thing to do, given the circumstances. It would not do to alienate anyone so early in Leto's reign."

"Well," Leto interrupts, grinning, "a little alienation is perhaps acceptable."

Ghanima laughs. "Indeed. One might even say it is our way." At this, even Irulan smiles, and accepts Leto's proffered arm. Ghanima wonders what Irulan thinks of the skin beneath her hand, but Irulan says not a word, and Ghanima follows them down the steps, seats herself at the table.

"We must accept, but where are the testers?"

"My sister does not leave anything to chance, Aunt, have no fear for your well-being."

"It is not for my well-being that I fear, Leto." Still, Irulan hesitates, her spoon upon the table.

Ghanima tilts her head. "Have no fear for ours, then. This chef will not poison us."

She knows the chef's secrets; knows the secrets of the Spacing Guild that sent her; knows the secrets of her Aunt and her consort and her brother.

She knows what must be done.

She knows the way.