((Final Goodbyes))

«Chapter Three»

...Our lives will come and go
Coming with the rising of the sun
And setting with the coming of the moon
Our lives come and go with time
Just as many have come and gone before us
And this cycle will go on
For many, many years to come

(Pixie Wings)

A slight breeze ruffled the growing hair of the melancholy young woman, staring blankly out to sea. Sorrow nestled itself deep in her heart which she nurtured with no desire to dispose of, despite the efforts of those around her. The wind grew stronger and her hair danced wildly, but her eyes remained unfocused upon the sea. She leaned back into the giant tree that protected the graves stones and plaques from sunlight.

Star! Are you out here? The young woman didn't flinch at the sound of her friend calling out to her. She couldn't give a damn.

How am I to find my way through the dark without my guiding light?
I always felt that you were the one who lit the dark path for me
but fate is cruel and unkind
We found love at a time, when there was none
We both wandered in the dark, found each other
too late to enjoy what limited time was left;
My love, I wait for the day we find ourselves again - reunited in the eternal world
To enjoy what we could not before,
I pray that that day is soon;
I stand alone in the timeless bitter wind of loneliness

Ringo ran as fast as he could with a walking stick; damn his knee! His worried blue eyes searched frantically for his friend, as she wasn't in her normal sitting spot. Normally, she'd sit out by the deck, watching the sunset...he could've kicked himself. Of course she wouldn't be there today, not today...

We gather here to remember the great sacrifice of one Nick Carter, otherwise known as the Teknoman, Blade. It is because of this young man's brave and heroic gesture that we may continue on to live freely. His tormented life story is a flame of hope for us all; against all odds, he succeeded. Those who knew him are blessed with a special flame, the flame of remembrance - the flame of love. Remember and rejoice in his salvation from this brutal world, his soul can now sing freely instead of howling in pain. Rest young hero, and God bless.

The earth swallows him whole
As he descends to his final rest,
A rest well earned;
It is the ungrateful earth which I despise so
My shining light is no more
His mortal flame flickered,
And glows no more;
A shadow is cast, I stumble and fall

Nick Blade' Carter
May 15th, 2069 ~ October 1st, 2090
Saviour of Earth
Mortal body; Immortal legacy
Your body rests, your memory lives on.

I can't believe it, I don't want to believe you're gone Blade. You never even gave me the chance to say goodbye...

Star, it's getting...cold...Star?

Go away Ringo, just go away and forget that I ever existed. He puts his arms around me and I flinch away, flinging myself down on his grave. I can't let go Blade...I never will...

Star...please, this isn't easy for me either... His voice cracks, I look up. I haven't seen Ringo cry since...ever. My eyes change direction as though Blade's tombstone was magnetic north.

Blade wouldn't want you to waste away like this Star, you haven't eaten anything for days!

I don't care why should you?

Ringo never raises his voice at me; the surprise must show through my eyes as they meet his. He breaks down again. I've just one of my best friends, don't make me lose another one!

In everything green, I remember the intoxication of his eyes. In everything black, I remember the feel of his hair...black...like his grave; watching his body lowered down into the darkness, never to see the light of life again. In everything happy, I feel nothing...go away life, just go away and leave me alone. I hate the faces of the mourners, of how they say you were an honourable man...and you were I know you were; it's not what they talk of that angers me. I hate how they talk as if they knew you as well as I knew you; I hate pretentious people. I hate the way they talk of you, of how they make you sound like a man who demanded to stand on a pedestal for his bravery when he died; who wouldve revelled in his victory on his return home. I hate that they don't know that Fate spat on you, on your entire family. Did you feel any honour in your death Blade? Were you thinking of accolades, or glory? They talk of a myth! You were a quiet and humble man, not this arrogant and hedonistic man they talk of.

Went down in a blaze of glory...

A heroic end for such a hero...

He revelled in the bloodshed...

He longed to hear Darkon howl...

He'd have laughed as Darkon trembled at his knees...

Glory. What is glorious about war? Hero. Yes, you were a hero, and always will be. Bloodshed. You'd cry yourself to sleep, knowing whose blood it was. Darkon. Who was Darkon? You saw your father die, so it wasn't him. It wasn't Katherine; your older brother's fianceé was Tekkaman Sword. Darkon. Who was Darkon? There's only one member of the Carter family that no one seemed to know about. Oh Blade, you wouldn't have laughed as you killed another brother. I saw what Sabre's death did to you...Blade...my poor Blade.

What's this?

Just read it.

Ringo, tell me...

Just read the damn thing, Star. I stare at the letter Ringo gave me as he storms off. What's up with him? I sigh as I carefully open the envelope, staring at Blade's handwriting. I'm unaware of time moving swiftly around me, I'm frozen on Blade's final words to me. I'm unaware of the tears on my cheeks, nothing matters, except for his words. Oh Blade, we could've been so happy...

My love, your life was not in vain
You left me a precious gift without even knowing,
Your final gift, most precious gift;
The promise of a better world, and your un-abiding love

The days are spent listlessly on my behalf, meaning is lost, life means nothing. All I want is to be reunited with Blade again. I miss your tormented green eyes; eyes that shone with love. How your seldom smile would widen from nowhere; how I would labour to make you smile. I miss how your arms would wrap around me protectively; your way of saying I love you'. I miss all of you Blade, but now, perhaps you are at peace.

Ringo's meaningless banter does nothing to help my despondency. The good will and cheer really sparks a light to a fuse - taught and ready to explode. Just when I think the explosives attached to the fuse are ready to blow, an unexpected bucket of water gets thrown in my face.

What do you mean you're late?

I mean, I'm late... He gulps and his eyes widen.

You mean...

Can you drive me?

On request, an Angel
Offers me salvation;
The one who grows within me
Shall be my reason to fight on

Ringo turns the engine off and I step out, I turn back to look but his heads slumped on the steering wheel. I just couldn't believe it. It's so, uncanny. Here I thought my behaviour was from grief.

Are you going to spend all day looking at the sky?

I was wondering if you were ever going to get out of the car. It's me who's going to give birth, what are you so worried about? The intensity of Ringo's glare makes my skin crawl; why should it bother him? He's not the one who's been throwing up every morning for the past three weeks. I'm the one who's going to get strange cravings for vegemite on ice-cream and honey on gherkins, not him. He's not going to get stretch marks or swollen ankles, backaches and labour pains.

But then...he's won't be able to feel the wonder of creation, the wonder of new life growing inside him; to create something, give life to something. Oh Blade, if only you were here to witness the life you'd begun. You didn't leave me, did you? You're always going to be here, aren't you? As though he heard me, a warm breeze coiled its way through my hair, making me feel light and strangely, loved. I turned and followed the invisible breeze as a stream of leaves floated around me; I followed the breeze's tail that led up to the house. My house now. I caressed my waist that won't be as slim in the months to come. I long to feel the swelling of our child Blade; I can't wait to see him.

How can you be so sure it'll be a he', Star?

He', Ringo? He blushed and looked away, only then did I realise I'd been talking to Blade out loud. It's my way of coping Ringo, it's as though he's around me, and I feel him around me. I haven't thought of the child as a he or a she. Perhaps it's my subconscious' way of telling me something.

All right, but what if it's a girl? I look away to the sunset; it won't be a girl. God in his infinite wisdom will give me a son, with black hair and passionate emerald eyes.

You're doing fine Miss Summers, just fine.

Well, this is fun hey Star?

SHUT UP RINGO! YOU DON'T HAVE TO BE HERE!! GET OUT!!! The pain, oh good Lord the pain! If this is the pain women felt when they died during childbirth, I can understand why! I will endure, I will see my child, my son, I know you will be my son...Blade's son. I can feel you here too, see what pain a night of passion can beget?

You're laughing at a time like this?! Am I laughing? I didn't know. Blade, you're going to be a father...if only you were here to raise him with me...

Hey, I didn't mean that you couldn't laugh Star...don't cry, your almost finished! Just think of this as test of endurance...

Ringo, if you...don't shut...up...I'm...I'm...

The baby's crowning, one more push Miss Summers and then you'll hold your baby...

Wow Star! I can see the baby's head! This is so cool!

Wanna trade places...

That's it, just one more...

Keep it up Star, almost past the finish line now...

IT'S A BOY!

IT'S A BOY! I knew it, I just knew it. Oh Blade, look at him, isn't he perfect? Your black hair...your olive skin...

Star, he's beautiful... Ringo? What are you crying for? Oh look at him, screaming on my stomach, our son Blade, he has your temper! And your fighting spirit; they say we're wisest before we're born, he put up a good fight to see he stayed in his safe, protected world.

Congratulations Miss Summers, he appears in perfect health. Good to see you laughing.

I'm sure he heard me, his eyes softened and his head nodded, but my voice was barely above a whisper. I'm mesmerised by this tiny (tiny??) wonder, this strong child that is my son. My hours of agonising pain are long forgotten as I cradle him in my arms, I'm amazed at the speed in which he stops crying. You know me, don't you baby? My beautiful, precious...

To watch him grow
And learn to fight in this existence,
Is my new role in life;
The only purpose I shall serve

Momma, was Daddy a strong man? I giggle as my son scampers up the stairs from Ringo's car. The emeralds in his eyes sparkle as he stares at me intensely, anxiously awaiting my answer. As Ringo slams the doors shut, I cuddle my son into my lap as I sit down on the veranda. He nestles into my lap and I stroke his unruly black hair.

You're father was a very strong man, and very brave too.

Stronger than Uncle Ringo? I watch Ringo carefully as he makes his way up the stairs quietly; his eyes turn away, as though ashamed to be looking at me.

Why do you ask Nick?

He started his little head rose from my lap. My kindy teacher was talking about Daddy today, saying that she was saved from a big spidercrab, His eye widen to emphasise big spidercrab'. She said that Daddy picked the spidercrab up and threw it away. Then, she said, that he picked her up and flew her to her parents.

He even pushed the Blue Earth when the thrusters didn't work. His eyes widen again into an excited, wow'. Then, his eyes shrink, his little face becoming troubled. What is it honey?

If Daddy was so strong, how come he died? I froze, and looked out to sea. How do you answer an answer like that? I don't know how long drifted off, but by the time Nick's small hands patted me back to consciousness, Ringo had gone inside.

I'm sorry Momma, I didn't mean to make you cry. His little eyes water and I feel terrible. I tighten my arms around him and rest his head against my chest.

You didn't make Momma cry honey; I was just, What was I doing? Remembering. I was just remembering Daddy. He looks up at me and his mouth makes an o'.

Hey Nick, I put three marshmallows in this time. Marshmallows were one way of putting a smile back on Nick's face.

WOW! THREE? His delighted squeals make my tears disappear and an amused smile appears. Thanks Uncle Ringo, you're the best! Nick, being an affectionate child throws his arms around Ringo...over an extra marshmallow. I'll have to remember the extra marshmallow when adolescence hits; the amazing healing power of hot chocolate and marshmallows.

Both Ringo and I watch as Nick runs about happily; his scruffy hair dances along the wind as his eyes dart around in childish wonder. He's an inquisitive child that rarely misses a thing; already he's been moved to advanced reading at his kindy.

He's a cute kid. Ringo sighs.

You're biased, I chuckle. In the corner of my eyes, I see how intensely Ringo watches my son. Everyday, I notice how protective he is with Nick, how Nick's arms greet Ringo with affection; am I selfish to deny these two what they desire? Nick sees and loves Ringo as a father, and Ringo protects and loves Nick as his own son. I notice how Nick observes Ringo and I with puzzled eyes; he's trying to figure us out. He sees his classmates with their parents, how most of them are husband and wife. Ringo has made certain that Nick cares for him like a father, perhaps it's his sneaky way of seducing me. It might've worked, but for the fact that every time I look at my son, I'm reminded of a man I can never let go, or ever will. It is selfish of me, but I couldn't willingly go to Ringo when I know that every time he held me, I would be thinking of Blade; it wouldn't be fair to him. It's not that I don't look at him sometimes, when he's playing with Nick or just working around the house, that I don't weaken and yearn for an embrace; to not have these feelings would mean that I was not a woman, that I was not human. Sometimes I get so sick of being strong and dependable for everyone; it would be nice to depend on someone else. Don't think me cruel or insensitive, Ringo, I love you in my own special way; you're my best friend, and your friendship is as special as my son is. Nick, don't think me ignorant, I know you yearn for a father; you have one in Ringo, but I can never let him into my heart, I couldn't bear to betray Blade.

Alone, my son,
The product of my union with my love
Is my world;
It is him, that I live and fight on for now.

As I walk through the corridors they salute me and speak with respect; I am the Space Knight Commander after all. I reach my office and my secretary glances at me with that glint in her eyes; I scowl and she jumps, returning back to her work. I throw the paper on my desk and pace about angrily; interfering bastards! Why can't they just leave me alone?! What's so interesting about me that they have to write about? Sordid nights, lustful engagements, SEX ABOARD THE BLUE EARTH?! Ungrateful bastards! I'm doing my job, seeing that we wont be as ill prepared as we were in what gives them the right to ruin my reputation by speculating and spreading rumours?!

"Mom? Are you ok?"

"Nick...how long have you been standing there for honey?"

"Long enough to see these..." My sweet son, how many nineteen-year-olds would comfort their mothers?

"Mom, what is it? Is it the tabloids again...is it?" Such anger in those eyes; nostalgia kicks me square in the gut. Deja vu in those eyes, the same eyes, the same anger of his father's eyes. However the torment and tumultuous emerald storm clouds so evident in Blade's eyes are nowhere to be seen in Nick. Although, my own melancholy and wistful reflection does appear.

"Nick, is there anything I could do that would make you happier?"

"The occasional smile from my mother would certainly brighten my day a little more..."

The Phoenix dies in a funeral pyre; from his ashes, his son is born, rising in glory. My sweet gentle son, no longer a child but a brilliant and confidant man, takes the mantle of Protector from his father. Radam returned, as I always knew they would and Nick rushed off to protect Earth. His armour, shone like Blade's did, the power that emanated from our son was truly awesome. As he battled with Radam, it was as though I was eighteen again, gawking in awe as a hero came down from Heaven and defended Earth. Ringo's sad yet proud eyes would always remind me that I was not watching Blade, but his son.

//To have a shield that can protect others is a weapon that you must choose to use. It is you alone who can make the final decision, but you must remember that your decisions carry the burden of consequence. Do you use the weapon that can protect the lives of others, or do you choose not to use it?//

/Why would you choose not to use it? Who wouldn't use a weapon that would save the lives of others, Mom? What possible consequence could saving the lives of countless others have, by using the weapon?/

//It comes down to whether or not you can live with the burden of your actions. Some actions whilst noble, demand the ultimate price. A price your father never questioned, yet the effects of his decision are felt by others years later. It is situations such as these that you must be aware of...//

/So, you don't mind that I was suspended, almost expelled this time? You're not disappointed in me?/

//I could never be disappointed you, Nick. You did what you thought was right, I'm proud of that and will defend your decision.//

How my own words come back to haunt me. I stand back and watch my son as he lies in his hospital bed. My baby, you haven't been in hospital since you were a boy; you look as vulnerable and as helpless as the day you were born. The pencil in my finger snaps and I glare back at my reflection. How stupid of me to let him fight, I should never have let him join the Space Knights!

As I take my seat, Yumi starts whining, Anita, Goliate and Hayato arguing with Ringo to go out and fight. Through all the screaming and raised voices, two of my most vocal Space Knights hold their tongues; David rarely has nothing to say, but it's Natasha's silent forlorn eyes that make me rise from my chair. I place my hand on her shoulder and she starts babbling incoherently.

Come Natasha, I'm sure he'll want to hear your voice. Her head keeps shaking from her sobs as it moves from my shoulder to look at me, taking only a second to realise my meaning. Without a word she follows me from the suddenly silent room to my son's private hospital room. Once we reach there I stand back and watch as she trembles by his bedside, holding onto his hand. Behind me, Yumi sniffles and I look at her surprised that she was there. I feel the weight of Ringo's eyes on my back and I turn around.

There's always a man lying on a hospital bed, with a woman at his bedside. Then, there's the one who always stands on the outside, looking at them wishing, that it was he in the room.

You mean, His eyes narrow and look away painfully.

Yeah, that's what I mean. He grumbles and storms out of the room.

My son stood so proudly as he waited for his bride to join him at the alter; his Russian firebird. Natasha, I liked instantly; we hit it off from the word go. Brave, strong willed and determined, qualities I admire. Such a contrast from the blond puppy that followed Nick around helplessly. As I was there the day my son pronounced his vows, so too was I the day my granddaughters were born. Oh Blade, such beautiful girls, twins, if you could believe it. Nick held both daughters in his arms proudly as Natasha wept happily, beaming as he announced their names; Shara and Miisha Carter. I bawled as he announced Shara's name, I couldn't help but think of how proud you'd have been of your son.

Love does come in many forms Blade. When you died, and left me alone, I thought I'd feel loved again. But you gave me a reason to fight on, didn't you?

With Nick and Natasha out with the girls, I spent my time at home looking out from the veranda. During the day, I'd watch as the sun glistened and made the ocean look like a giant sapphire. At night, I'd listen to the sounds of the waves lapping at the shores, feeling the cool breezes against my face. It was a soothing, yet disconcerting time for me. At forty-seven, my life felt like it was over: my son was an adult and had babies of his own; Radam was basically defeated, and my work was spent debating with the military. There was nothing constructive for me to do now; it was as though I'd lived my life, and now I was left to contemplate a life over. Not one day went by that I didn't think about Blade; what was it about him that made me feel so strongly about him? It's almost three decades since he died, and I still think of myself as spoken for. What was it I saw in his eyes, that touched me so deeply? What did his soul whisper to mine that I couldn't hear now?

The breeze rustles through my hair and I close my eyes; you're still here, aren't you Blade? Behind me, a deck board squeaked and I turned slowly, fooling myself into thinking it was Blade. Instead of green eyes, my eyes met with blue. Instead of black hair, gold hair shone in the moonlight. He drifted towards me as though he were a ghost.

You still can't let him go, can you? I sighed. I looked at him as his shoulders slumped over the railings; his voice was flat and defeated. I've known you all these years, stood by you through thick and thin. Ive been a father to Nick, I think of him as my son...

And I will always love you for it Ringo.

Your definition and mine differ. Star, I've known and loved you for years, practically since we met. One man comes, spends a year or two with you, and your hearts taken. Why wasnt it me? Me whod been there for you; Blade died twenty-eight years ago tomorrow, won't you let him go? His eyes welled with emotion and a yearning I'd never felt for years sung loudly. My brave arrogant friend cried of an unrequited love; how could I have hurt him so much? I've ignored my friend, my best friend...

I never meant to hurt you Ringo. You're my best friend, and in my own special way, I do love you. Why don't I ever show it? I'm a coward. He raises his eyebrow.

You? Star Summers, a coward? I thought for a second then continued.

Why have you never married one of your women?

Because I love you, damn it! How could I ever promise myself to a woman; pretending to love her, saying it's her I love, that she's the only one I think of, when I know it's a lie? My silence gave Ringo his answer and stared at me with tears of frustration running down his face. All I could do was hold him; his arms went around me hungrily, like a man starved. I knew Ringo hadn't lived a Monk's life, he had women begging at the door daily to make them wives, to give them children. Above us, the stars shone and gave light to Ringo's tears; I'd never felt so guilty in my life as I did at that moment.

Something inside me crumbled, and after years of yearning, after years of avoiding this unspoken endearment, I turned my lips to my best friend and embraced him as a lover. A flame that had been extinguished when Blade died reignited as the night wore on. When it was all over, both Ringo and I had tears in our eyes, and no words could express the moment. All thought had been erased from my mind as I lay there in his arms, and slept a blissful sleep.

Then somewhere in the night, I jolted awake, without rhyme or reason. I felt something in my bones, my senses screamed of a dangerous presence. Ringo stirred and turned over. I kissed his cheek and ran out the door, not bothering to look behind me as I rushed on to battle a deadly foe.

Nick's worried face dances above me, even Ringo lends a worried face - my sweet son, my best friend. Ringo, I'm sorry it took me so long to give you what you wanted, but that's the thing about life, it revels in kicking you when the going gets good. There's nothing I do now but say I'm happy with the way I lived my life. Oh Nick, I wish I could see the birth of your new baby...I'm sorry, I won't be there...

I feel pain and my vision's getting strange - my son starts to panic. I can feel the intense speed increase - it's not going to do any good. I've done it this time, gone past my limit. At least final threat to my son and the future has been annihilated, but at what cost...oh...what's the point? What's done is done, and I will pay for my actions.

The doctors know it is hopeless, but they still try to help me live. My son urges them with his fiery temper; but my strength is gone. I've lived through the greatest pain, I lived to see my son grow to be the man he is, and I lived to see the birth of my granddaughters. I wish I could live to see them grow...

"MOM! STAY WITH US! DON'T GO NOW! NOT NOW...PLEASE! I STILL NEED YOU!"

I smile at my distraught son, and try to wipe away his tears. It was my carelessness that got me here, thinking about Blade - twenty-eight years ago today, I was distracted; I never noticed Dead's dying blow in his final moments. My poor son had to find me bleeding on the battleground...

"Mom, please..."

"Shh honey...don't cry..."

"Mom..."

Listen to me Nick, I speak slowly; I don't have much breath left in me. "You have made me so proud. With everything you've done, and everything you will do, I'm proud of you..."

My ears are ringing from all the beeping noises; the monitors are going crazy. It's hard to keep my eyes open. My hand falls limp, what a strange sensation to have no control over your body. My stare glues to the faces of Nick and Ringo, silently praying they'll forgive me for leaving so early. I try to say this when I see someone behind Nick; a figure about Nick's height, surrounded by a beautiful light.

I get up from the bed, surprised at how light I feel. I touch Nick's face but he's shaking uncontrollably; there's nothing I can do for him now, my poor little boy. I turn my attention back to the stranger who lifts his head. He smiles, and reaches out to me with his hand; I take it in my own. After twenty-eight years of waiting, he stands here with me, bathed in white light. Green eyes look into my own and a brilliant smile graces his lips...

"I've been waiting for you...what took you so long?"

«Owari»