Eight figures stood in a clearing; seven of them seemed to be grouped protectively around the smallest.
"So this is it." one observed quietly; several of the others jumped at the sound of his voice, unusually loud in the quiet forest surrounding them.
"This is it." repeated the small one, the only female.
The men on either side of her put an arm around her shoulders. "Life does go on, Asherah." one said.
Her dark eyes stayed trained on the simple marker. "For some of us, it does." she agreed.
None of them knew what to say to that; they merely pressed closer together, and the two embracing her tightened their grips. Her posture slumped for a second, but she recovered herself quickly. "Let's go." she abruptly, sharply commanded, wheeling around and striding off. The others hastened after her.
That night, she perched unseen on a rooftop, watching partygoers mingle.
"Sorry, man." one of the men from before said, clapping a purple- haired companion on the back, "but she wasn't feeling up to coming. We visited his grave today."
"I understand." Chibodee replied somberly. "The best thing to do is just let her get through it on her own. She's strong, she'll recover."
"Unusually good advice." George opined, coming up to join them with Marie- Louise at his side.
The other fighter's serious mood vanished in an instant, giving way to indignation. "Just what exactly are you saying, Frenchie?"
"I'm saying that the advice you just imparted has wisdom usually lacking in your conversation."
"Let alone his advice." muttered Domon nearby.
"I give good advice!" he insisted, swelling up in a manner reminiscent of a bullfrog.
"Like the time you advised me to eat that swill of undetermined origin dwelling in your refrigerator?" George demanded with a shudder.
"You French eat screwed- up stuff all the time! It was just your bad luck that that particular stuff was- well…"
"Several months old?" Rain supplied.
"We couldn't even tell what it used to be!" Shirley chimed in.
"Or that time that you told me it was a good idea to ask Cecil what bra size she wore-"
"Or when you told me-" Chibodee clapped a hand over Marie Louise's mouth and gave the rest of them his most charming smile.
Asherah disappeared. It would take time, but she would learn to enjoy life again; and while she couldn't truthfully say that she wasn't looking forward to being reunited with Jonas in death, there were so many friends and family looking out for her that she had no choice but to go on.
A/N: Sucky ending, I know, and I know I didn't give y'all enough time to vote, but I figure everybody's stopped reading by this point and I'm just eager to move on. Cookies for Ryan, and chocolate to everyone who ever reviewed this story! It's been a fun ride, guys, and thanks so much.