He knew, all things considered, she didn’t need him. Not even a little bit. She was steady as oak and rosewood, and as constant as sunrise and nightfall.
She had been sailing for years before she even met him. She had seen oceans he had only heard stories about, and pulled hard in storms that he would have paid months’ wages just to keep out of his nightmares. She had raced winds both sweet and rough, kissed suns too hot for his blood, tolerated waters too cold to touch. She held her own before he even saw her.
He had crossed her path on a whim and a wish a very long time ago – decades ago – and he supposed, after all that time pretending that he had been the one keeping her together, he could admit that she was the one keeping him breathing. Standing on the docks, watching her balanced at anchor in the wide harbor, seeing her masts as tall as they had ever been, her canvas bright as it could be, months after he had said his good byes and took his last step off his post, he could admit that.
She didn’t need him. Not the way she was, steady as oak, constant as the sun. But he wasn’t so sure he didn’t need her.
“Come to see us off, Captain?” Treasa asked. She stepped up beside Avin quietly, and he almost didn’t notice she was there until she spoke. But she looked over at him and smiled, pleased at her little joke. She was wearing his old stripes. He wasn’t anyone’s Captain anymore, and certainly not hers.
Avin smiled back and shook his head. “I was just on my way home,” he said.
Turning back to look at the ship, Treasa tilted her head. “Pity,” she said. “We miss you.”
His smiled deepened. “Thank you,” he murmured.
She looked down to hide her face, and he was surprised to find her grinning. She clapped him on the shoulder as she turned, held her hand on his sleeve for an extra moment and started back down the docks. There was a dinghy tied up ahead, waiting to take her aboard. She strolled toward without haste, each stride lazy in its confidence.
“Treasa?” Avin called after her.
She turned back without hesitation, grinning. “We’ll take good care of her, of course.” She winked at him.
Avin laughed silently. Such a thing to say, as if she was running slow, reading thoughts from a hundred days before. “I know you will,” he told her.
Cheekily, she gave him the old salute, then turned just in time to straighten and catch the same salute from her crew in the dinghy. She called her orders and stepped down into the stern. The little craft swayed in the water, changing pace with every step she took to her place in the bow. The lip never touched the water, steadier than it seemed, and when Treasa’s men lowered their oars into the water, the dinghy cut an easy, straight line through the ripples of the harbor.