Stay lady stay, stay with your man a while. Why wait any longer for the world to begin? You can have your cake and eat it too. Why wait any longer for the one you love when he's standing in front of you? – Lay Lady Lay – Bob Dylan
Slowly they began to fly back. No one spoke. Sirius, carrying Kathleen, flew at the front, Polaris and Sol almost abreast in the middle, and The Master and Him brought up the rear.
It seemed wrong to break the silence, like a dishonor to the sacrifice She had made No one even looked at each other. They stared ahead, concentrating on the pinpricks of light that were steadily growing larger.
They lost track of time, the same way they did while travelling to the palace to rescue Kathleen.
But suddenly Sirius stopped short. Polaris nearly crashed into the back of the green luminary but swerved to the right at the last second.
It was obvious what had made Sirius stop so short.
Andromeda's body hovered there. All the pink light she had once burned so fiercely with was completely gone.
Sol came around on Sirius' left. He took one look at why Sirius had stopped and turned away. He flew around the body, not looking at it and took off toward the light. Sirius took one last look at Andromeda and followed his friend.
Polaris stayed where he was for a moment. The Master and He would require some sort of explanation, and as representative of the… No. They could deal with this on their own. Polaris took off after Sirius and Sol.
The Master and He looked at the dull pink corpse at their feet. Then they looked at each other.
A large blue something Sirius previously thought to have been a star was now a group of light blue somethings that he was sure were luminaries. But who would be coming down here?
Sol, following behind him, didn't seem to notice the approaching group, but Polaris, flying alongside, suddenly gave a cry of amazement.
"The Initomi?! What are they doing here?"
And Sirius realized that indeed it was. As they flew closer he could distinguish Rigel's figure leading the pack of maybe a hundred Initomi, determination etched into his face that immediately blanched when he recognized Sirius. Sirius immediately stopped his progress toward the spheres and stiffened as he remembered his last few encounters Rigel. But the approaching group seemed not to notice this change in Sirius, and their leader raised an arm in a confused greeting as he approached the green luminary.
"Sirius…" he began. "What are you doing here? Where is He?"
"We're going home," Sirius replied. "It's over."
"Are you joking?" Rigel asked incredulously. Sirius was almost completely taken aback by this side of the "former" leader of the Initomi. During their last two encounters, Rigel had attacked Sirius alone with twenty Initomi, and then surrounded his sphere with fifty of them and tried to block Sol and Andromeda from entering. Andromeda said that Alpha had relieved Rigel of his duties, but that clearly wasn't that case. What was going on here?
"What are you doing here?" asked Polaris, echoing Sirius' thoughts. "Last I heard you were stripped of all your duties as leader!"
"Well you've only been hearing Alpha's side of it," said Rigel. "But before I say anymore, are you sure it's over? The Master and Him are okay, everything is done?"
"Yes!" said Polaris irritably. "Now tell me what is going on!"
"To make a very strange and very long story short, here goes. One day this strange shadow appeared to me. He said that something was coming to threaten the Universe, and that I could have a hand in stopping it. He also said that Alpha was going to start acting very, very strange toward me, and start promising all sorts of things. But I must never ever believe what Alpha said for a minute. If I started to believe him than the whole future of the Universe would be put in jeopardy. There wasn't any way I was letting that happen. So I had to play along with Alpha. Once Kathleen entered the picture, the shadow came to me again. He once again made me assure my loyalty to him, and made me promise above all else that I would protect Kathleen. Everything the shadow said was going to happen happened, so I had no reason to question him. I began to report to the shadow everything that Alpha told me to do, from kidnapping Kathleen to keeping the Initomi patrols away from the spheres of Sirius, Sol, and Andromeda.
"Then a few days ago the shadow told me to come to His sphere. I was confused at first, who was I to be in His presence? But I listened to the shadow, as always. He was the one to put me back in charge of the Initomi, and made me set patrols all throughout the Universe, with orders to detain any monsters, not to kill them under any circumstance. Once that was done, I was to gather a large group of my best warriors and come to Unknown Space where the final battle would be. But I cannot believe we're late!"
Polaris suddenly understood who the "others" were that The Master had mentioned, and wanted to punch Rigel for all the grief they could have been spared.
"But why did it take you so long to get here?" he nearly screamed. Rigel looked at him sheepishly.
"We got word that all hundred of the Celestial monsters were tearing up the universe in one section or another, and that they were trying to come back into Unknown Space. The Master mentioned something about you all having to fight these monsters, so we stood guard for a long time until the rest of the Initomi got to the border of Unknown Space and took over. I swear we would have been there sooner if we had known what you were going through!"
Utter confusion engulfed both Sirius and Polaris. If the Celestial Monsters were all out in the Universe, then who had they been fighting in Unknown Space? Then suddenly, realization dawned upon Sirius' face.
"Polaris, remember how weak the monsters were?" Polaris nodded slowly, immediately seeing where Sirius was headed. "If they're born in Unknown Space, why wouldn't part of them stay behind while the stronger part of them left to do Companion's bidding? If Rigel hadn't kept them here…"
The thought of what would have happened had they had to fight all hundred of the monsters at full strength was something both of them wanted to instantly forget. The anger Polaris had felt for Rigel instantly melted away, to be replaced by overwhelming gratitude.
"Rigel… I.." the white luminary began lamely.
"Thank you," Sirius finished for him. "You've just saved every single one of our lives."
And with that, Sirius and Polaris departed, with Sol trailing them like a lost dog. Rigel looked after them for a moment, slightly confused at what had just taken place. Then he grinned, shrugged his shoulders, and kept travelling down to where he saw a pinprick of golden light next to a strange purple shadow.
They saw Sol safely home first, entering his sphere and ending up in the main hallway. The guards immediately called for Sol's personal servant. When Firiana took one look at her master she almost screamed.
"What happened to him?" she cried. "What did you do to him?! Sirius I'll have your wings for this! You've been gone for days! DAYS!!"
"Be quiet," said Sol softly. "Sirius had nothing to do with any of this." Slowly he began to walk up the main staircase.
"Sol?" The orange luminary turned to face Sirius.
"I'm sorry," he said. "I'm sorry things had to turn out this way."
"That's alright," Sol replied. "I went into Unknown Space to help you. At least that didn't go wrong. You got what you wanted, and one of us is happy."
Sirius watched his best friend drag himself up the stairs and disappear into the left hallway. He had never felt so helpless to aid him.
"Look after him Firiana," Sirius whispered. "I'm worried." With wide, fearful eyes, Firiana turned her face toward him.
"So am I."
Polaris then made sure Sirius got home without incident, and took off toward his own sphere, forget the Council and their demands for protocol. This incident should be kept private for now, and Polaris wasn't about to betray his friends for the rush of being the first to report it.
Sirius took Kathleen to her room, laid her on her bed and pulled the sheets up around her. He was in the doorway before he turned back to take a last look at her.
Her eyes were closed, and all the lines in her face were completely gone. A small smile played about her lips, and her hair fell around her face in waves.
All the pain and worry he felt over Sol and Andromeda vanished for the moment. Who would have thought that Sirius, the raging luminary, would ever find love? She may not love him back, but her actions certainly made room for love to blossom one day. Sirius suddenly felt an urge building up inside him, one that he couldn't deny. So he shut the door behind him, flew down the hallway, and let it go. He burst out laughing.
He laughed to defy the hell they had gone through, to mock the hatred she had held for him during their first weeks together, and to confirm in his mind the happiness and love he felt right at that moment. Everything suddenly seemed to fit right into place. Never mind what was going to come tomorrow, for now, he was unbelievably ecstatic.
Then a shadow appeared in the doorway, and his laughter suddenly ceased. The Master had come to pay a visit.
How long have I known? I'm not sure.
I was aware of the existence of the Anti-Zoi ever since I became aware of the Universe that surrounded Earth, but I didn't call it that or know exactly what it was at first. I could feel its great dark presence, its overwhelming power, and it terrified me. What something like that could do to Earth…
When Sirius' Zoi first appeared, I admit I was scared. I didn't know what the thing was, but it radiated the same amount of power that the dark thing had, but a different kind of power. So I kept it, keeping it out of harm's way and keeping others from using it.
When those human children showed up and told me what it was, I was intrigued. This Zoi, it could transform me into what I had longed so long to be, a human! But that little girl, I took a special shine to her. Just wanting to talk to her dog, not realizing what it was. I thought then that she was destined for much bigger and better things than the miserable lot life had handed her. So I didn't give her the wish she wanted. I believed I was protecting her. I suppose I was wrong.
She did turn me human, though she didn't know at all what she was doing. "Don't do that!" she had said. That's what did it, that's what turned me into one of them.
But because she did it wrong, I still kept most of my powers. I had a half existence, with one foot in the world of humans and the other in the world of the other things, the other powers. I was hit with things I had never experienced before; the foremost among these were emotions. And the strongest emotion I felt was for that little girl. As I became more acquainted with these emotions and what they meant I realized that the feelings I had for her were love, but only in the way a parent loves their child. I looked upon her as my little daughter, and I was the silent father in the background.
I wanted her to be happy, and I knew that because of her life on earth and her connection to the Star World that she would never be happy here. I also knew of Sirius, and how his feelings for her grew into love as the years went by. I had despaired of ever becoming human, but once I became at least half human it was the sweetest experience I had ever known. I decided that the same must be for Kathleen and Sirius, that before they could have the most profound joy, they must first have the deepest sorrow. I decided to help shape Kathleen's life accordingly.
So I did what I thought was right. I caused Kathleen to forget almost everything that had happened that strange night. I left her with the impression that Sirius had killed her beloved dog.
I noticed that Sirius kept trying to make her life on Earth better and happier. Some things were chance, Kathleen getting cancer the first time, for instance. But the things like her husband leaving her and the cancer coming back were things of my doing. That man wasn't good enough for her, and had been doing things with other women long before he left Kathleen. I made the cancer come back because I knew of the Committee's decision to force Sirius to get a new Companion. Sol thought of how Sirius could bring her to the Star World himself, but I would have intervened if he hadn't thought of it fast enough.
Yet long before Kathleen ever went to live with Sirius, I felt a growing darkness somewhere in the Universe, and it was not a good darkness. In strange dreams I saw luminaries being corrupted by this darkness, but the only one I was able to distinguish from any of them was Alpha. I knew it was him because he had visited Earth once, while Sirius was still a dog.
I immediately began to take action against this growing evil. I appeared to Rigel, the leader of the Initomi and loyal to the Council to a fault. I also appeared to Him, but he didn't listen to me at first. He refused to talk to me, and I almost believed him to be a lost cause.
The doctors killed me several weeks after Kathleen left Earth, but I now had my full powers back and a human soul as well. Like Kathleen, I could now do things I could never do before such as travel to the Star World in my physical body, rather than just appearing in dreams and as shadows.
But I became too involved with things on Earth. I had been away from my post so long I had to clean up the mess that had been created. My mother, Earth, was angry at me for rebelling against the path she had chosen for me, and had to be pacified. I noticed that the Celestial Monsters were roaming free again and I knew it had something to do with the evil I felt. But never… I never imagined that it could possibly be Companion! I had been playing a god for so long that it took a catastrophic occurrence for me to realize what I had done.
It was when Companion took Kathleen and I was helpless to do anything about it that I realized how wrong I had been. Who was I to try and dictate the lives of Sirius and Kathleen?! Sirius was already coming for her before I took my leave of Earth. I was tempted to follow him without reinforcement, but I knew that what awaited us inside would take more light to conquer than the luminaries that went with him had to offer. I didn't even realize that Alpha was the blue luminary with them, so set was I on my goal of enlisting the help of Him.
If I had noticed, I may have been able to save everyone a great deal of heartache.
We spent too much time getting Rigel and the Initomi all situated, and I was chomping at the bit to charge into Unknown Space. And if I had ignored them all and gone on without organizing them the monsters would have been at their full strength and we all would have died!
As it was we just barely made it in time. Maybe half a minute less and Sirius would have been too far gone for me to save. We could have all perished for hundreds of reasons at any given time! And it was all my fault. I was the one who endangered all the luminaries, who got Andromeda killed. I thought that nothing but evil had come out of what I had done, and I was through playing God. I righted at least one of the great wrongs that I had brought to these beings, and I intended to let Kathleen make a choice. It was after I finished telling… after I finished confessing to Sirius. Kathleen awoke and it was the moment of truth.
But it was she who chose to teach me. My little adopted daughter was the one who brought me back up from despair, and showed me the light.
"Sirius," The Master said softly. "I wish to speak to Kathleen. I have to ask her something of utmost importance."
"She's sleeping," replied Sirius. "She needs her rest."
"Then I shall wait here until she awakes. There is no rush." In truth, The Master needed to ready his nerves. Kathleen's answer would either crush him or elevate him. So much depended on a simple yes or no answer.
Sirius led him to a sitting room and they sat there in complete silence until the shadow finally spoke. He spoke his confession.
Sol lay on his bed staring at the orange wall of his sphere. There was no rest in this reclining pose; every one of Sol's nerves was tense and overly wrought. Firiana had come in several times and tried to make him talk to her but he wouldn't utter a word. He wouldn't even look at her.
Sirius had gotten what he wanted most. He had won Kathleen back, and in all likelihood secured her love for him. But not Sol. He was just a best friend after all. Sirius was the lead in this silly drama. He was the one who had fought so hard for his happiness. Sol supposed he just hadn't fought hard enough.
"Sol!" It was Firiana again. "Sol please get up! This time it's important! Really!"
She had been using the same exact tactic to try and rouse him for the last few hours. Sol kept his lips silent and his eyes fixated upon the wall.
"Look there are people here to visit!"
Sol immediately had an image of Sirius, Kathleen and Polaris standing in his foyer, all smiles, trying to bring him out of his depression.
Good try. It wasn't going to work.
"Tell them to go away," he muttered in a monotone. Firiana made a sigh that sounded half exasperated and half worried. He heard her close the door to her bedroom and knew she was now standing outside in the hallway, probably leaning against the door, wondering what she was supposed to do with her master.
But then he heard something. It was several pairs of feet that were thundering up the stairs and down the corridor that led to his bed chamber.
"I'm sorry!" said Firiana, trying to sound authoritative. "Sol has informed me that he doesn't want to see you, and says you should come back another day, when he is feeling better."
"You can't be serious!" Polaris' voice. "Sol I know you can hear me, come out of that room this instant!" Sol didn't move an inch.
There was a loud banging on his door.
"Listen to him you fool!" That was the voice of Him. Sol was surprised. Why should such an important luminary such as Him condescend to visit him in his own home? But still he did not move.
There were a few mumbles from behind his door and then he heard another voice.
"Please come out Sol."
He didn't move after this voice either, but this time it was out of shock, not depression. He was sure his ears were deceiving him, how could such a thing be true?!
When he finally found mobility in his limbs he scrambled out of bed, tripped over the sheets, fell to the floor, clawed his way back up into a standing position while simultaneously rushing in the direction of the door, nearly crashed against it when he got there, and finally flung it open. He saw a dream.
She was there in all her fiery pink glory, smiling a beautiful smile just for him. Tentatively his fingers reached out and touched her cheek. It was warm. Could she be real?
Suddenly just touching her cheek wasn't enough, and he gathered her to him in an ardent embrace. She wrapped her arms around him and laid her head on his shoulder. He could feel her tears soaking through his shirt and they felt wonderful because he knew they were not tears of sadness. They matched the tears in his eyes, in that they were solely tears of joy. He didn't know how it had happened or why it had happened, but none of that really mattered.
Andromeda was alive.
There was a sound from Kathleen's room. Sirius immediately rose, but The Master motioned him back into his seat.
"I'm sorry Sirius, but I have to talk to her before she sees you."
Sirius was not happy, but he sat down. He owed the Master much.
She had thrown off the dress that Companion had given her. She never wanted to see the ugly thing again, and wished she had fire herself so she could burn it, and maybe burn some of the bad memories along with it. In its place she had donned a blue blouse and floor length skirt. She felt cleaner and fresher without that cloth rubbing her skin. Kathleen was about to look into the mirror when a sudden noise made her jump.
There was a knock at her door.
"Come in!" she called cheerfully, certain that it would be Sirius. When the Master entered her smile changed. It was still there, but it was a grateful smile, not a smile of love.
The Master hardly noticed any of this, so nervous was he.
"Kathleen… I have to tell you something, and after I tell you, I'm going to ask you a question. Please promise me you'll answer it as honestly as you can."
Confused, Kathleen nodded and sat down on the edge of her bed.
The Master told her an abridged version of what he had told Sirius. He did not tell her how he looked upon her as a daughter, or how he had implicated the highest luminary in existence in order to protect her. He told her the honest truth of how he made her forget, and tried to shape her life.
"But I'm sorry Kathleen. I never ever should have tried to affect you life as much as I did. I just wanted you to be happy!" Here his voice cracked. "All I ever wanted was for you to be happy. And now I realize that the only way you'll ever really be happy is if I let you make your own decisions." He turned away from her, and suddenly seemed to find the green wall of her room fascinating.
"I can take you back," he said softly. "Sol said that he could take you back in a year, but I can take you back now. You can have your old life back again, no strings attached. I can even make you forget about this whole place if you want. You won't miss it or think about it. It'll be like nothing ever changed." He sighed. "But it is all up to you. It's only your decision now. Do what will make you the most happy."
Kathleen remained silent for a few moments with a small smile on her face.
"Thank you," she said as she rose. The Master hung his head. He felt as if he had been shot.
"Of course you want to return. I'll understand if you want me to tell Sirius-"
"No," she interrupted, and she walked toward him. "I don't mean that at all. I mean thank you for giving me a way back. But I don't want to go anywhere." She smiled warmly at him. "Why should I want to return to where I don't belong?" He looked up at her, astounded.
"You mean you want to stay here?" he asked. "I wasn't all wrong?"
Here she stepped closer and embraced him.
"Of course I don't want to go back," she said. "This is my home."
The Master was not used to hugs, and it was several seconds before he awkwardly put his arms around her. His eyes grew misty as his head began to ring with one single thought.
His daughter was happy.
After he had gone Kathleen caught an image of herself in the mirror. She remembered that night on Earth that seemed like lifetimes ago. The night where she had stared at the woman in the mirror and asked her who she was, who she had been, and what was to become of her. Kathleen felt wonderful now as she touched the reflection that stared back at her. The strong, beautiful woman who stared back was herself, and she was full of something that she never thought she would ever feel again that night so many lifetimes ago. She was full of love.
"Sirius?" The green luminary whipped his head around at the sound of her voice. She was standing in the doorway looking absolutely beautiful and her lips were pulled into a smile that was just for him. Sirius got up and began to walk toward her and it was only when he stood before her did she continue speaking.
"Sirius I don't know what to say," she began. "You went through so much to save me, and after the way I had treated you…"
He pressed a finger to her lips.
"There is only one thing I really want you to say," he whispered. "Perhaps this can help you think of what it is."
He lowered his head and pressed his lips to hers. She did not shrink away, but to his delight she pulled him closer and deepened the kiss. When he pulled away from her he saw that there was a beautiful fire in her green eyes.
"I love you Sirius."
It was several months afterward that Sirius and Kathleen found themselves before the Council and Him.
"The Council has reached a unanimous decision," He began. "Because mortals cannot stay in our world and live, Kathleen's mortality must be taken from her." At this he smiled. "For this procedure I call upon the aid of The Master of the Hunt, a child of Earth, as well as Andromeda, Effulgence of the Andromeda Denizen, and Sirius, Effulgence of the Sirius Denizen."
Andromeda left her place beside Sol as The Master and Sirius left their posts to join Him on the platform upon which he was orating.
Light began to emanate from Sirius and Andromeda's Zois as they raised them above their heads. The light shot out and enveloped Kathleen in its fiery embrace. The light around her burned white.
The Master added his darkness to the light around her and the color became a soft red. He was the last to add his golden light, and with that the light surrounding Kathleen became a deep, gorgeous blue.
The light felt wonderful. She felt the love and affection that each of the four felt for her, and it was enough to move her to tears. She felt her skin and body changing. It became airy and light. Warmth spread throughout her, and she realized that it was her own fire that now coursed through her.
Then, finally, came the wings. Three yards of fire and power burst out of her back on both sides simultaneously. The fire that coursed just below her skin burned even hotter. The effect was a dizzying feeling of complete euphoria.
The light around her began to dissipate but before she could even see through it clearly she saw a green blur swoop in and sweep her off her feet. When their lips met their fires mingled and burned together. Sirius saw that she had been transformed into a beautiful blue luminary with wings like his own. But her eyes. Sirius' smile broadened. Her eyes were still green.
"I can fly all by myself you know," she said, in mock anger as they burst through the sphere. "You don't have to carry me around all the time now."
"Of course I do," he replied. "You'd just hurt yourself if you tried to use your own wings and-" She silenced him with another kiss.
Andromeda and Sol were exiting the Council's sphere with their fingers laced together, and sidelong glances that promised kisses once they were out of view of the disapproving Council. Then Kathleen saw a smudge on the black fabric of the Universe.
A shadow was also leaving the Sphere from a different direction.
"Thank you, Dad," she whispered to him. The Master suddenly turned his head in her direction and grinned. Despite the distance, between them and the level of her voice, she knew he had heard.
She crawled out of Sirius' arms to try out her new wings and began to fall almost immediately. Sirius wrapped his arms around her waist and caught her, the power in his wings easily compensating for hers. She placed her arms around his neck and whispered in his ear.
"Teach me how to fly."
And as Sirius and Kathleen rose up through the Spheres of the Universe, the fires that trailed after them twisted around each other and created a strand of light that could be seen even from the remote reaches of Unknown Space.
Blue Fire and Green Fire.
Blue and Green.
The colors of Earth.
And in The End, the love you take
is equal to the love
A/N: Well my darlings, here we are. It took more than two years with several long hiatus' that I sincerely apologize for, but it is finally done. I hope that everyone liked this story even half as much as I loved writing it. I want to thank all my reviewers, especially Anonymous-Cat and Honeyblank, who both reviewed what seems like every chapter, and Diana Wynne Jones for writing a book that stuck in my imagination and stayed there.
Special, special thanks goes to my good friend VendettaRose who kept kicking my ass to finish this.
To all of my readers: Stay groovy. Listen to music and keep the ideas flowing.
Windslayer, aka, Squire Sapphire