Chapter Thirty-Five

"I found it! I think I really found it!"

Ami's delighted squeal grabbed Adam by the heart and yanked him rudely from the almost drowsing sleep that he was fading into. He came back to reality suddenly, his heart leaping into his throat and attempting to claw its way out of his mouth, while his lungs battered against his ribcage in a furious attempt to explode.

From the sound of Megabyte's grumbling, it was clear to see that he was not the only one startled by Ami's exclamation.

"Well, whatever it is, try to be a little more quiet about it," Megabyte snapped. Plumfruit juice dribbled down his chin and colored his doublet in various large patches, which he dabbed anxiously at with a handkerchief. "Geesh, Ami, what's your problem anyway?"

"Yeah, Ami, you scared me half to death," Jade chastised. Evidently, her dress also suffered victimization from Megabyte's spilled goblet, and she was frantically dabbing at the bright purple spots that were slowly seeping into the ivory silk and lace. And not only into expensive material of Jade's dress, but also into the coarse quilts and blankets that spread around them, beginning to creep a determined path towards the loaf of sweet bread. "This dress is ruined."

Ami rolled her eyes, a move so characteristically Ami that Adam couldn't help but smile, despite the fact that his heart still felt like it was going to explode and he hadn't quite caught his breath yet. There had been times during the past few days since the wedding - and the wedding night - that he wasn't precisely sure where things stood between them. She was his wife; that much his mind accepted without argument or question. She was still his best friend, that too could not be argued. But the rest of it - the rest of it remained a bit touch and go. Sometimes, he looked at her, and was still touched by the phantom mirage of Princess Amideira; sometimes he looked at himself and saw his own phantom mirages; and sometimes, they weren't phantoms at all. Sometimes, what he saw and what he felt, what he thought he knew and remembered, felt very, very real - and those were the times when he had to snap himself to attention and remind himself of who he really was.

Which was precisely the purpose of this picnic today. It had taken some, and some here was used as a euphemism for a great deal, of begging and pleading and cajoling for this picnic to be private, between just the four of them. King Martine and Queen Carrina had not liked it, Stewart put up more of an argument than he had about anything the entire Adam had been here, and Sephrine, not Nynie, but Sephrine acted as though he had just suggested that they desecrate a few temples. But, in a hard fought and barely won fight, here they were, alone with just themselves for company. A time to relax and wind down, alone and unsupervised where they didn't have to mind their words and manners, a few stolen hours before the newly married prince and princess were sent off to "grow accustomed to one another" in the Summer Palace located on the southern coast of Stiborn.

Alone and enjoying a relaxing afternoon until Ami shattered the tranquility with her shrieks.

"You can get another dress made at the drop of a hat, Jade," Ami pointed out, dismissing the dress issue with a wave of her hand. She shook the slim leather bound tome that she had been reading for most of the day, most of the week really, at them. "I found our way home."

"In that skinny little book?" Megabyte made no attempt to hide his disbelief.

Adam however, perked up at her words. He knew more of what that slim little book was - it wasn't just a book - it was one of Amideira's secret diaries, one where she wrote down the things she tried and learned that she didn't want Nynie or any other Damiar of the Temple to learn about. Adam wasn't particularly happy with her reading that book, fearful that in an effort to educate herself she might try some of Amideira's 'talents' and end up hurting herself - or worse.

"Amideira's diary," Adam corrected.

Those words were enough to banish even Megabyte's scowl and Jade momentarily stopped wiping at her ruined dress, curious blue eyes turning to Ami.

"A spell?" Jade asked breathlessly, as though she dared not believe it was possible.

"Not exactly."

Megabyte's eyebrows rose, "Not exactly a spell?"

The center of their attention now, Ami averted her eyes, lowering the book to her lap. She fingered the spine absently, nervously drawing her lip between her teeth and chewing on it before she spoke. "It's more of ... not so much a spell as a way to use the magic to manipulate time and space."

"Already sounding way more freaky than I like, Ami."

"It has to do with keystones and portal ways. If you get these keystones and use them on the portal ways, they can open doorways ... to other places. If you're focused, and you know where you want to go, supposedly you can get there. At least, that's how it works in theory."

"In theory? Well, that's great in theory, Ami, but I'd like if my body parts weren't spread across the galaxy by fact."

"Megabyte," Adam chastised him, "Let her finish."

Adam ignored the questioning look thrown in his direction from the other Tomorrow Person, and prepared himself for whatever inevitable teasing he would receive later for coming to Ami's defense. After the time Adam had spent teasing Megabyte about his marital status with Jade, his fellow Tomorrow Person was happy to return the ribbing tenfold. The only problem was, Adam didn't take offense to it in the way that Megabyte hoped; in fact, the teasing seldom bothered him at all.

[Thank you,] Ami accompanied the soft telepathic touch with a demure smile, that for whatever reason made Adam's face flush with heat. She averted her eyes, nervously tugging on one of her braids as she continued. "It's based on the same elements as 'The Dreaming.' The Dreaming uses a keystone to help a person reach out and ... contact someone else, somewhere else, in a dream. Except in The Dreaming it's much more small scale."

Megabyte did nothing to hide his skepticism. "And how do you even know that this Dreaming thing works?"

"Because I've done it." Ami didn't look at Adam at all, only Megabyte as she met the challenge in his gaze. "I did it when I contacted Adam."

"Huh? You contacted Adam?"

"When did you do that?"

Adam, in turn said nothing. He knew precisely what Ami was speaking of, recalling the time that she had somehow, someway reached out to him via their dreams. He had always intended to ask her how she did that, although a sneaking suspicion wiggled its way around in the back of his head, but things got so hectic so quickly that he never followed up on it. Now, he wished that he had.

"The Dreaming. I contacted Adam in a dream - a while back." Ami dismissed the topic with another one of those lofty waves of her hand, "Anyway, that's not the important point. What's important is that -"

"You used some kind of magic that you know absolutely nothing about to get in touch with Adam?" Megabyte scoffed, the scolding and disapproval in his voice reminding Adam that Megabyte wasn't as uninvolved and uninterested as he often pretended to be. The blue eyes swung to Adam with accusation, "You *let* her do that?"

"Adam didn't *let* me do anything, Megabyte. And anyway -"

"You could have hurt yourself," Jade tried to sound disappointed, but couldn't manage to hide the note of awe in her voice. Adam groaned inwardly. Keeping Ami away from potentially dangerous magic that she didn't understand, comprehend, or control was going to be difficult enough; keeping both girls out of temptation's sway would be an even greater chore.

"But I didn't."

Adam spoke up, "But you could have."

"But. I. Didn't." Dark eyes flashed defiantly.

"Look, guys, I appreciate that you two are going to have a 'talk' about this, and as entertaining as that might be to watch, could we please get back to the important stuff here," Megabyte drummed his fingers, glancing between Adam and Ami will ill-concealed impatience.

"Fine with me," Ami pointedly kept her eyes on the redhead.

[You're not getting off that easily, Ami.] Adam 'pathed to her in what he hoped was an ominous tone.

[I look forward to it.]

"Could you two please put your pissing contest aside for the moment," Megabyte rolled his eyes. "Please?"

"Megabyte!"

"Marm!" Voices cascading over one another, both Ami and Jade sounded scandalized

"And what would you call it?" Megabyte retorted. "Yeah, Ami, we know you've got rank. You don't have to pull it on us.

He shifted his gaze to Adam. "And neither do you."

Adam opened his jaw, then snapped it shut. Arguing among themselves wasn't going to solve anything, and they were far off track of whatever Ami had been trying to draw their attention to. No matter how much that remark about pulling rank smarted, now was not the time to let this escalate any further. "I hate to say this, but Megabyte is right -" Adam ignored the glare Megabyte shot in his direction, "we're off track. What did you find that you think can get us home, Ami?"

"Keystones can be activated over portals, the same way that their activated for The Dreaming. And I know I can do it, because I've done it before."

"Wow, that's really great, Ami, but," Jade smoothed her skirt, "How do we find one of these Portals?"

"I don't know," Ami admitted with a sigh. "There are rumors and legends, but no one knows precisely what one looks like, so they don't know exactly where to find one."

"Oh, that's real good," Megabyte muttered.

"But," Ami continued as though she hadn't been interrupted. "The Temple of Damiaren at Dia'sol has records of this sort of thing, they have records of all sorts of magic that's supposed to be protected. Supposedly, there's an active one, somewhere in Albarasque."

Jade piqued at the words. "So, we have to go to Albarasque? That's not so bad. I mean, you're a princess and everything so -" She stopped, realizing that six eyes rested on her. "What?"

"It's not going to be that easy, Jade," Adam shook his head sadly. Ami's words were good news, they gave them direction that they didn't have before this, but a trip to Albarasque would require some planning. And, Adam imagined, access to privilege materials at the Temple of Damiaren would be difficult to come by, even for the Damiar Princess of Albarasque. "We can't just pick up and go to Albarasque."

"Well, duh, not right away. But, you can do a state visit, right? I mean, that would be completely expected and proper, wouldn't it?"

"She's right," Ami agreed. "According to my grandmother, we'll have to make a proper visit in the future anyway. Of course we can't make any plans until after we come back form the Summer Palace, but it's not such an impossibility is it, Adam?"

Adam looked from one girl to the other and smiled. "Well, when you put it like that? What am I supposed to say?"

"You're going to be at the Summer Palace ... all summer," Megabyte pointed out.

"Megabyte," Ami squared her shoulders. "We've already been here for two months. What's another few months of waiting? It will give me some extra time to research."

"Research? Is that what you're calling it now?" Megabyte scoffed. "I call it experimentation, and I'm still not completely convinced you won't turn us all inside out."

"No, I'll plan on turning you into a frog first."

"You probably can't even catch a frog with magic, I doubt you can turn anybody into anything . . ."

With a shake of his head and smile, Adam laid back and closed his eyes. The familiar rise and fall of teasing, banter and debate between Ami and Megabyte was music to his ears. And whatever his own personal doubts about Ami's discoveries, and their ability to follow through on it, it was more hope than they had a few weeks, a few days or a few hours ago.

They would get home . . . eventually.

Three months wasn't so long to wait.

*** End ***

Yes, there will be a sequel. I can't guarantee when, but there is definitely a sequel in the works.