Many Years Later…
Zoe followed John through the mist and found herself standing in front of a mundane front door. She turned to see the mist still existed behind her, but in front of her the earthly world had taken form. Already Quidam had entered the home, leading as he always did. Peeking inside gave Zoe a glimpse of a small, surprised little girl watching him walk towards the center of the room with a familiar hat.
I wonder if I looked so silly, all those years ago, thought Zoe as she stifled a giggle.
She nervously smoothed the red fabric of her long, flowing gown, trying to find some practical detail to focus on rather than the emotions flooding her mind. It was her first time leaving the world that had become her home for so long that everything around her was almost too solid to be real. Having grown accustomed to the changing shapes of the Quidam's world, the certainty of this one was unsettling.
Like all others in her world, she had seen the children come and go. It was their purpose, to help them put their lives on the correct path. But though she had seen it, never had she truly experienced it. The Quidam had allowed Zoe time to grow in her relationship with John and Target and she had been thankful for that. It was difficult enough to adjust to what she had once thought impossible without asking her to perform. Now, enough time had passed that he thought her ready, and when the Quidam commanded, who was she to refuse?
Behind her, John's warm, reassuring hand squeezed her shoulder, then moved to run his fingers through her hair. She had allowed it to grow out after all this time, and he traced his fingertips down its lengths until he reached her waist. He chuckled when he saw that the headband she wore was the same blue as his own suit, though the red of the rest of it matched her other lover.
He knew just how terrifying this moment could be and was proud of her for coming to it. She had grown into a strong, confident woman over the years, excelling in ways that he had never fully believed possible. Gone was the shy girl he had met and in her place was a creature that still caused him to become breathless at each smile.
"It'll be alright, little one," whispered John in reassurance.
"You can never redo an entrance," she whispered back.
Chuckling softly, he countered, "Yes, well, then it had best be perfect each time, no? Just as perfect as you are."
She turned and playfully hit him on the shoulder before being grabbed by Target.
Focus, darling. You can play with him later.
Zoe stuck her tongue out at Target but obeyed.
Thunder clapped around them and they all stilled. The Quidam walked back out the door and, somehow, it was as if he signaled them to begin. Zoe had begun to understand each shrug from this creature before her as if he was speaking. First of the group, John slipped through the front door and closed it behind him. Now Zoe and Target were left to themselves as the Quidam disappeared back into the mists he had conjured.
"I'm scared," she confided, a trace of the child they had all once known returning to her voice.
Target held her close, Darling, listen to me. There is nothing we cannot do together. I promise you. The only thing you can ever be to us is perfection.
With a quick kiss to her cheek, he released her and they listened for the chime that signaled Target's entrance. It came within seconds and he opened the door, allowing her a chance to duck out of the way. He climbed within the door frame and waved at his friend. They shared a look of understanding as the familiar routine enveloped them once more.
Zoe waited for Target to leap into the room before following him, twirling and dancing with the sparklers she had conjured from the mist only moments before. They watched as the tiny blonde child looked at the hat in wonder. When it seemed that she might finally wear it, they grouped together and allowed John to give the signal. As if by magic, the world began to change again, turning into the mists that they had always known.
The girl cried out in wonder and Zoe moved forward to lead her. Her brown eyes caught a glimpse of the sparklers and she leaped just out of the girl's reach. Zoe was conscious of each set of eyes trained upon her and knew this was the moment she must get perfectly. With another two or three steps into the dance, the sparks flying from her hands, the little girl was entranced. She waited for the crowd around them to begin and danced within it. Now, all that was left was to remain just out of reach long enough to allow the hoop to roll in.
The crowd parted and she knew her cue. Zoe moved out of the way as John and Target followed, leaving the stage to the girl.
"You know, this is just the beginning of her journey. There is more work to be done," reminded John when they were all out of earshot
"Everything is a journey," smiled Zoe. "And it is a journey that can never be completed. After all, if it was not, then what led me back to you? All we can do…"
Is direct its progress, finished Target, and enjoy what may come.
All three looked at one another and shared a glance. Zoe tossed what was left of the sparklers away and jumped into John's arms. He was caught by surprise and nearly dropped her but quickly recovered and held her close. Target laughed gleefully and joined the now three way embrace.
Zoe had found a home, once and for all.
Author's Note: What a long, strange journey it's been! I want to thank everyone that has stuck with this story for all these months and, of course, my absolutely brilliant beta Katherine for all her hard work. This might be the end of this story but it's NOT the end of this universe. More stories about Zoe, Target, John, and their continuing adventures are on their way after some Kooza and La Nouba work is completed. Now PLEASE make me happy and review!