My sincere thanks to randomkungfupandafan, who helped make this series possible.
It was dark that day, darker than most on the island of Majorca. Black clouds rolled across the sky. The air was thick, heavy, and smelled of approaching rain. The wind whipped about violently, driving the surf against the rocky coast. Stephen Gately stood stoically on the shore, watching the the impending storm. Sometimes, he thought that these tempests were fitting metaphors of his life. Wild, unpredictable, powerful… and dangerous. With a sigh, he turned and walked away, a dark figure set against a dark sky.
By the time he returned home the weather had worsened. Although it was still early evening, the sky was almost black. Stepping inside, he looked about his beautiful island home. It seemed to be begging him to turn on some lights, to let its cheerful interior drive away the darkness, both outside the house and inside his soul. But he did not. Finding his way to the drawing room, he fell into his favorite chair. Looking out the huge window behind him, he watched the darkening sky. On a nostalgic whim, he picked a framed photo off the adjacent coffee table. It was a photo of him along with Keith Duffy, Mikey Graham, Ronan Keating, and Shane Lynch, his fellow musicians in the band Boyzone.
Boyzone, the hit pop band that had made them stars. His lips curved upwards in a smile as looked at the photo, taken just after the band's conception in 1993. They had been so young then, mere boys. He had been seventeen, a rambunctious Irish youth ready to take on the world, and they did. For almost a decade they had blazed an unstoppable trail through the music industry, living their lives as they saw fit. It had been a wild ride, but the ride was long over.
Without warning, a wave of fatigue swept over him, as if the mere memory of his wild past was too much to handle, and he placed the photo back on the table. He leaned back in the chair, feeling like an old man. He knew he should not feel this way. He was thirty-three years old, in the prime of life. He was wealthy, famous, successful. In short, he had everything most people dreamed of. But Stephen knew that his fatigue was not physical. It was not his body that was drained, it was his soul, a soul that groaned under the burdens of the life he had led. It spite of everything it had given him, that lifestyle had taken its toll. The existence of a music star was not a wholesome one. It was dark, debauched, and unhealthy. Like so many musicians, he had existed under the holy triumvirate of the music industry: sex, drugs, and alcohol. As a youth, it had seemed the perfect life and now he was paying the price for those years of "perfection." The price had been his soul, his vitality. Where once there had been youthful energy and boundless ambition, there was a disillusioned prematurely aged man. Young in body, but old in spirit.
It wasn't that he regretted Boyzone. After all, Boyzone had given him everything, and those years had been good. But he had made so many mistakes, so many reckless indiscretions and foolhardy choices that had left permanent scars, both inside and out. Giving in to the weariness, his eyes began to close. "If only..." he thought. "If only"…
A crash from one of the nearby rooms snapped him awake. Leaping to his feet, his hand closed around the decorative sword that hung above the fireplace. Blade raised, heart pounding, he slowly peaked into the hallway. It was empty. Stepping out into the hall, he cautiously made his way to the open doorway of his study. He peered inside. Nothing. The study was as dark and empty as the rest of the house.
He was just about to leave when the glint of broken glass caught his attention. Peering into the gloom, he realized that a frame had fallen off the wall. Carefully avoiding the slivers of glass, he knelt down and picked it up. It was a photo of another group, a group he had worked with years ago on a project that, with the exception of Boyzone, had been the most enjoyable of his life.
The faces of some of England's greatest stars gazed at him from the glossy picture: John Hurt, Rik Mayall, Richard Briers, Stephen Fry, and others. Written across the bottom were the words. "To Stephen, whose talent is exceeded by none."
Reverently, Stephen laid the broken frame gently on his desk. It had been quite some time since he had thought about that project. It had been a short job, just a brief moment of calm in the storm of his life. But it had been special. Feeling a little better, he decided that it was time for some light, He flipped the switch, and the cozy study blazed with light. Suddenly, a earsplitting clap of thunder burst overhead, and the lights disappeared.
With a muttered curse Stephen trudged back to the drawing room with the intention of putting his sword back. As he reentered the drawing room, he stopped. Something was off. For a second his heart stopped beating. Two glowing eyes stared at him from the chair that he himself had occupied just minutes ago. Before he could react, lightning flashed across the sky, illuminating the room and the dark creature sitting in the chair. But the most shocking thing of all ... he recognized it.
A rabbit sat in the chair, motionless, its piercing eyes bright and unblinking. Its fur was dark, almost black, blending in perfectly to the darkness surrounding it. It was skinny and ragged looking, and its ears were badly torn. But its face was the most arresting, a face that, in some bestial way, bore a striking resemblance to Stephan. The sword slipped from Stephen's fingers and clattered to the floor. He struggled to speak, but his brain refused to grasp the words. For what seemed like an eternity, the two stared at each other. Finally, a single word escaped Stephen's lips, "Blackavar."
The rabbit nodded, then replied in a voice like seemed to echo from some ancient timeless void. "It is I." Stephen felt as if his legs would collapse beneath him. "This can't be real, you can't be real, your're just a character from a book"! Blackavar's lips twitched upwards. "Do you not believe what is before your eyes?" Stephen could not reply. His brain felt as if it was about to explode. Struggling to come to terms with the situation, he blurted out the first thing that popped into his mind. "Why are you here?" Blackavar looked at him grimly. "You know why."
Instantly, all thought of doubt or skepticism fled Stephen. Clarity flooded his mind. "We are connected Stephen," Blackavar continued. "When you were chosen to voice me I was designed after you." "We share a special bond, and I feel the weight of the burden that you bear." For a long moment, there was silence.
"I am tired." Stephan finally said, the words heavy on his tongue. "I have lived my entire adult life without disregard for the consequences of my actions." He chuckled grimly. "We didn't know the meaning of the word consequence." We did what we wanted, when we wanted, how we wanted. It wasn't that we were bad people. We weren't trying to hurt anyone."
"But you did," Blackavar said softly. Stephen nodded. "Yes, we did, we hurt ourselves. We poured out our souls like cheap liquor, we seared our consciences, we did things that decent people would be ashamed of, and for what? Look at me. I'm wealthy, famous comfortable, married, I've helped hundreds though my charity work, and yet, I live under the shadow of booze, drugs, promiscuity, and broken relationships. Stephen put his hands to his face, weeping.
"I know," Blackavar said. "I understand. I know what it is like to bear the scars of life, scars of both body and mind. But you won't have to bear that burden much longer." Stephen blinked away his tears. "What?" Blackavar's eyes glowed. "I want to heal you, just as I was healed long ago." An uneasy feeling settled in Stephen's gut. "How?"
"By releasing you from your mortal body." The implications of what Blackavar was saying hit Stephen like a thunderbolt. A flurry of emotions ran through Stephen, disbelief, fear, uncertainty, hesitation. Could he truly accept this? He had long years ahead of him, and the resources to make it worthwhile. On pure instinct, he opened his mouth to refuse, but the words never came. In his heart, he knew what to do. He had lived his whole life for material gain and worldly pleasure, and it had lead to nothing. Now, he was being offered something truly precious, something he had thought lost forever, and he would not let it go this time.
Trembling with emotion, he approached Blackavar. "Yes," he said. Blackavar's voice was gentle. "I am glad." Then, he inhaled deeply, and let out a long breath of air. Cold pierced Stephen's heart, and he fell to the floor struggling for air. Then the feeling was gone.
Confused, Stephen looked up, and gasped. Outside the window, the storm was breaking, the dark clouds slowly dissipating, and by the gradually increasing light, he looked upon Blackavar. But not the old Blackavar, this Blackavar was young, healthy, and strong. His beautiful coat shone like silk. Two scar-free, perfectly formed ears stood proudly above his head. His whole body radiated with a soft glow. "Now you see the real me, the me that has been healed… just like you."
Once again, tears fell down Stephen's cheeks, but this time, they were tears of joy. Stephen stood up, and as he did, he felt all the burdens of his mortal life slip from his shoulders and fall into oblivion. "How do you feel?" Blackavar asked. "Whole." Stephen replied. "I feel whole again."
Outside, the golden rays of the sun broke through the clouds, and chased the shadows away.
Keith Duffy, Mikey Graham, Ronan Keating, and Shane Lynch stood upon the outdoor stage, looking out at the thousands of cheering fans before them. Amidst thundering applause, Ronan Keating stepped forward and gestured for silence. "Welcome everyone, to the greatest event of the year, the opening of Boyzone's 25TH ANNIVERSARY TOUR! The crowd went wild, screaming and cheering for all they were worth. When they had finished, Keating continued. "To start things off, we want to remember our good friend, Stephen Gately, who departed from us almost ten years ago. Without Stephen, Boyzone would never have become what it was, and still is. So lets hear it for Stephen Gately!" The audience's response shook the earth beneath their feet.
As the celebration continued, nobody noticed a pair of mysterious figures hiding in the shadows away from the crowd. One was a man, the other was a rabbit. "Thank you for allowing me to come," said the man. "This means the world to me, to be able to see them… one last time." "Don't worry," the rabbit replied." You will see them again, someday."
After the concert finally ended, the four artists retired backstage, tired, but exuberant in the knowledge they had just delivered the greatest performance in the history of the band. As they relaxed, a stagehand presented them with a letter along with strict instructions to open it immediately. Duffy opened it as Keating, Graham, and Lynch crowded around. It said, "Thank you my friends, now and forever." It was signed by a flourishing signature they knew by heart. "S.G." Duffy looked up in astonishment. "This has got to be a prank!" he said. Keating was silent for a moment, then replied, "Maybe not."