Circles
by NaruMolly (aka Gwenne-chan, or Bard)

PART FIFTEEN: Circles

* * * * * * * *

Cerulean followed the last of his battered and ragged army through the glowing portal, Lita's arm draped around his shoulder as she limped along at his side. Once through, he continued carefully for the center of the grassy, flower-speckled field to where the Scouts were gathering, around the bodies of the former generals.

Three bodies lay still in the grass.

Someone had set ZoŽ’s body down carefully so that her neck was at a normal angle; she looked as though she could just be sleeping--if it weren't for the dark red stains going all the way from her left shoulder to her thigh from the wound to her shoulder. Ami crouched by the body, her face curiously devoid of emotions and her computer sitting by her in the grass. Nathan’s body looked almost untouched, aside from assorted cuts and scrapes, but a dried trickle of blood ran from the corner of his mouth to his chin, and his head lolled bonelessly where it rested in Molly's lap. Malcolm could just be sleeping, curled on his side by the other two, the birdman healer, Quicksilver, kneeling beside him.

"Where is Lady Bridgette?" Cerulean asked as Nuada approached slowly, having lowered the portal once more.

Melvin, his clothing torn and splattered, the staff Bridgette had given him scorched at one end, sighed and shook his head, though he continued to scan the crowd. "She vanished about 15 minutes ago." He paused, whipping off the glasses, to squint. "Where--where's Jared?"

Lita flinched and pressed her face into Cerulean's shoulder, tears starting once more. Blood smeared on the front of his clothes from the long slashes on her chest, but the new lord didn't mind, merely held her closer. Mina burst into tears, holding onto Serena while Darien wrapped his arms helplessly around the both of them. "Dead, I fear. He--went into the Lake."

Melvin could only blink--then sit heavily in the grass, fingers going to twist the stem of one of the purple flowers. Riversong approached, his bird landing nearby. "And what of our losses? Of the score I brought, four remain, with their birds."

Nuada sighed. "I lost perhaps half of my people," he looked around the battle-torn clearing. "Though most were lost once they joined in the main battle, and not here."

"There were losses here," murmured on of the half-cats, part of one pointed ear missing.

"How did--Malcolm die?" asked Luna hesitantly.

"He got up and fought when he shouldn't have--when Bridgette was--" Quicksilver winced. "She should have been dead three times over, but somehow--"

Cerulean looked around the numbly milling army bleakly. "So many-- was it even worth it?"

Gallia approached, her face set into a stern grimace. "We have defeated Beryl, my Lord. Anything is worth that."

"For how long, though?" asked Ami, reaching out to brush ZoŽ’s hair straight, wincing when the body's head titled crazily. "Bridgette said Beryl would--always return."

"For whatever length of time, we are free of her," Gallia affirmed, a few of the nearer minions and youma nodding slightly.

"What about Metallia?" asked Cerulean wearily, hand stroking Lita's hair while she struggled to regain control of her emotions. "With Bridgette--not here, how can we--"

"Maybe that's where she went--" Mina suggested with a sniffle.

Cerulean spread his hands helplessly, then returned to holding Lita closer. Nuada frowned. "That does not sound like the Lady to me. She would have said something."

"They're all dead," Melvin suddenly said. "How--how are we going to explain this to--to everyone?!"

Rei snorted, dashing away tears, setting down Kali's small body once more. "Explain what to who? How are we going to get back without Bridgette?"

"She will return, child. Let her have a few moments of peace."

Silence filled in the clearing, broken only by the sudden low growl of Feolin. As one, everyone still capable turned to look in the direction of the smooth baritone.

A tall man leaned casually against one of the trees on the edge of the Circle, his arms crossed over his chest. He wore a rich outfit of royal blues and violets in heavy velvets and brocaded silks; an outfit that could have easily passed in the Renaissance. He wore no evident weapons, but he moved with a grace that only people who make dancing or fighting their whole lives possess. His face was almost inhumanly handsome, finely boned to the point of almost beauty. Although thick, sable-colored hair that fell to nearly his waist in a single tail was more than half silvered, his face was unlined. On his head, he wore a large, wide-brimmed hat that had several large, brightly colored plumes. He reached up and doffed his hat, bowing and grinning broadly. "Shall I spin for you now, or are you all done staring?" he said, placing his hat back on, his bizarre, shifting-color eyes merry.

Rei snarled, lurching to her feet. "Who the hell are you?"

"I am--let us just say I am someone you can trust not to attack you, and leave it at that."

Cerulean stepped forward, Lita sniffling and moving to lean on his shoulder. "What do you want here, Sir? Do you wish to join us in awaiting Metallia coming to avenge herself on us all?"

"With what form?" the stranger countered. "That one is powerful, yes, but it is Balanced by her lack of physical form. And there are none living at this time that she can control."

Nuada's eyes narrowed at the word 'Balanced.' Rei glared again. "How would you know, Mr.--uh--"

"Oh yes; names. I had forgotten they were so important to you. You may call me--Ilye--if you wish."

Nuada started and squinted at the stranger. Then he backed up a step, paling and his eyes widening. Unnerved by the steely-nerved Sidhe backing away, the rest of the battered allies shifted nervously.

"What is it?" whispered Artemis, moving near the elven lord's feet.

"He--can be trusted," Nuada whispered, face still pale.

"Ilye?" Ami looked up bleakly. "What's that supposed to mean."

"Ask Nuada some time, Child. But not now--we have too much to discuss."

* * * * * * * *

Images. Memories. Glimpses.

...A gathering of people in clothing more varied than anything and races varying from humans to what looked like dragons. Some sort of meeting. Much anger. Arguing. A stranger.

A beautiful, young woman, her hair a luxuriant red-gold moving to speak to the rest, her calm words soothing the ruffled tempers. **Peace for now.** Going up to the woman. A gentle smile crossing her lips, more powerful than any trapping spell he would ever know, binding him to her...

...A shy smile. He holds out a hand containing a small bundle wrapped in a scrap of silk to the woman who has come to mean so much to him. She smiles, warmth touching those incredible blue eyes. She opens it. A silver medallion, carved into the shape of her sign. A circle quartered by a cross. Familiar, somehow. Her eyes widen, then shine with delight as she tucks her hair up, having him clip the glittering chain around her neck. She turns and kisses his cheek...

...A battle. Magic flying wildly. Blades clashing. His back pressed to the woman with the red-golden hair. Suddenly, the battle grows worse. A gentle hand touches his cheek. A murmured, tearful apology for deceiving him. She pulls away--and gleaming wings sprout from her back, arching over her head. Powers more than he could ever dream of swirling about her hands as she drives the attackers back. Turning the creatures the Dark One had twisted back to what they once were...

...Not human. She's not human. She touches his cheek--kisses the place her fingers touch once more. She vanishes. He calls out to her to wait. It doesn't matter...

...Bright light. A choice. Not so difficult. Not for her. He finds her sitting in a field somewhere else, tears on her face. Surprise turns into anger; fear for him. Then she is too glad to see him then anything else...

...A child. Something familiar, like with the locket. Something about the fall of the dark auburn hair and merry blue eyes. A new soul--a wonder. A child who plays with the stars, their light gleaming all the brighter when he smiles...

...Another choice. His son pleading for a strange idea. His son, now a young man, with the gleaming wings like his mothers. Like his. A different path--a dangerous path. A new world born...

...Sunlight shining down warmly on all of them. The place where he once again found her. A field of fragrant grasses with the faintly-glowing, beautiful flowers that his son loves so much, he gave them to another world. A picnic. Something simple. The woman--still beautiful after all this time. Her hair now thickly-silvered, even though his is pure silver now, rather than ebon. The silver gleams like the purest metal. She comes closer to him, kissing him gently...

...Something wrong. A scream. His son!! Dark things lurking over his son's pain-racked body. A sudden void in his heart and mind where his son had been. Nothingness. Shock. Not even noticing when the things turn on him...

...Another choice. Hesitation, but then not so difficult, though it will not be the same...

...And one more choice...

* * * * * * * *

Cerulean eyed Ilye mistrustfully as the man settled against the tree again, crossing the richly clad arms. "Where did you come from? What are you?"

Ilye chuckled, tilting his hat to shade his eyes from the setting sun. "I am from--no where in particular." He grinned, flashing white teeth. "As for what I am, right now, I am what you see. Perhaps later I will be something else. Whatever is needed."

"What do you want?" Lita asked bitterly.

Ilye smiled at her gently. "It is not what I want that matters, child. It is not me who matters. I am here for what you want, my dear--all of you. You all want explanations, reassurances--perhaps even suggestions and predictions, correct?"

Rei paused, then nodded carefully, sitting in the grass by Kali's still, silk-wrapped form. "Yeah."

Ilye gestured and a thickly cushioned chair appeared behind him. He settled into it with a sigh. "I had forgotten how tiring a physical form can be." He shifted in the cushions and sighed. "Ah. That's better." Ignoring the confused looks he smiled. "First of all, perhaps some explanation to the problems of the past? Your Bridgette? Her attachment to four certain mortals? Her curse and Beryl's? Perhaps even the Lake?" When Cerulean nodded and sat on the grass with Lita leaning on his shoulder, Ilye smiled. "First of all, I will start with your Bridgette."

"Why our Bridgette?" asked Ami, fists clenching. "What is she to you?"

"I know her by another name. I know her from another time. She is almost a new person now. When I knew her, she would never have risked so much for so few--as in the four mortals," he gestured to the three bodies. "Oh--hello. We seem to be missing one."

Mina choked, sitting heavily on the grass and burying her face in her hands, Artemis glaring at the stranger and rubbing against his 'mistress' in concern. "He went into the Lake along with the unicorn when he slammed into Beryl," the white cat spat.

"Oh! Silly me!" Ilye smacked his head with a grin. "No he didn't. I simply forgot to return his body to this plane." Ilye gestured, and Jared's and Tuli's bodies appeared on the grass near the others.

Jared's face was peaceful, but was made all the more ghastly with the strange contrast to the long gash across his face and the shredded clothing he wore. Lita turned her face away, pressing it into Cerulean's shoulder. "Why do you do this?" Cerulean demanded, wrapping his arms around Lita.

"Did you wish that the Lake destroy him utterly? I thought to spare you that total loss." Ilye frowned, lips pursing as if confused. "I can never completely second-guess you mortals."

"What--is the Lake?" asked Molly's mother looking up from where she sat by her daughter.

"The Lake is what grew on the spot that Beryl originally formed the Things that destroyed so many of your Bridgette's people. Such corruption does not fade, and it tends to spread corruption as well."

"Wait," said Luna. "Some of Bridgette's people? And not all?"

"Your Bridgette knows a great many things, and she is very old, but she can be a bit dense. Though--that is not entirely her fault. Nor is it her fault that she now constantly expects the worst to happen." Ilye grimaced. "But no, not all those she thought lost that day were completely destroyed. Two in particular were not."

"Her son and her husband?" Serena spoke up.

"Yes, actually. And that gets to my next point. Why she was so attached to these four mortals and why her tampering with the Balance was allowed for their sakes."

Ami stared. "Then--one of these four was--"

"Kyl'so was originally a human, you know. He met your Bridgette when she had gone to his world to intervene in a meeting of the most powerful mages--what she did at that meeting, what she said prevented a war that would have finished in the destruction of that whole galaxy. She did this, as she was sent to do, but she finally started to see the mortals as beings. She--fell in love with the young mage--an apprentice, at the time, actually-- who had fallen in love with her the moment he saw her.

"She stayed much longer than she was needed. She received her medallion from him, actually." Ilye shook his head a little. "Then, they were involved in a battle in which he was supposed to die, and the knowledge of that nearly unmade her. She exerted her full powers to prevent his death, then returned to Cynillon. Kyl'so followed, and became one of her people in order to be with her." The strange man took his hat off and fanned himself, several glowing orbs of violet light springing up around the Circle as the natural light faded further with the sunset. "It was because of his once being a mortal that--well, he was able to be saved from the Things' destructive powers. The part of him that was one of Bridgette's people was destroyed, but not his human core. And his human self continued to be reborn, always looking for his lost love."

"That's--sweet," Molly said softly. "Which one--"

"Which one was in love with her?" Ilye countered.

"Malcolm," Mina said softly, biting her lip. "What's--going to happen now?"

"He had his choice: rest or returning once more to be with her, though that would mean that he would be bound to the same cycle as she."

"What did he--"

"You will see." Ilye smiled. "Don’t expect me to give everything away." He chuckled and winked. "Her son, too, was saved by being part mortal." He fixed his shifting eyes on Molly. "And he had the same choice."

* * * * * * * *

Fragments. Hardly more than a minute at a time. And not many of those. Then, a complete moment. But not something he wanted to remember.

Sun was shining down on the red-gold and silver of his mother's hair, off the gleaming arc of her wings. His father sat to her left side, his arms around her, smiling at him, his hair, once a dark, raven-black, now the purest silver. As always, things were peaceful.

Smiling, he stood, stooping to pluck two of his favorite flowers from where they grew amongst the grass. It was a tradition--whenever they went here to sit, he always did this for his parents--ever since he’d been a little boy. He turned to them, a smile on his face.

Something went wrong.

Pain!! A tearing agony that tore him to the very core of his being. The pain got worse; a scream from his mother--his father's agonized cry--a warm light washing away the pain--

A choice offered and taken...

And another choice. Not so hard to answer, despite everything.

* * * * * * * *

"Then, Nathan is--was--" Molly's mother looked down at the still form whose head rested in her daughter's lap. "Oh dear."

"What about the others?" asked Ami, looking up from ZoŽ’s body.

"They were--compilations, if you will--made up of shreds of others of your Bridgette’s people." He shrugged a little, settling back in his chair and crossing his legs, stretching. "Your Bridgette was fairly unique amongst her people for many reasons: her power, her bond with a former mortal, her giving birth to the first new soul for a long time, and her ability to think more for herself than for the whole of the people. They had a sort of--collective conscious, you see. While she was part of it, there was also a lot more of just--her. It was not so hard to put together the fragments of several wholes--to give more power to two mortals who would have died at birth--to ensure that they, too, would cycle around and ensure your Bridgette more company. That is what they were, and that is why, I think, they may have had more problems adjusting to their lives than the other two."

"You know--a great deal," Cerulean looked suspiciously.

"It is what my part in the Balance is." Ilye tossed his long tail of hair back over his shoulder, leaning forward intently, his arms resting on his knees. "Now--what else can I confuse everyone on?" He chuckled, then winked and snapped his fingers. "Ah yes--Cynillon was never meant to be."

"What?"

"It was never intended for your Bridgette's people to take up residence there. It was a mistake to give them that place of ignorance. All it did was make the contrast all the more evident to someone who can no longer return. Not to mention that every entrance and exit from that world upset the Balance."

"I thought that her people were outside the Balance," said Ami in confusion.

"No one is. They simply have more trouble affecting the Balance directly. But they do affect it. Look at what your Bridgette has suffered; surely it would be unfair unless it was matched in happiness elsewhere in existence?" Ilye spread his hands, eyes suddenly shifting rapidly through several colors. "Never the less, your Bridgette and her people were meant to take up residence elsewhere. To love another world."

"The Earth," Molly said softly.

Ilye smiled. "Yes. You recognized her symbol--good girl."

"Nathan did. Before he--" Molly bowed her head, tears dripping from her eyes.

"Don't be sad, Child. I’m certain he wouldn’t wish that."

"The--earth. Why the earth?" asked Darien in confusion.

"What other world has access to so many? Think for a moment. Have you ever heard of another world that invents and dreams of so many others? Certainly, there are worlds that know of others, but the worlds that they know of are connected to theirs somehow. Here, it is all right to dream of other worlds; other universes; other dimensions and parallels."

Ami blinked. "So--"

"The Earth is a sort of hub, and Bridgette has long loved the Earth, anyway. Now she can be justified in expending her full power to protect the Earth and the worlds that touch it--like this one." He stooped, plucking up one of the purple flowers and sniffing it deeply, the flower's glow brightening. "Ahh!! I’d forgotten these flowers--quite lovely, don’t you think?"

"What are those things, anyway?" asked Rei.

"I recommend smelling them." Ilye grinned. "A creation of her son’s, actually.

Curious, Cerulean leaned over and plucked one of the flowers and inhaled deeply. A heady scent somewhere between roses and baking pastries filled his nose. He felt extremely light-headed, swaying slightly to be caught by Lita with a grimace as her chest wounds reopened. Then--"I--feel." He looked down at himself. Through a tear in his shirt, he could see his skin was once more smooth and whole. "What in--"

Ilye grinned as everyone eagerly moved to pick one of the numerous flowers. Riversong approached. "And what of the dead? Lady Bridgette's four?"

"The four that your Bridgette cares for so much; they are different cases. As for the mortals--fear not. They will return in time. Nothing ends, particularly not where your Bridgette is concerned."

"And--the unicorns?" Rei asked.

"They are embodiments of Good, Rei. They will return as well."

"The youma? The rest of my people?" asked Cerulean.

Ilye laughed. "Foolish mortal! All things move in circles. They will return."

"Like Beryl," Gallia inserted flatly, holding the flower she had taken in her clenching fist.

Ilye shrugged. "That Circle is a bit strange, but yes."

"What are we supposed to do until then? Just wait for her to return? To submit to her--"

Ilye cut Cerulean's bitter words off. "No one could expect any man with any semblance of intelligence to stand in the path of danger meekly." Ilye gestured around. "Look what you have here! Build a fortress here; continue to struggle against Beryl when she returns. No one ever said her leadership had to be so complete over this world. Make her pay for every inch she tries to gain. Just because life is a circle, doesn't mean things have to repeat themselves exactly. What good would that do?"

"But--"

Ilye stood. "I have been here long enough. My presence here has caused enough unBalance." The chair vanished. "Be kind to your Bridgette when she returns. She knows some of what I told you, but not all." His eyes flashed brightly, and then his form melted into a gleaming patch of light, and shot into the sky like a meteor.

Silence filled the clearing. "In the old tongue of the People," Nuada said softly, " ‘Ilye’ meant 'all' or 'everything'." He shook his long silver hair over his shoulder. "It was our name for the Presence."

* * * * * * * *

Cerulean looked up with a start, catching faint movement from the corner of his eyes. Malcolm moved slightly, murmuring. He rolled over weakly onto his hands, groaning a little, and wings shimmered into existence, spread on the grass--ivory against the green. "What--"

Malcolm's pale eyes flickered open, and he grimaced, sitting up and rubbing at his head. He let out stream of liquid words, which, though beautiful, still had the definite ring of a curse. "And I thought my headaches were bad before."

"Malcolm!" Serena yelped, falling back against Darien’s chest.

The silver haired man winced, wings twitching as his hands lifted to his brow. "Please, Serena. My head--"

"You--you're back! You're alive!" gasped Quicksilver.

"Only partially, and not certain I'm happy about that," Malcolm said wryly, though his eyes were amused.

"What about--" Ami looked down at ZoŽ’s still form.

Malcolm grimaced, and shrugged. "I'm not sure what she chose--what any of the others chose."

"Why did you choose to return, then?" asked Nuada softly. "To go back to all that?"

Malcolm looked at the Sidhe lord with an oddly serious expression. "It needs to be done, Nuada--and there is too much for only one person." Cerulean noticed that the 'Lord' that Malcolm had formerly used with the Sidhe's name had been dropped. "Besides--I chose to return to being human to hopefully be with Kae--I mean Bridgette, and I'm not about to stop now."

"What about Zoisi--I mean ZoŽ?" asked Cerulean. "Were you not with her?"

"And Mina, too," Naru said, then frowned, wondering where that had come from.

Malcolm frowned slightly, brow furrowing. "ZoŽ--" He sighed and shook his head, rubbing at the bridge of his nose. "I love her; really. But this is--different--deeper. I'm not sure how to explain it."

"I wouldn't bother even trying to explain, Mal--I mean, Father."

Everyone started at the new voice, especially Molly. Her eyes snapped down to the body stretched before her in the grass. Nathan's eyes were opened and a gentle smile on his face as he gazed up at her from her lap. His wings were folded neatly beneath him, the very tips of the feathers just brushing Molly's leg.

"Oh for pity's sake, Nathan. I'm still Malcolm," the older musician chuckled, making a face. "I just got a pile more memories than I was expecting."

Nathan grinned. "Good, ‘cause it's bloody hard t’ think o’ you as my father, even though--" he chuckled, pushing himself up to catch Molly in his arms as she flung herself at him. "Well; I can't seem to remember much of--before. Just the last few minutes or so." Then his eyes widened and his cheeks darkened. "And besides, this lifetime--"

"Don’t even bring that up right now or my head’ll explode."

"That’d be a mess," Nate chuckled, kissing Molly’s hair gently, holding her close, his wings curling a bit instinctively to add to the embrace. "Wish I could remember more."

"Probably for the better," Malcolm said, pushing a few strands of hair from his eyes.

Nathan shrugged, reaching up to scratch at the lines of dried blood on his face. "I don't suppose someone has a handkerchief I c’n borrow. I imagine I look a fright."

Molly's mother, who had been staring in open shock, burst into nearly hysterical laughter, tears on her face. Quicksilver picked himself off the grass and went over to her, crouching down and murmuring into her ear softly, his arms curling around her as he worked on calming her. Malcolm grimaced, and his wings vanished. "I'd forgotten what a pain cramped wing muscles were."

"Ech--that’s a bad pun, Mal."

Ami heard a muffled, wet crunch from at her side. Startled, she saw ZoŽ’s body twitch--hearing a few more muffled crunches as it twitched. Already, the bone that had poked through the skin at her shoulder was back in place and the skin smooth where it showed through the tear in the fabric of her jacket. The emerald eyes flickered open, fixing on Ami's blue eyes. "Hullo, Ami. You look like you've seen a ghost," said the husky woman’s voice a moment later.

Ami blinked. The voice was too low; too sultry, somehow. There was something odd about her--aside from the fact that she was suddenly alive once more. ZoŽ reached a hand up to rub at her neck. "Oy! Ow! I don't recommend that."

Suddenly, Ami realized what was troubling her about the blonde musician. "ZoŽ--I mean--you--you're a--"

ZoŽ looked down at her chest where Ami stared.

Flat.

"Oops!" As ZoŽ sat up as snowy wings formed at her back, and the jacket filled out a little more. "Sorry." ZoŽ’s cheeks darkened, and she grinned ruefully.

"You--you were--" Ami blinked.

"Well, I was a man for a long time. The Presence thought I might like the option." Now the grin turned playful as she stuck out her tongue at Nathan. "Should make it quicker in finding a disused W.C." Ami blinked, staring at her, backing up a little. "Relax, Ami. It's still me--well--mostly." She grinned, looking at Nathan.

"An’ I thought our group was all ready 'mixed company'," he teased.

ZoŽ flung a handful of grass at Nathan and Molly, while Malcolm laughed out loud. Ami reached out a tentative hand and touched ZoŽ’s cheek. "You were--I keep forgetting you were a man back when--" the younger girl broke off, blinking. "What was I--"

ZoŽ stilled slightly, the emerald eyes fixing on Ami's own. "You don't remember, do you? About--"

"About what?" Ami asked, puzzled, her brow creasing.

"The Moon Kingdom." ZoŽ made a little face, grimacing and shaking her head, an odd look in her eyes. "It's probably for the better that you don’t remember that just yet. So that you can start anew, without any former--"

"Former whats?"

"Complications," ZoŽ muttered, face troubled. "And big ones." She sighed and draped a companionable arm around Ami's shoulders, giving the younger girl a hug. "Never mind. It was nice waking up and seeing someone worrying over me."

"Yeah--an’ they might have t’kill us again just outta retribution."

"Not like we had much of a choice."

"I would have been fussing over you, ZoŽ," Malcolm said with a grin, "but I only just recovered from death myself."

ZoŽ giggled, stretching and keeping a companionable arm around Ami, who still looked confused. Cerulean stared openly. "You're all coming back!!"

"'Course we are, Cer," Nathan said. "We've got our family here. No use goin’ t’ the Other Side with th’people I love sittin’ right here.""

"What about Molly?" Nuada countered. "She will eventually die--you will not."

"Not since she became one of us!" Serena beamed. "The Senshi don’t age, right Luna?"

"Ah--" the cat looked nervous.

"Umm--worse than that, I fear," Nathan said with a grimace. Molly looked at him curiously, and the auburn-haired man winced, his wings vanishing. "Well--y’know how th’Earth is now supposed t’be our--eh--home base, as it were?" Molly nodded. "You ever think about what the world's new status was going t’do t’the person tied t’it as its Guardian." Nathan rubbed at the back of his neck.

Molly's eyes widened. "You mean I'm a--"

"Going to be," Malcolm corrected. "It'll take awhile to completely set in." He smiled at her, running his hands through his hair once more and stretching again.

"Could you all be quiet? I'm trying to be unconscious here."

Mina's eyes snapped down to where Jared's body lay. The last of the musician quarter had propped himself up on one arm, wearing a mischievous grin that stretched across his face. The cut that had nearly taken out his eye was completely gone, and his leg showed to be healed through the rent in his stained trousers. "Jared!" Lita gasped.

"Every inch of me--plus some." He winked, and his own set of creamy ivory wings spread out--and then vanished. "How could I die? I forgot to get that recipe for scones from Feolin!"

The dragon roared with relieved laughter. "You will have to cut it down a bit, I think."

"Not with the way Serena and I eat!" He winked.

Rei spluttered with laughter, though it was edged in tears. "S-so where's Bridgette? And what about--" she sobered, looking down at the unicorn foal's body.

"Hum. Oh--the unicorns can't come back like we do, Rei. But they're immortal too. I'm sure somewhere a whole bunch of new unicorn foals are being born." Jared grinned. "I remember that much at least." The grin turned a little rueful as he rubbed at the back of his neck. "And I thought I had enough people floating around in my head before this." His expression changed. "You could have asked me how I felt about coming back, you know." "Do you have any objections?" "No, but--" "All right, then."

Cerulean sat heavily on the grass once more, pulling Lita down with him. "I--I think I--"

"Need a drink?" Jared grinned, reaching into the tattered coat of his uniform and handing over a silver flask. "Here you go--good whiskey. Doctor recommended nerve tonic."

ZoŽ crossed her arms over her chest. "And just how long have you been carrying that around, Jared Sims? I thought Malcolm’s supposed to be our resident alcoholic." One of the purple flowers caught her on the side of the head from the silver-haired man’s quarter, and she turned, sticking her tongue out at him as he made a ridiculous face back.

"Since I went back for the supplies. Good quick antiseptic, this stuff." He grinned broadly. "So--not long, Mommy." Jared's eyes flared with amusement. "I mean Daddy."

No one could swear which of them, Jared or Jedite, had said the last, and neither of them would ever tell.

ZoŽ glared a moment, then grinned and stuck out her tongue, poking the still-stunned Ami in the ribs then hugging the girl again. "Where is Bridgette, anyway?"

"Right here."

She stood to the side of the same tree that Ilye had leaned against, her eyes troubled. She once again wore the human guise, her tattered clothing hanging limply in the still night air. Malcolm hopped to his feet and trotted over to her, a smile on his face. He paused when she looked at him warily. "What is it?" he asked, confusion on his face.

"Kyl--Malcolm, I--I never wanted to--"

"Bridgette, I came back to be with you." He put his hands on his hips, raising an eyebrow. "If you persist in this guilt trip, I'm afraid I'll have to do something drastic." He peered intently into her eyes as she struggled to think of something to say in return. "I've tried other lives; other loves." He glanced back at ZoŽ who still had her arm draped around Ami's shoulders, then spared a brief glance back to Mina and blushed. "I care for them; but--you will always be different. More."

Nathan chortled, hooting. "Go, Mal! About bloody time y’said something like that t’ ‘er."

Bridgette seemed truly stunned, her blue eyes wide. "But--"

"Not a word." Malcolm grinned, and wrapped his arms around her and kissed her rather thoroughly, making her stagger a bit.

Melvin finally recovered his tongue. "You're all alive?"

Jared chuckled. " 'Course we are! Us die? And miss all this?" He winked again. "Besides, we're too damned busy to die!" He grinned, thrusting a finger melodramatically into the air. "We've got 8 more weeks of schools to go to, and we still have to make up our lost time at your school."

"What school?" Lita countered, hugging Cerulean fiercely, her face split back into a broad grin.

"What scho--oh--yeah--I forgot about that." Jared chuckled. "Guess we'll build a new one."

"We have to build a stronghold here first," ZoŽ said.

"Don't look at me--you’re the one who specialized in crystals," Jared said with a grin. "I never was very good at shaping stone and stuff like that."

Cerulean blinked. "But--what about--I mean--" His arms tightened instinctively around Lita, she resting back against his chest comfortably.

Jared grinned and pointed a long finger at Lita. "That's my sister you've got there, Sir. I'm not about to let you make her sleep on the grass every night." Lita blushed furiously.

"Sister?" Cerulean blinked.

"Well--almost. I'd like to think of her that way, anyway," Jared smiled. "She was in her last lifetime, anyway."

"I--was--what?"

"Don't worry--just the humans reincarnation thing. You don't have to worry about sprouting wings unless you do something stupid." Jared winked.

Molly's mother looked up suddenly. "What about you Mr. Malley? And--my daughter?"

Nathan rolled his eyes. "Please, Mrs. Baker--th’name’s Nathan--just Nathan--Nate’s really just fine. I've had too many lifetimes with too many bloody names--so let's keep it simple, aye?" He smiled, cuddling the smaller girl in his lap, kissing her forehead. " An’ I was rather hopin’ y’two might like t’come with us when we go back t’Ireland."

Serena's smile faded a little as she looked at her friend. "But--oh. Go wherever you'll be happy, Mol. "

"But--Ireland--" gasped Mrs. Baker.

Molly stared at Nathan. "You mean--"

Nathan grimaced. "Well--we'd get odd looks, t’be sure. They're not as easy about age differences in Ireland, but--" He coughed, then shrugged. "But I'd really like ye t’come, Mol. I'd miss ye too much."

"Yeah! That'd be great!" Jared said, beaming happily.

"Why not everyone come," said Bridgette suddenly, looking up from Malcolm's eyes. "I do run a school there." She smiled faintly at Serena. "And the scheduling is a bit looser. I think I could manage to swing good excuses for you all to attend." She cocked her head at Melvin, "Even you, if you wished. You have some potential for great things about you, when you're not thinking about it." Melvin stared.

"And that way," ZoŽ said with a grin, "we can open a standing gate between here and Earth so that it's not such a pain in the butt to get here to help out Cerulean and the others when they need it."

"Or when Lita wants to go visiting," Mina teased, a broad smile on her face.

"Or when one of us gets lonely," Jedite said, taking over enough to arch an eyebrow at ZoŽ, "We won't have as far to go."

"Me? In Ireland?" Serena giggled. "But my English is terrible!"

ZoŽ grinned broadly, making a face at Jared and Jedite. "So's mine."

"NOTHING EVER ENDS, IT ONLY STARTS SOMETHING NEW"

* * * * * * * *

return to Index / go to Supplemental: Last Days

The Nephrite and Naru Treasury