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Homecoming

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The bright summer sun shone in through the windows, giving the sitting room a warm and light feeling. Marguerite Blakeney and Elizabeth Darcy were seated around the tea service, each sipping on their tea as their conversation flowed from one topic to another. Both of their husbands were off on business--which their wives, and only a handful of others, knew meant business for the League of the Scarlet Pimpernel.

Elizabeth was visiting Blakeney Manor for the afternoon. Marguerite and Elizabeth were friends and found reasons to socialize even when their husbands were home, but the visits increased when the League was more active. Even when with other close friends and family, they couldn’t share their true concerns or hopes for their husbands’ safety with anyone else.

At present, they had set aside such worries as Marguerite regaled Elizabeth with a story from her time at the theater. “The first act ended with a lot more chasing than usual, and we still do not know how the chicken got on the stage.”

Elizabeth opened her mouth to respond mid laugh, when she was interrupted by a commotion coming from the other side of the door. Both she and Marguerite looked, first at the door, and then at each other in concern.

Marguerite rose first, going to the door to find out what was going on, with Elizabeth following closely behind. Both of them knew the kind of danger the members of the League were in, and neither wanted to think of just what could be waiting on the other side of the door.

Marguerite pulled open the door to find Percy slumped between Fitzwilliam and Percy’s valet, Frank, who were supporting his weight. Frank was the only one who didn’t look the worse for wear. Fitzwilliam and Percy both looked exhausted and disheveled, but Percy was almost doubled over--whether in pain or lack of strength to hold him up.

“Percy,” Marguerite gasped as she ushered the men into the room. Fitzwilliam and Frank deposited Percy carefully on the sofa before Marguerite was settled next to him, her hands fluttering over him. “What happened? Are you alright?”

Percy waved his hand weakly in her direction to soothe her fears. “Lud, Madam, it is nothing to be so missish about. Just a slight mishap on our way back,” he drawled, smiling tiredly at her, and taking her hand in his.

Fitzwilliam huffed out an unamused laugh. “I’m not sure that ‘slight mishap’ is the way I would describe what happened, Percy.”

Elizabeth turned her attention away from Percy and Marguerite who were focused on each other to look at her husband sharply. “What did happen, Fitzwilliam? Are you alright? What is the matter with Percy?”

Fitzwilliam nodded. “I am unharmed, and Percy will recover quickly enough. Most likely more quickly than anyone else would. We were on our way out of Paris, just Percy and I, when we happened upon a young man being terrorized by a group of ruffians. We came to his rescue and the boy will be alright, but Percy received a wound in the side for his trouble.”

“It was but a flesh wound,” Percy protested, as he sat up straighter and tried to hide a wince. “The dagger the man carried barely earned the name, and he left the altercation in a much worse state than either Fitzwilliam or I.”

Fitzwilliam nodded in acknowledgement of that last part. “Percy has already been examined by the physician and while it is worse than Percy says, he is in no danger.”

Percy smiled at Fitzwilliam before looking at Marguerite. “See, my darling? There is nothing to worry about.”

Marguerite’s only answer was to arch an eyebrow at him and move in closer.

Elizabeth turned to Fitzwilliam, “Were there any other mishaps? Is everyone safely in England?”

Fitzwilliam nodded. “Not everything went according to plan, as usual, but everyone is safe and out of France.”

“Not having everything go to plan is half the fun, my friend,” Percy said with a wide grin.

Fitzwilliam shook his head, but couldn’t help the quick flash of a smile. It was true. Percy was brilliant with his plans, and often they were executed flawlessly, but his other strength was when things started to fall apart and he had to pull together a new plan in the face of whatever new challenge blocked their way. Percy may not be the angel (or devil) that people suspected of the Scarlet Pimpernel, but his men, and those who really knew him, couldn’t deny that he was brilliant.

“When is your next mission?” Elizabeth asked, already knowing that it would need to be soon. “For how long do I have you home?”

Fitzwilliam looked down at her with a small smile. “Percy promised that we will not need to return for a month this time, and then only for a few days.”

“A month?” Elizabeth asked, one eyebrow raised. There had been so many missions as of late, it had seemed that her husband spent more time in France than in England. “I don’t know what I will do with you for a month, I may just have to ask Percy to take you back sooner,” she said with a mischievous smile.

“You wound me, madam,” Fitzwilliam said with a low chuckle.

“He would not stop talking about how much he wanted to return to you, Elizabeth,” Percy said with a grin. “I almost sent him back to you early myself.”

“What Percy is not telling you is that he was even worse when it came to Marguerite,” Fitzwilliam said.

“We are glad you are returned,” Marguerite said warmly.

“How is France? Has anything improved?” Elizabeth asked, as she and Fitzwilliam finally sat down in the chairs across from Percy and Marguerite.

Percy’s smile and joking manner melted away at Elizabeth’s question.

“It feels like it will never be enough,” Fitzwilliam said, his tone somber and weary.

“‘For those you rescue it is enough,” Elizabeth said, quietly, reaching out to lay her hand on Fitzwilliam’s.

“You cannot know what it means to those you save,” Marguerite said, remembering what she saw of the violence and terror when she lived in France.

Percy’s energy seemed to be flagging, despite his protests that he was not the worse for wear. Elizabeth smiled at the picture he and Marguerite made, curled around each other on the sofa, and placed her hand gently on Fitzwilliam’s arm.

“We should be going,” she said, and Fitzwilliam nodded.

“Thank you, my friend, for your assistance,” Percy said to Fitzwilliam as he and Elizabeth made their way to the door.

Fitzwilliam shook his head, “It was nothing. Rest easy, Percy.”

Percy nodded, as Marguerite and Elizabeth exchanged their own farewells, and then the Darcy’s were gone.

Both Marguerite and Percy were quiet for a few moments. It had been over a week since they had seen each other last, and they both took comfort in just being near each other.

Marguerite shook her head affectionately at Percy. “You are not the supernatural being people say you are, you know,” she said, leaning closer to him. “You must always come back to me.”

Percy looked down at her, his smile warm and full of love. “There should never be any doubt of that, my darling. Never any doubt at all,” he said before leaning down and capturing her lips with his.