Disclaimer: (pron.; ds-klmr.) 1.defined, in English1.2, as a statement made to save one's own ass from legal issues. 2. law: 'I own nothing'.

A/N: written at midnight, when things are clearest…

Italics- thought/memory sequence


Thundering footsteps… the din of fists and feet on stone… flashes of magic and swords in a swirling, grey mist… A woman's laughing face, beautiful in its cruelty, lit by green flames- arms raised in a motion clearly meant to kill- to kill all of them…Faster and faster the sounds, the pictures blended like melting wax- into one deadly face, laughing at him like it always had… a mask no more-

Jack woke breathing hard, with the sounds of long ago battle ringing in his ears- and cruel laughter ringing louder… Useless Boy, it sneered at him, you will never win

That dream, no, nightmare hounded him everytime he dreamt, everytime he closed his eyes… a dream of that long ago night- of her

Soundlessly, he groped for his trunk; reaching for the one thing that told him what happened was real… he hadn't just dreamed that terrible night.

"Go!" She shouted, fires burning behind her, "I'll be fine!"

"But…," he hesitated, clearly torn between duty and friendship- maybe even love

"Go!" She yelled, almost hysteric now; a blazing timber fell between them, sending sparks to what was left of the roof-

His fingers brushed soft wood and old paint… why he kept it, he didn't know- maybe, just to remind him…

He faced her alone in Chase's citadel; it seemed fitting somehow that this was where the final battle should be staged

Foolish boy… have your own friends abandoned you? She mocked. Or do you think you're strong enough to take me? She asked, the flames forming in her hands, glowing an unearthly green-

He brought the mask into the moonlight that drifted though his window- it symbolized so much to him…

His first partner…

"It's deal," a teenaged Jack grinned to a ghost

His first real enemy…

"You three dweebs are my only hope of defeating Wuya," he said to the remaining Xiaolin warriors, trying to ignore their looks of disbelief

His first real evil…

Her face was pressed by his. Foolish, Jack… she taunted, mocking him one last time, fire ready to end his miserable life. You never had a prayer-

He kicked at the last possible minute, the fire missing by a hair's breath. Taking advantage of the other's momentary weakness, he grabbed his staff again and held it at the ready-

He traced the paint with his finger along the familiar curves of the face… he remembered it so clearly, the life gleaming in the eyes- the snarl of the painted smile.

Wuya's face.

The face he had come to remember as her's, the one he first saw. It suited her so much more than her real one, he thought, turning the mask in his hands. The polished wood gleamed in the half-darkness of the night. It was still hard to believe this was all that was left of her… for all of them to believe… Every time he touched it, he expected it to suddenly glow and become her again- but it never did.

Foolish boy… it still whispered in his mind. Foolish boy...

Was it wrong to miss her? Why did she still haunt his dreams? Was this her revenge on him? He wondered, but the mask never answered him…

Foolish… foolish… it said

The painted the smile never moved, the eyes never changed…. It remained still, lifeless.

He stared at it, his eyes burning, searching for an answer in the wooden face- looking for any trace of her in the wood.

But in the end, it was only a painted mask… an empty face.

Fires burned behind him, he would not back down, he would not let her win-

Still standing? Tsk, tsk…we can't have that, now can we? Her eyes narrowed cruelly, raising more golems with a gesture

A mask, only a mask… he told himself

It's only a mask…

An empty face…

Why couldn't he believe it? Why wouldn't he put this literal ghost of his past to rest?

A mask…

Foolish… Foolish…

She's dead, gone, forever he chanted to himself.

Foolish…

Foolish to think the ghost of his past was still haunting him.

"Foolish…"


A/N: Review…