The water lapped comfortingly against the raft, some of it splashing up onto Garian's leg

The water lapped comfortingly against the raft, some of it splashing up onto Garian's leg. It was cool and welcome. Jailer's Island had left him tired, soul-deep tired. Now he could finally rest. There was a peaceful quality to the ocean. The sound of the waves, the sparkle and gleam of something that was wet, truly wet.

It was comforting to gaze into that endlessly complex substance that shifted in tone, cadence, color, form, in eternal, subtle ways. And now that he was away from the Island maybe he could finally let go of Lance…

"Kurt," he announced, "was a bastard." He wasn't really paying attention to the fact that he had stated it out loud, it was just something that was there. Garian would shed no tears for Warden Kurtliegen, and he doubted anyone else would either. It would simply be the Warden's fate to be late and unlamented.

As for Garian… he didn't know anymore. Not really. Working as a Bounty Hunter was something he was good at, and it tied up his interest. He had never been as alive as he had when tracking Bilan, although he'd prefer to forget facing the carbon entities. It didn't really feel natural just waltz back into the team with all of the others, but there was nothing else for him either. Perhaps that was his fate.

And, perhaps, he would invest interest in this woman, Kay, who had seemed vaguely familiar. Familiar… "Jack," Garian called, "did Kay seem… well, do you feel like you know her from somewhere?"

The blue bird shifted his feathers. "Slightly. I think she reminded me of a dream I once had."

"A dream…" Garian frowned suddenly. It wasn't a dream, Kay had fallen into Bilan's clutches, fallen into the tank of bilanium, hadn't she… Or. No. He had worked with her, become friends with her, he had loved… "But that, doesn't," he said slowly, "make sense…"

His voice died away as a flurry of images passed through his mind, one after the other. He saw Bilan, he saw Lance, and he even saw that fool Musashi. But it was Kay he saw most of all. The contradictions in his memory, and the things that were the same… What was the reality of Kay, that Lavian ninja?

And, at the thought of Lavia, something else occurred to him. "A Blue Rose…" His hands shook slightly as his mind went faster and faster now. But this time, he wasn't on the ship as he realized the Blue Rose… this time he had only contradictions that all started with… "Jack," he concluded, feeling sick. He could feel the pieces sliding into place.

His friend peered at him nervously. "Garian, what's wrong? You look as though you'd been at the Jalapeno Juice again."

Garian slowly shook his head. The mention of that little incident only hardened his heart further. "It was you. It was… you all the time."

Jack's eyes were downcast. "Garian, I"

"You manipulated this! You let all of this happen. You let Kurt waste his life like the fool that he was! You let Musashi… and gods, Jack, Bilan! Me! How could…" Slowly he advanced forward, feeling remarkably cold at this moment.

Jack muttered, "I told you. I did tell you that you could stay. I told you that you didn't have to go."

"You did this Jack," Garian insisted. "You knew what this was… you knew what this would waste no matter how it turned out… and you…" He took a deep breath. His mind was roaring at him now. All of it turned to this. The Dark Messiah had been a farce; Garian still didn't know all of the details, probably he never would, he didn't know how all of the pieces fit together, but he did know that Jack knew. Jack had always known.

In a sudden violent motion, Garian ripped his sword free from the sheath at his belt. Jack pleaded, "Garian, listen to me! I can explain."

There was, thought Garian, nothing for Jack to explain. It didn't matter why he had done it, and it didn't matter why the Agency had thought the event uncontrollable. All that he knew was that Jack had known. That Jack had been at the root of everything.

Garian moved coldly forward. He had never killed a member of the Agency before. As he reared for a killing strike, Jack bestirred himself at last, spreading his wings. It was as though a wall of force suddenly struck him. Coughing weakly, he fell to his knees, the sword dropping from his grasp.

With a quick snarl, he scrambled after it, winded though he was. "Garian, please!" The Bounty Hunter had already steeled his heart though. Jack had known. Another blow of some kind of force struck him, and the blade went spinning to the edge of the raft. Garian lunged at it again, seized it in his hand and started to roll away from the edge. The next blow was so strong that for a moment, he didn't feel the cool water's embrace. He hadn't even felt himself falling.

The shock of the water caused him to splutter about, but he didn't have the strength to swim, not weighted down in armor as he was. Within moments, he started sinking again. "Jack," he gasped.

As Garian slowly spiraled down towards death, his thoughts, curiously, turned to Warden Kurt. In retrospect, Kurt's fate was looking much kinder than Garian would ever have supposed.

And as the surface of the water receded for the last time, Garian forgot everything. He even forgot Jack. All that was left was Bilan. His only memory. And not the Dark Savior after all. And in that final moment, Garian hoped that Bilan somehow knew what Garian couldn't even articulate.

--

Jack sighed, fanning himself slightly. It had ended like that so many times… When Garian had ever even made the choices that led him to that route. So many times had been wasted on the other possibilities. And still, Garian's only chance for breaking free… Every time he would blame Jack. Every time he'd gotten to this point, he had blamed Jack. Every time…

Jack didn't deny that he deserved it, but…

With another sigh, the bird spread his wings, steeling himself for tragedy. As he summoned the flow of time, reversing it, thoughts scattered through his mind. Kaiser would be there, to make that same, acid, biting taunt. And Garian would not stay in the cabin… Jack would do it again as he had to. He wouldn't give up. And Garian would make his choices. He always had. And events would pan out…

So many times…

Fin