Lapis very slowly became aware of his surroundings, feeling the soft brush of grass against his cheek. Eyes slowly flickering open to half mast he looked in front of him, seeing that he was laying on his side in what looked like a grassy meadow. Confused Lapis sat up, his head in his hands as he tried to figure out what was going on. The last think he remembered was confronting Diamond in that witch's castle. He hadn't been able to kill the bastard once again, not even so that Panther's death wouldn't be in vain. Panther. Fresh grief coursing through him tears appeared at his eyes, sliding down his cheeks into his hands. He'd failed, he'd failed everyone. He'd been too weak and pathetic to do what was right. To make all their sacrifices worth it. Now they would suffer and die because of him. Because of his failings. He'd deserved to die, he deserved to rot in hell for the rest of his afterlife.
"It's alright, Lapis. You failed no one." Came a soft voice, the voice near and Lapis could sense someone kneeling in front of him, a female's hands coming to rest on his shoulders.
Slowly raising his head Lapis stared, dumbfounded when he looked into the eyes of Lazuli, his other half. But how could this be, Lapis wondered, his right hand shaking as he lifted his right hand up to cup her cheek, to make sure she was real. "I don't understand. You're me..and I'm you."
"You were me and I was you but not any more. We're two very different people, Lapis and not just in sex obviously. We were two spirits, born into one body so that we could follow our destiny and fulfill it, to succeed in the mission that was our destiny. You needed me to prevent you from killing Diamond. I needed you to be the warrior I could never be. But now that we're here there's no need to share a body and so we have once again been given our own forms and faces. Never again will I be called Lapis and never again will you be called Lazuli, Lapis. We are both free." Lazuli said as she laid a hand over his, smiling at him gently. "We're no longer in our world, Lapis. We have arrived at the afterlife and we arrived here victorious. The world we left behind is safe now and the people there will know peace and prosperity once more. No one's death was in vain. Together with them we saved everyone."
"We won? But I couldn't kill Diamond..I couldn't stop him." Lapis demanded, unable to believe that he'd succeeded, that he hadn't failed everyone he loved. "I failed!"
"You stopped him, Lapis. Not with words but with actions. In sparing him you saved him from himself. He's dying as we speak. He won't leave me even as the castle is crumbling around him." Lazuli said softly, tears shimmering in her eyes now as well. "Soon he will come here too and for once..his spirit will be at rest. But there is someone who came here before us, someone who will want to see you. You should go find him."
"Someone who..Panther? Is Panther here too?" Lapis asked slowly, his eyes going wide as he quickly got to his feet, his eyes scanning the area for signs of his beloved friend. "Is he?" Lapis demanded to know as he looked down at Lazuli as she got to her feet.
"Yes. Go find him." Lazuli said with a smile as she watched the joy bloom on Lapis face. He was her other half after all, like a brother to her and it made her happy to see him happy. "You're heart will tell you where to go."
Lapis turned to take off running when he paused, turning back to face her with a concerned look on his face. It felt wrong to just run off and leave her here alone. He knew nothing about this place or the dangers that it might hold. If someone like Diamond could come here then who knew what other men of equal character were lurking nearby. He couldn't just leave Lazuli here, not after everything she'd done for him. True she'd caused him a lot of problems but in the worst of times she'd been there inside him, counseling him in his times of need. They hadn't often agreed but with her within him he'd never been alone either. "What about you? Will you be alright here..by yourself? I could take you somewhere first?"
"No, go to Panther. I'm going to wait here for Diamond." Lazuli said with a shake of her long hair, a content smile on her face. "Go on, we'll meet again. Just as you will see your friends again when they come here once their time among the living is over."
"But that won't be for a really long time right?" Lapis asked with a concerned look on his face, thinking of his friends who'd become more like family to him throughout the years. As much as he'd like to see them, have them with him again it would be selfish of him to wish them here. They had lives, families of their own.
"Yes, most of them have plenty of life left to live before they come here." Lazuli agreed, understanding his sentiments exactly. Though she'd never truly had a chance to become as close to them as Lapis had she'd always thought of them as her friends too. "Now go before Diamond gets here. I've seen enough bloodshed to last me a lifetime."
"Farewell then, Lazuli. I will miss you..sister." Lapis said as he leaned forward to place a kiss on her cheek, smiling when she turned to place a kiss on his cheek as well.
"As will I, Lapis. You will always be with me though, as I will always be with you..my brother." Lazuli agreed, a few stray tears falling. "Good bye, Lapis."
"Good bye." Lapis agreed with a nod before turning around and taking off running, letting his heart guide him as he went in search of the most important person in the world to him. Panther.
Watching him go until he was out of sight Lazuli smiled a sad smile before wandering over to a nearby rock, taking a seat as she waited for Diamond to arrive.
Diamond felt the chill of darkness and knew he was dead. That was fine, he deserved to die after what he'd done. He felt like he was falling, but he wasn't moving or it didn't feel like he was. A paradox to be sure. Closing his eyes visions flashed before him, hundreds of little images of Lazuli he'd stored in his mind over the years. Images that had kept him sane and stable battle after battle, torment after torment. But now she was gone for good. He'd killed her. The one and only light in his darkness and he'd snuffed that beautiful light out forever. He deserved whatever fate he would be given. He didn't care what they did to him now. He'd already given himself the greatest punishment imaginable. Reliving those last few minutes over and over again he slowly became aware that his surroundings were getting warmer. Trying to open his eyes he found that he couldn't, as if they'd been sewn shut or were too heavy to open. Seconds later he landed, crashing into a solid surface and he lay there, unable to move or even breath.
Gradually able to open his heavy eyes Diamond looked up to see a blue sky, a vibrant blue with soft, white clouds lazily floating along it. Both eyes. With a hand that shook violently Diamond reached up and touched his face, his mask no longer there to hinder him. Instead of fingers gliding across scarred flesh there was only smooth skin and he was seeing out of both eyes, not just one. Sitting up Diamond looked all around, taking in the lush green meadow with shocked blue eyes, both relaying the beauty before him even though he hadn't seen out of his one eye in over four years. How could this be? Where was he? The wind gently caressing his face Diamond got to his feet and stared around him some more, still too shaky to take a step. Looking down at himself he saw that his armor was gone as was the blood that hand one covered him. He wore ordinary clothing, well made but lacking any real adornment or any sign that he was of any importance. He could pass for a spar. Not quite sure what to think of that Diamond continued to look around as he slowly began to walk, one step at a time, searching for something though he didn't know what that something was. Eyes taking in every little detail as he tried to figure out what was going on his heart leapt hard against his chest as his eyes landed on a delicate figure, sitting on a rock with her back to him. Lazuli.
Panther sat on the low hanging branch overlooking a lake but couldn't find it in him to enjoy the stunningly beautiful scenery. In his heart he knew that Lapis would succeed in bringing about the new era, that if anyone could save the world it would be his master. But that thought didn't ease the pain in his heart, nor did it calm his fears and worries. He'd died for his master, that had been his choice and his fate. For his master he would have gladly died a hundred deaths when it came right down to it. But Lapis would be the one who would have to live with that, live with the fact that it had been his sword, Lapis that had taken his life. Even though Lapis had never loved him the way Panther had grown to love his master he knew that Lapis would never forgive himself, would never accept that he'd done what he had to do. He'd tried to make Lapis understand but how could he? There hadn't been time to explain it all and even if he had, even if he'd explained it all to Lapis his friend still wouldn't have agreed to it. That was one of the things he'd always loved most about his Master. The size of his heart and his sheer goodness, his need to help others be they friends or strangers. Bowing his head in grief Panther admitted, if only to himself that he'd do anything to return to Lapis side. Even if it was only as friends he'd give up a thousand lifetimes for just one with his master. All set to jump down from his branch and onto the ground to do some exploring of this strange new world a familiar scent drifted on the breeze to his sensitive nose. The hairs standing up on the back of his neck Panther stood up before jumping down with cat like grace, landing on the soft earth with barely a sound. Straightening Panther tested the air once more, finding the scent getting stronger and closer rather then fading away as if he'd call it to come. Taking steps before he even realized his intent Panther began walking across the grass, absently stepping over rocks and the occasional fallen branch, his thoughts and mind centered on tracking down the source of that scent he knew oh so well. Coming to a stop, freezing like a marble statue Panther could only stare at the figure he saw running down the hill towards him, not at all gracefully either but then his Master never had been particularly graceful outside a fight. The thought finally getting through Panther finally could move, running straight for his master who was waving at him like a maniac even as he ran at him. Finally Lapis was there, throwing his arms around him so that they stood there, hugging each other tight with Lapis's face buried in Panther's neck, Panther able to feel Lapis's tears falling against his neck. "It is good to see you..Master." Panther finally managed to get out, unable to let go.
"And you, Panther." Lapis managed to get out, holding onto Panther like he'd never let go. He knew Panther must be thinking he was acting like a big baby but he couldn't bother to make himself care. The only thing that mattered right now was that he'd found Panther and he was okay. "We did it, Panther. We won." Lapis finally managed to add after moments of silence, knowing Panther would want to know. "Everyone is safe, Lazuli said so."
"She said so?" Panther said as a confused look on his face, his eyes suddenly widening when he realized what had seemed different about his master. Drawing Lapis away with from him Panther stared at Lapis forehead, reaching out a hand hesitantly before brushing his fingers against Lapis's bare forehead which no longer carried Diamond's mark. "The jewel..it's gone."
"No, it's just on Lazuli's forehead now." Lapis said with a grin, glad to have it off and to be able to stand before Panther as himself and only himself. Simply as Lapis for the first time since he'd met Panther. "She has a body of her own now. We're no longer two parts of the same person or body or however you want to put it. I'm just me now. I'll never be Lazuli again and she'll never be me."
Eyes widening Panther didn't know what to say to that. "That is great news, Master. I'm sure you're very pleased."
"Not master, never again your master." Lapis said as he reached out a hand to cup Panther's cheek, tenderness and a bright and strong love plain in his brilliant eyes that held Panther's with their intensity. "I don't want to ever again be your master, Panther. I'm just Lapis now. Now and forever. I want to stay at your side always as equals..if you'll let me."
"There is no one else I'd prefer at my side then you." Panther said with a small smile, seeing things in Lapis's eyes that he'd never thought to see directed at him. As long as Lapis had been connected with Lazuli it had always been Diamond . Now that it was just Lapis Panther was seeing love in his master's eyes..no in Lapis eyes that was directed towards him.
A huge grin splitting Lapis's face he threw himself back into Panther's arms, content to stay there until the end of time. "I'm finally home." Lapis said quietly as he tightened his hold, his heart leaping for joy when Panther held him just as tightly. "So long as I'm with you."
Sensing him before she saw him Lazuli straightened in her seat then turned her head to look over her shoulder, her eyes lighting up when she saw that it was indeed him, standing a few meters away from her though he didn't move a step forward or back. Hopping off the rock Lazuli walked around it then slowly walked towards him, unsure if she would be welcome despite the evidence that would suggest she would be. Dressed in the last dress he'd given her the skirt fluttered in the breeze with every step she took, her hair waving back and forth as well as she came to a stop a meter away from him. "Diamond." Lazuli said softly, her eyes meeting his. His eye had been healed, she was glad.
"Lazuli..but how?" Diamond asked hoarsely, wondering if she'd been sent here just to torment him even as his eyes hungrily absorbed every inch of her, engraving her into his memory.
"We've both died, this is the afterlife. I'm no longer two different people in one body, Diamond. I'm simply Lazuli here while my other half, Lapis is here as well in his own body with Panther. I thought it best to send him on his way before you got here. We succeeded you know. The world we once lived in will become a land of plenty and prosperity because of our actions. All of ours. It was our fates to face each other in that witch's castle, for us to either let the darkness take us or to face the darkness and do the right thing no matter the cost to us." Lazuli said nervously, not sure what to say or how to say it. "There will be no more wars or battle here, Diamond. Only peace and joy. You cannot conquer this new world but you can live here in peace without pain or grief. If you're willing to take it."
"But after all I've done..how can I be allowed in such a place?" Diamond demanded to know, still thinking this had to be some sort of trick. A cruel consequence to his actions.
"This is what the fates have decreed shall be your fate." Lazuli said as she took a few steps forward, placing her hands on his shoulders. "For everything you've done, every terrible actions you took...they have decided you should still come here. With me."
"With you?" Diamond said slowly, his hands lifting up to frame her face, his heart leaping into his throat when she nuzzled her face against his palm. "But I..I.. you're dead because of me. How can you bear for me to touch you? To be near me after everything I've done to you? To the people you care about."
"I love you and my death was my fate, Diamond. What had to happen in order to save everyone else. For all your faults and wrong doings, every pain you've caused me I couldn't deny my heart had chosen to love you. It's not something I can change." Lazuli said as she reached out to grasp his right wrist, lifting his hand to lay it on her forehead where the jewel he'd given her glowed brightly. "I'm yours forever." Lazuli said softly as she let go of his wrist, her arms coming up to wrap around his neck as she pulled his head down for a kiss. His own arms wrapping around her waist in a tight hold. Together at last nothing would separate them again. That was their fates.