"And all around is the desert; a corner of the mournful kingdom of sand."
In the aftermath of Sokka's act of insolence against the betrayed prince, silence hung heavy in the air. Every eye in the palace seemed to watch the prince, and all held their breath in anticipation of his legendary wrath against those that dared accost him.
Beside him, her hand still grasped in his, Katara stood frozen in shock of what her brother had done. Numbly, she watched her Zuko reach up with his other hand and slowly wipe the remnants of Sokka's expectorate of his face.
"Jet," he began, his voice easily etching steel. "Give me permission to punish your soldier.
Jet opened his mouth to respond, but before his words could become reality, Katara leapt into action.
"No!" She screamed, ripping away from Zuko and throwing herself on top of her brother, not even noticing the arms of the soldiers that gripped him in the wake of her terror. "DON'T HURT HIM!"
Sokka thrashed about, trying desperately to break not only his sister's hold, but the arms of the guards wrapped around him. "Don't hurt ME?" he yelled. "That freak should be afraid of what I'm going to do to HIM!"
The hall was filled with the harsh grate of metal against metal as hundreds of soldiers unsheathed their swords and pointed them at Sokka, ready to protect Zuko from the strange dark skinned man that threatened him.
"Sokka, SHUT UP!" Katara screeched, spinning wildly about to face the recipient of Sokka's threats.
"Zuko, I—" she started, but he held up his hand to stop her flow of words.
Katara, arms outstretched and gripped by sudden fear, waited desperately to see how her paramour would react.
"Step aside." The words, albeit quiet, dripped with steal.
Acting on sheer protective instinct, Katara violently shook her head.
Zuko's eyes flared.
"Move." The sword vibrated with barely leashed anger.
"Zuko, you don't understand—"
"I lost him once, I won't lose him again—"
"DAMNIT, KATARA, GET OUT THE WAY!" He roared.
Katara panicked. The two men in her life, both who she cared deeply for, wanted desperately to hurt each other.
Then, from behind her, she felt something nudged her back. Her head spun around, and she looked up into the familiar cobalt eyes of her brother.
"That guy," he whispered, "is ten seconds away from exploding. You better move."
"Sokka, I'm not leaving you," Katara responded, her words sounding choked from the effort it took to keep from sobbing in desperation.
"Hey," he smiled. "Don't worry about me. I came back from the dead once before, and it's not that bad."
At the tears that threatened to spill over in his sister's eyes, Sokka sighed, "Not funny, huh."
In response, Katara glared.
"Listen," he began, his tone reassuring. "You should get out of the way. I can handle myself. I'm the one who spit on the jerk, it's my fight. Do you know how embarrassing it is for me as a guy is to have his baby sister try to protect him? The man club will revoke my privileges soon. Now, be a good girl and step aside so I can fight your boyfriend."
The tears that had threatened before now ran freely down her face. But, nonetheless, she reached up, kissed her brother on the check, and moved out of the way.
Zuko, who had watched the scene before him unfold, was hotly furious. He had never seen Katara ever be that protective of anyone, let alone himself. And watching her reach up to bestow a kiss upon her brother's cheek had made him want to walk over and rip his throat out in jealousy.
"Patience, Zuko." At the papery whisper from beside him, the prince shot a glance down towards his uncle.
"Uncle," he gritted, each word that the crushed out vibrating with barely leased anger. "Two people today have made the mistake of belittling my power in my own palace. Don't make yourself become the third."
At his nephew's turgid response, Iroh sighed helplessly But, Zuko was right. Other sultan's had killed for such acts of insolence that had been displayed here tonight. The fact that the young solider was still alive was in reality a mark that the Prince had been overtly patient.
The heavy silence that hung in the air was thick with the tension that the spectators felt as they continued to watch the scene unfold.
Zuko, sick of being made a fool in front of his own subjects, stalked towards Sokka. He stopped in front of Katara's sneering older brother, pulled his hand back, and punched Sokka in the face.
"No!" Katara screamed.
But just as she was about to launch herself forward, she felt someone grab her hand and jerk her back.
Eyes flashing, she turned around to find the culprit. The visiting Prince Jet held he hand in a furious grip, and his normally sly smile was nowhere to be found.
"Keep cool, Princess," He murmured. "Right now I wouldn't go near Zuko with anything less than a ten foot pole."
Katara made a helpless noise and turned her attention back towards Zuko and her brother.
Sokka's head had reeled from the force of the punch. Zuko, anger still careening through his body, reached back and punched him once more.
"That," he spat, "was for calling your sister a whore. And this," he pulled back once more, this time punching Sokka in his stomach, "is for belittling my authority in my own home. And this—"
Mid punch, Zuko paused. He looked over his shoulder and the desperate look on Katara's face gave him pause.
"Please, stop hurting him!" The anguish in her voice was plain as her tears ran down her cheeks as sudden as a desert storm.
Suddenly, the furry that had pulsed through his body ever since Sokka had insulted him dissipated. He blinked slowly, and turned back towards his prey.
Sokka was hanging limply in the arms of the guards that were restraining him. Blood trickled out of the corner of his mouth, and the areas of his face that had been subject to Zuko's anger were already swollen and crimson, heavy with the promise of the profound bruising that would surely follow. And his eyes, those azure eyes that were as familiar to Zuko as the sun bursting across the horizon, glared at him with thinly veiled contempt.
Clarity came to the Betrayed Prince.
What am I doing? He thought to himself. Katara had already watched her brother die in her arms. He couldn't imagine what it must have felt like to see someone she knew, cared for, and cherished attempt to do the same.
And so, it was then that for the first time in his life, Zuko saw the need to shed mercy. He leaned forward, grabbed a fistful of Sokka's tunic, and pulled him up so that he was at eye level. "Look at me," he snapped.
Clearly disgruntled, Sokka obeyed.
"Everyone in this room expects me to tear you limb from limb. Greater men have died for what you have done here, in my palace, under the eyes of my men."
Sokka's eyes flared.
"But, hurting you is hurting her. So, I will let you live this once. But, I swear before my people and Allah, if you attempt to belittle my authority in my own home again, I will kill you myself and to hell with the consequences!"
Katara's eyes widened in fright as all around her, the people that were party to the incident roared with applause.
With a sound of disgust, Zuko threw Sokka back into the arms of the guards. At an invisible signal from Zuko, the guards let go of Katara's brother, and he collapsed in a heap on the floor.
"Get out of my sight," he growled.
Shooting one last look of loathing towards the Betrayed Prince, Sokka picked himself up, and slowly began to limp out of the reception hall.
Katara struggled in Jet's arms once again. "Please," she cried, only to be cut off by Zuko.
"Let her go, Jet," he said, his voice weary.
Jet lifted his arms, and Katara shot out, running across the hall. She put her arm around her brother, and helped him from the hall. When they vanished out of the huge double doors, Jet lifted an eyebrow towards Zuko.
"I don't want to hear it," He answered, pushing a hand through his hair.
Jet guffawed. "I wasn't going to say anything." He reached out and put an arm around his shoulders, still chuckling as his led his friend towards his seat at the table. "Now how about that party?"
Sokka groaned as Katara dabbed a wet cloth onto his split lip. "Do you really have to do that?" he griped.
"Shhh," Katara answered. "You're hurt." She dabbed again at his lip, gently wiping the blood away from his face. Once they had left the hall, he had led Sokka back towards her old room in the harem. Neither had spoken as she pointed him to a chair in the corner of her room by the garden, and calmly began to work on his wounds.
"Oh, Sokka…" she whispered, looking at his face that had grown mottled and purple with bruising. "You knew he was the sultan. Why couldn't you just keep quiet and wait until after the party to try to fight him?"
"The ways of men are mysterious, baby sister," He muttered, looking away. When he looked back up at his sister, they both smiled. He threw his arms around her again, and they shared a quiet moment, silently saying how happy they were to be reunited.
"I can't believe that you're alive," Katara admonished.
"I never thought I'd see you again," Sokka admitted, pulling back to look in her eyes once again.
"Sokka, I held you in my arms and watched you die," Katara said, her voice quiet. "How… how are you…?" Her voice drifted off, resolute to relive the memories of that terrible night.
Sokka sighed, and leaned back in the chair. "The last thing I remember was your voice," he said, his eyes unfocused as he looked back on his unhappy past. "After I was hit with that arrow, it was like I was… like I was floating. I knew I was there, in the tent, and I felt your hands as you pulled the arrow out and tried to stop the blood." Unconsciously, his has fluttered up to the point on his chest where he was forever scarred. "But I knew, I felt that I was dying. I heard you crying and screaming, and… and that's haunted me. Every night I wake up in a fever, and hear you screaming, and I hear mom begging, and…" he stopped, tears threatening his speech.
Katara's own tears slipped down her cheeks as she reached down for her brother's hand to squeeze it. "I know… I had the dreams too.
"I don't know how long I laid there. But when I woke up, I was far from Samos. Far from home. I woke up in Constantinople, in this strange house. There was a woman, sitting at my bedside. She said that her husband had been out fishing near Samos, and saw the smoke coming off our village and knew there had been a raid. He went to see if there had been any survivors, and… and only found me. Apparently I was mad with blood fever, babbling and talking to people that weren't there, screaming for help or death. He carried me back to his home and he and his wife took care of me." Sokka smiled, remembering one happy thought in the midst of an ocean of sadness. "Their children did, too. One of the children, a little boy, had a pony that his dad had brought back from Samos. I wasn't the one who trained him, but… but it was like having an anchor when I felt like I would drown. Whenever the nightmares would get too terrible or I felt like I was going to die from the weight of it all, I'd always go out to work with the pony more. By the time I left, he was doing tricks that no one else had ever seen."
Katara laughed softly, leaning back in her own chair with her memories of Sokka and the other men in the village training the Arabians that Samos had become famous for. Sokka always did have a gift with them.
"I owe my life to that family. They took me in, cared for me, and treated me like I was one of their own. And when I couldn't stay there anymore, that I had to get out and get as far away from home as I could, they gave me enough money to buy my own horse and enough food to last me a month. And those kids… that pony… they gave me life again after I felt like I had lost everything.
"Once I set out from Constantinople, I wandered. God, how I wandered. I moved across the sea of sand, I went from village, to city to desert again, and then I came to Riyadh. I saw a man working with Arabians near the market one day, and asked if he needed help. Once he found out that I was from Samos, he gave me a job on the spot. The Arabians happened to be the sultans. I was training them in the palace grounds one morning, and a captain in the army asked if I would be interested in working with the horses in Riyadh's guard. I said yes…. And made my way here. "
Katara smiled, and hugged her brother again. "I'm so glad you did," she whispered.
Sokka leaned back and stood up, untangling his sister's arms from him. "But," he began, "the question is, baby sister, what the hell are you doing here?"
FIVE HOURS LATER
As Mai stood outside the soldier's barracks and let the desert wind lift tendrils of her dark hair, she brooded about what she was about to do. As the honored Kadin she had heard whisperings here and there, seeds of dark inclinations being sowed amongst different members in the palace. Because, the thing was, in any Arabian palace… no one was safe. Not even the sultan. Everyone had enemies, and more often than naught, enemies always came to surface in disturbing ways.
Candlelight from the soldier's chambers flickered across the courtyard and made the gold at her neck and wrists wink and sparkle. She had dressed with extra care for tonight, knowing that she was going to need some sensual prowess to get exactly what she desired. For her excursion tonight, she had chosen clothes left over from the sultan that ruled before Zuko. They were sheerer and shorter than what she was allowed to wear among the Betrayed Prince's men, and the whisper of silk that grazed across her body was draped in such a way to invoke light and shadow, to move and shift with her body, and to keep men always watching, anxious to see what lay beneath the fey silk.
In any other Sultan's harem, it would never be questioned if a harem member were to come to the soldier's barracks at night. In fact, it was often seen as a token of good will among ruling members of several houses. But Zuko always held things to a higher standard. His strange sense of morals was often a source of ribaldry among many sultan and soldiers alike.
So this was why she came under the cloak of the night. She knew exactly who she must speak to, and knew that it had to happen here, among the other soldiers, so they knew that not everyone was pleased with how the betrayed prince was ruling.
Before Mai stepped into the rooms, she gave slight pause. She felt a kernel of remorse for what she was about to do, but held the image of Katara wrapped around Zuko close in her mind. Anger bubbled hotly, and it was all she needed to throw her head back and march into the barracks of Jet's visiting men.
Mai wrinkled her nose in disgust at the acrid smell of sweaty men, and watched in disdain as three men wrestled each other in the corner. Others were lounging around on the small cots afforded them as soldiers, laughing and joking with each other about the night's events.
"Did you see how Sokka stuck it to the Prince?" she heard someone laugh.
"Yeah, I thought I was going to have to plan that moron's funeral myself!"
The men laughed and pushed each other as boys did, until suddenly one of them noticed Mai in front of the door.
"Whoa… Hey, pretty lady, what are you up to?" A taller soldier that she recognized as Jalal slid up to her and put an arm around her soldiers.
Mai swallowed her disgust and looked up at him through lowered eyelashes. "Wouldn't you like to know?" she murmured.
Slowly, all the other men began to realize there was a female amongst them. One came up to Jalal and pushed him aside, shoving her unceremoniously into a wall. "I knew Zuko was happy to have us but I never thought he'd send you to us," the soldier said as he sidled up to Mai.
Mai pushed gently against him, smiling up at the solider and licking her lips slightly before speaking. "I wish that I could spend more time with you… but I'm here for someone else. Where is Captain Farid?"
The soldiers whooped. The man that had his arm around Mai guffawed and slapped her on the back. "Right through that door," he said, deliberately leaning across Mai so that his body pressed invitingly against hers as he pointed to a door at the back of the barracks.
"Oh, Farid!" Someone sang as Mai started towards the door. "Someone wants to see you!"
Mai looked back at the man and gave the barest hint of a smile before she opened the door, slinked in, and closed it softly behind her, carefully shutting out the shouts and jeers of the men on the other side.
She looked up, and saw the man she sought looking up at her from a small desk, a piece of parchment unfurled in front of him. Farid frowned. "Mai?" he asked, a candle on his desk casting shadows across the planes of his face. "What are you doing here?"
The object in question moved over toward Farid, and carefully perched on his desk. "We have an understanding, I believe," she murmured, leaning forward so that the drapes in tunic shift just short of being indecent.
Farid looked down, and back up again into Mai's glowing sable eyes. "Meaning?"
"Simple. You want the prince dead. I want him betrayed."
Farid barely managed to conceal his shock in time. "I… I don't know what you're talking about."
Mai laughed softly, crossing her legs before picking up the piece of parchment Farid had been musing over. Farid's hand shot out across the desk and covered hers, preventing her from reading what was scribbled on the paper.
"There are whisperings in the palace, Captain. As Kadin I heard them all. Some are confused…. Some are wrong… and some," she then slid off the desk and carefully sank down into Farid's lap, "have the barest kernel of truth in them. All I have to do is follow that kernel," her hands trailed across Farid's chest before resting on his shoulders, "and then watch it grown into a seed and flourish in the garden of deceit."
Farid swallowed. "You know?"
"I know what you want Zuko dead or banished, but I don't know why or how you'll manage to accomplish that feat."
"Even if I believed you, how I know I trust you, of all people?" Farid scoffed, shifting to move Mai off his lap.
Mai's fingers flexed, and her nails bit into the exposed skin at his shoulders. Farid gasped, and locked eyes with the scorned Kadin.
"Zuko gave me a choice after that whore cast a spell on him… leave and never return, or give up position of Kadin gracefully and be free to the life of a harem girl forever. I chose the latter. And I promised myself as I watched her sink her teeth into his flesh and hold a grip over him that I never had, that I would hurt Zuko the same way he hurt me. And I would do anything to make that happen."
Though quiet and controlled, Mai's voice vibrated with an emotion Farid couldn't name. And as he took in the gentle shaking of her body, the anger coursing through her veins, the shame casting shadows in her eyes…. He saw her truth.
"You're right," he admitted, reaching up and around to clasp Mai's hands in his own. "I do want the prince dead. But you're seducing the wrong man, sweet."
Mai's eyes flared.
"As a humble captain if a visiting sultan's army, I don't have access to any of the prince's battle plans. There is also another in Zuko's army who has access to the lesser plans and who has been giving me help, but it isn't what I need. Zuko is careful after witnessing his father's betrayal. Only his most trust councilmen know the exact details, the when and where of how he plans to defeat the desert sheik. But you… you as a harem member have options I thought extinct."
Mai looked at him, her eyes boring into his and he stroked her fingers with gentle sweeps of his own. "You must cast your sights higher up. Wheedle your way into the heart of a general… and then we can talk again. Because once you have your hooks in him, you can then have access to things I couldn't dream of seeing. And then bring them to me, and I will ensure that the right eyes see the information you so carefully sought."
Mai gasped as Farid's hands slid beneath the wisps of fabric at her shoulders. The adrenaline she felt coursing through her own veins was giving rise to passion in her body that she had though long dead after Zuko's scorn. But here, whispering of betrayal in the quiet of the night with Farid, she felt alive once again. "Zhao?" she whispered.
Farid smiled gently, bending his head down to Mai's, putting his lips together, and pushing air out so he blew of the candle with the barest whisper of breath. In the darkness that enveloped, wrapping them both with deceit and lies, Mai felt him lean back up again, and his lips barely brushed against hers. "Zhao," he answered, and then his lips pressed against hers in earnest and they were lost in the tangle of betrayal that enraptured them both.
Zuko leaned against one of the Alabaster columns that lined the harem courtyard, and watched sister and brother laugh and joke with each other near the fountain's warm embrace. As he saw Katara reach out and shove her brother gently, a small smile curled up his lips at the gentle horseplay between the two siblings. He had sought out Katara after the party had ended, seeking her laughter and comfort after the rioting events of the evening. But when he found her out in the courtyard, sitting on the lip of the fountain with her brother, she looked so happy and whole that he was hesitant to disturb them. Even though Sokka had much to prove to him… he was happy for her. Happy that she had some of her old life amongst her once again. As a victim of tragedy himself, he knew how precious moments of contentment were when they occurred.
Suddenly, their laughter quieted, and Zuko saw Sokka lean in and quietly saying something to Katara. Whatever it was gave her pause, because she leaned away and frowned. When she turned back, she gently whispered something to Sokka.
Curious, Zuko moved forward, not wanting to disturb the two siblings yet needing to know what was being said. He stopped just short of a large sycamore by the fountain, and let its large branches disguise him from sister and brother. He couldn't see what was happening, yet was close enough the catch every word.
"—you have to, 'Tara, I know you want to just as must I do—"
"Sokka, you don't understand, I made a promise that I wouldn't leave for a few more weeks."
"To who?" Sokka scoffed. "The Prince of Darkness that you're mooning over?"
"Yes," Katara murmured. "To Zuko."
"But, I know how much you need to go back. The ocean and Samos are in our blood, Katara. And if we go home, we can put so many of our demons to rest. We could build graves for the dead, we could clear away the village, and—"
"And what, Sokka? Start a new life amongst all the ashes?"
"No, no… I think we both know that can't happen again. I… I just need closure. I need to see it for myself before I can start living again."
There was a long pause, and then, the words were so quiet that Zuko thought he imagined them. "Me too. I need to see the sun and the sand again too, Sokka. I need to know too."
"I knew you'd feel the same! We can be in Samos in a few days on my Arabian, and be back before the invasion, I promise. It would only be for a week or two at most, because you and I both have obligations. I can check with Farid, my commanding officer, I'm sure he'll let me go—"
"Sokka, slow down, I haven't even… I'm want to, but I made a promise!"
"Well, could you at least ask? Or are you so far up his—"
"…Fine. Just ask him, okay?"
"I… I…. okay."
"So you'll come?"
No words were said, but at the answering whoop of joy Sokka gave, Zuko knew the answer. Fury slowly building over the hurt that he felt at life without Katara. He moved out from behind the sycamore, and saw the two embracing as Sokka laughed a said something he couldn't quiet catch to his sister. He walked closer and stopped in front of the two.
"Zuko!" Katara cried, standing up quickly from her brother's hug.
Zuko crossed his arms and waited.
"How long have you been standing there?" she asked, moving to his side.
"Long enough," he answered, his calm tone belying the feelings churning underneath his skin.
Wordlessly, Katara turned to Sokka. Sokka sighed and stood, knowing a lost fight when he saw one. "I'll be in the barracks if you need me," he called over his shoulder as he walked towards the exit.
Zuko waited until he heard the heavy doors open and close before he turned to Katara, the look in his eyes saying all that he couldn't voice.
Finally, he spoke.
"That day in the market last month, when you said that you'd stay for two months… you didn't mean it, did you." It wasn't a question. It was an admonition.
"No, Zuko, I meant it," Katara urged, reaching up and putting her hands on either side of his face, desperately searching his eyes. "I never expected Sokka to come back, I never thought that he'd even be alive… don't you see?"
"No," Zuko said. "I don't see."
"Now that Sokka's alive, I have to go back with him. I have to see Samos for myself… I have to know what happened to my home."
"And so you're just leaving? You're going back on your word that easily?"
"No, I'm not, I—"
"Yes, you are!" Zuko roared, wrenching away from Katara's hold and turning his back to her.
It was awhile before either spoke.
Silence hung heavy between them.
Then, "I was going to ask for your permission. It won't be long, two weeks, at the most, that's all I ask. I'll come back, I promise."
Zuko spun back around, and grabbed Katara so forcefully that she let out a gasp. "What did I do?" He demanded. "Why are you trying to leave me Katara? Is it because of what I did to Sokka? Because I had no choice, I had to—"
"No, Zuko, it's not that!" Katara cried. "I've already forgiven you, you should have killed him and you didn't—"
"Then why?" He commanded. "Why do you want to leave me?"
"Zuko," Katara whispered, azure eyes searching amber. "You of all people should know why I have to go back."
"I've never felt anything like these past few weeks Katara," he rushed, his grip on her gentling, his hands stroking. "Please don't take that away from me."
"I'm not, Zuko."
His hot breath seared her skin. "Then don't. Don't leave."
Katara pulled back and looked up at him. She'd always known Zuko had an obsessive streak… but this was differed. His consuming fear at losing her made her calmer, and made him angrier and more frantic.
"You have to understand, Katara. You have to."
He rubbed his left cheek against hers, the smooth ridges of the remaining scars sending sparks deep into her belly, making her tremble slightly.
"I do. I do understand, but…" she gasped as she felt his teeth lightly nip at her earlobe. "I have to leave and go with Sokka. It'll just be a few days, Zuko. I'll be back."
His mouth left her ear and moved down her neck. She shuddered, suddenly glad he held her up, because her knees started to buckle.
Her eyes slipped shut as his breath fluttered over the skin of her shoulder. With his teeth, he pulled the rough material of her dark tunic out of the way, exposing more skin to his assault.
"Then tell me that," he said. "Tell me how much you want to leave this."
His heated caresses suddenly stopped, but before she could feel relief at having been spared further testing of her resolve, his mouth came down hard on hers. Her knees gave out completely under the intensity of the kiss.
If he could do that to her with just a kiss, wasn't she right to stay away from him, to cling to what little sanity and good sense she had left?
And that was what made her whisper, "I have to leave, Zuko. I must."
"Do you mean that?" he asked harshly.
Unleashed need glowed in his eyes, dark and deep. Losing herself in that abyss, as tempting as it seemed right now, could not end well.
"I do," she whispered.
Another bruising kiss battered against her resolve, melting her insides with its heat, tearing at her heart with the emotions emanating from every pore of his body.
"And now, do you still mean it now?"
"I do," she said on an exhale.
His hands trailed over her body, his kisses rained over her face, and Katara moaned at the onslaught.
"Yes," he whispered. "Tell me how much you don't need me while you come apart in my arms…"
She gasped as he nibbled at the pulse at the base of her throat.
"Tell me again," he demanded.
"I… I want to go. I have to." The words were so quiet that even amongst the two that heard them they seemed imagined.
But then Zuko let go of her arms so suddenly, she stumbled for a moment, trying to regain her balance.
"I'm sorry," she whispered. "Oh, Zuko… I'm so sorry."
And with that, she turned and ran, leaving Zuko alone with his demons and without the woman who cared most enough to help him fight them.
In the morning, both brother and sister were gone.
And nothing was left in Zuko except the burning desire for revenge against Zhao.
Mina34: Well… sometimes you write things and don't know where they lead you. You could say that whole chapter was product of that. Before you throw things at me, Zuko's mood swing was pretty in character, and I felt that was exactly how he'd react given the circumstances. And e-nutella for anyone who can guess where that last bit of chapter was inspired from! It's a reworded version of one of my favorite books EVER! So, That was a lot of plot to get out in a short amount of space, so I'm sure some people have much to say about the last chapter, so I'll leave you to it!
Grandiose6: I know… I failed to answer any Aang questions. But with Zuko and Katara apart, it is on the docket for next chapter, I promise!
Blahhx49: Yay! I'm so happy you reviewed, and thank you for all of your beautiful compliments!
Lealfaithful: Thanks! Hopefully this chapter lived up to your expectations!
AvatardDuo: Aww, that's so sweet! I appreciate it! I hope you enjoyed this chapter!
Aquainted-with-the-night: Have you outwalked the furthest city light? Haha, I couldn't resist, Frost is one of my favorite poets!
AnnaAza: I LOVE THAT YOU STILL READ MY STORY! You were my first reviewer, and it warms my heart that you've stuck around to see what's going in my little ficcy!
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