A little addition: Listen to "Into the West" on youtube when you read this. It's what I was listening to when I wrote it.


We met there, Rachel in her eagle and me in my Osprey. It felt so weird, morphing again. We were doing something important, sure. But not since the very first days had we ever morphed for fun, or for convenience. Jake would've killed us.

{Hey,} Rachel called. I swerved over to meet her, adjusting my tail feathers and spreading my wings wider to maintain my altitude. There were some wonderful thermals here, because of all the concrete.

{So, any idea where he is?} I asked.

{I thought we'd kindof use this as a base, spread outward from here.}

{Hi guys.}

I spotted a red-tailed hawk catching a thermal off to the west, heading toward us.


{Know any other talking hawks?}

{Hi Tobias,} Rachel said.

{Hey. You know, it's so weird knowing that this body isn't me anymore.}

{Do you like being human again?} I asked. He soared up next to us.

{Sure. Just weird having arms instead of wings.}

{Hello everyone.} A harrier came up from below.

{You brought Ax?} Rachel asked Tobias.

{Well, I've been helping him rebuild his scoop by Cassie's.}

{Don't forget me!} Another voice. Marco came swooping over in his Osprey morph.

I laughed.

{Wow, Rachel. I didn't think this was gonna be a big deal.}

{Come on, Cassie,} Marco mock-chided. {The Animorphs'll never split up. We're all stuck with each other until we all drop dead. Now come on. Our fearless leader needs us.}

We found him after an hour. He was just walking aimlessly. Marco was closest, so I called him over when I found Jake.

For a while we just watched him.

{You think Rachel's right?} Marco asked.

{I don't know,} I admitted. {He stopped talking to me about the middle of last week.}

{Same here,} said Marco. {But, you know, I don't think it'll do any good to just talk to him.}

{What do you mean? You think he should see a psychologist?} I asked, worried at the thought.

{Yeah, that'd go over well,} Marco grumbled. {'Savior of the galaxy in therapy.'}

{I don't think anybody would blame him,} I said softly. Marco didn't answer for a second.

{Yeah, you're right. But nobody'd look at him the same, either. He'd lose their respect. And I think he'd lose his own.}

{You know what?} I said. {I think he needs something to… you know, cheer him up.}

{…kindof hard to cheer up from this, Cassie,} Marco said skeptically.

{I don't know,} I countered. An idea was seizing me. And it just might work. {Quick, when were you the happiest the last three years?}

{The happiest? Freeing my Mom,} Marco answered.

{No, Marco, I mean just the pure feeling of happy.}

{I – when I was a dog. Or a dolphin.} Marco was finally catching on.

{All right, here's the plan:…}


I was walking by myself. And that's how I wanted it to stay.

I had eventually met up with my parents, of course, after all of the chaos. I deliberately avoided them until their Yeerks died of Kandrona starvation. That felt really good. I reunited with them, and had to tell them the truth.

I'd used Rachel as an insurance policy, to make sure Tom didn't get away.

And the backup plan had succeeded. Rachel had succeeded.

Tom was dead.

Those three seconds where they just stared at me in horror were a singular lifetime.

Even as my parents hugged me and cried – they knew that I'd been one of the 'Andalite bandits' the whole time, from what their Yeerks had told them – I could tell that they were sickened by my choice, by what I became.

I left them as quickly as I could and threw up.

My own parents didn't know who I was anymore.

Neither did the entire world.

Neither did I.

Thousands of deaths were sticking into my like syringes carrying toxin.

So I avoided everyone and everything. But when I sat still I couldn't stop tapping my fingers.

So I kept moving.

So I walked on.

So I wouldn't go home again.

So I wouldn't morph again.

So I wouldn't talk to anyone again.

I was done.

But I wouldn't cry. Nope. Not Jake. Jake doesn't cry. Jake is fearless. Jake is always strong.

It was all I could do to keep walking, not to crumple up and lay on the sidewalk and wait to die.

Something flickered in the bushes.

My eyes widened. I felt my pupils dilate. Every nerve lit up like a lightning storm.

Hork-Bajir? Taxxon?

Something worse?

Claws extended from my fingers. Orange and black stripes painted themselves across my skin.

A dark, reddish-brown dog jumped out of the bushes and bounded at me, its tail wagging, its tongue lolling out of its mouth like an idiot.

I relaxed, refocused myself away from the tiger and back to human. The claws and stripes faded away.

"What do you want?" I asked quietly as the dog slowed, trotting up to me. It sat down and stared at me for a few seconds. We stared at each other. I frowned. What did this dog want?

I started to move down the sidewalk again, ready to leave it. I kindof needed to be alone. Alone was good.


I paused. Raised an eyebrow. Had the dog just growled at me? For moving?

"No," I reprimanded.

I stepped away.

The dog lunged at my legs.


The dog fastened its teeth on my jeans and started yanking me backwards.

"Hey! Stop it!" I yelled.

The dog kept pulling me backwards, taking my right foot off the ground and making me hop sideways on one foot. The dog was play-growling like we were playing tug-of-war.

"Let go!" I shouted.

Finally the dog let go of me. It leaped away and got all low to the ground, wiggling its butt back and forth as it wagged its tail. It jumped back and forth. I could tell by the way it was moving that it wanted me to follow him.

I shook my head. Fine. I'll play along, doggy.

I walked toward it. It stood up fully.

"Where do you want me to go?"

The dog barked, then started trotting down the street the other direction.

I followed the dog for a long time. It looked back every now and again, making sure that I was still there. Eventually I realized where we were going.

I felt the familiar crunch of sandy grass under my shoes.

We were at the beach.

The ocean rolled in, blue and sparkling. The day was cool, so not very many people were actually in the water. Clouds had begun covering the sky – not dark enough for rain, just enough to distort the sun.

The wind from the sea blew through my hair. It made my eyes dry. I blinked, trying to wet them.

The dog got behind me, jumped up, and shoved me toward the sand with its paws.

Okay, this was way too much coincidence. A random dog leading me to the beach? Giving me a shove?

"Marco, I know it's you."

I turned around. The setter was bulging upward, its fur pulling back into its skin, bones crunching and realigning. Eventually Marco stood in front of me in his morphing outfit.

I noticed the people staring avidly at us. They were putting two and two together, realizing who we were. It wasn't that hard, seeing as a dog had just turned into a human. Pretty soon there'd be a crowd of admirers.

I shivered. Nausea threatened.

"Remember this place?" Marco asked, stepping closer to me. I looked around. The wind ruffled my hair again. It was getting cold. The clouds were thickening, fading the sky to grey.

"It's the beach," I said quietly. But deep down I knew what he meant. One of our first missions had been here. Recon. I'd morphed Homer and spied on a Sharing meeting. I'd found out for sure that Tom was a controller.

This beach was the place where I'd fully committed myself to being an Animorph. To fighting the war.

Marco knew me well. He didn't say anything, but he could read my face. He gave me a light punch on the shoulder.



"You wanna go swimming?"

I stared at him.

"The water's probably freezing."

He stared at me.

"Gimme a break, Jake." He grabbed me by the arm. I tried to shake him off, but suddenly his fingers were like iron. He dragged me to that spot right before your shoes start to get wet, where the waves slide up onto the sand.

"Now, get down to your morphing suit unless you want to ruin your jeans."

I felt so tired. Everybody wanted me to do something. Why couldn't I just be alone?


He fixed me with a glare that made me want to back up slowly.

"Do it."

I sighed and obliged. Soon I was in my morphing outfit.

"Marco, I don't want to morph anymore."

"You know, you could probably tear me up, but even if you morph your tiger, I'm sure that as a gorilla I could give you a pretty good toss into the ocean."

"Tigers love the water."

"So get in it and save me the trouble."

I looked down, then waded in.

The water washed up around my ankles. I saw everyone on the beach staring at me again. My jaw tightened. Fine. Let them see. Let them gawk.

My nose and mouth hardened and elongated. My skin turned grey and rubbery. My nostrils closed up and my nasal passages rerouted to the back of my head, where a blowhole opened. My hair disappeared. My arms crunched and pulled back, widening and becoming flippers. My legs fused together. I fell over into the water with a splash.

As soon as my feet morphed into my tailfins I felt it. The Dolphin surfaced.

It seemed confused for a moment. Why was I sad? I had the ocean. Dolphins could be sad, though, like when another dolphin died.

Another dolphin did die, I answered it. I killed it.

For a moment the dolphin had no response. Then-

We have the ocean. We can play. We can make friends. We can be with friends we already have.


The dolphin's natural ecstasy was infectious. Everything in me was slowly getting energized. I didn't want to float in the water anymore, getting pushed by the waves. I wanted to use the waves. I wanted to be with friends.


I had been wrong. My friends. My friends understood. They'd done it, too.

I needed to be with my friends.

{You coming, Jake?} I looked up. Out in the clear water, another dolphin floated. Marco. I fired an echolocation burst.

There were more dolphins.

Five more.

I fired my tail muscles and shot away from the beach like a missile.

I went out to them and we played. We flew threw the ocean. It was our playground.

The best playground ever.

A wall fell away as we played. Even though energies flowed and spiked, even though we soared through both the water and the air, a quietness filled me. I needed my friends. I needed to talk to them.

{Guys? Can you… come?}

I turned back to the beach.

{Sure, Jake,} Tobias answered.

We all got to the shallows and demorphed at a spot where we could all stand. We surprised a nearby snorkeler, and I almost laughed. I ignored the other people still staring at us as we climbed out of the water.

We got out and sat on the sand. Ax laid down on his stomach like a deer does, his legs folded underneath him. No one spoke. They were all waiting for me.

"I killed seventeen thousand Yeerks," I said finally. Marco snorted.

"Jake, I know you. That's not what this is about."

"No Marco, I think that's part of it," Cassie stopped him.

"Jake, I know what bloodlust is," Rachel said. "That's all that was keeping me alive those last few weeks. You're not worried about the Yeerks, you're worried about yourself. You're afraid of that power that drove you to kill."

I looked down.

"I don't know what made me do it."

"I do," Marco said fiercely. "You weren't worrying about morals. You weren't worrying about right and wrong. You were thinking 'Die, you slimy, evil Yeerks.' You killed them because you wanted revenge."

"And isn't revenge a bad thing?"

Cassie was looking uncomfortable. But she took a deep breath.

"Jake, they came here. They wanted to enslave us. We didn't attack them. They attacked us. They killed Elfangor. They forced us into the war. They took away our childhoods."

{You did your duty, Prince Jake. You did it well,} said Ax.

"We wouldn't have lasted a week without you," said Tobias.

"I never wanted anyone else for a leader," said Rachel.

"You were the best, man," said Marco. "Wouldn't trade you for anyone. Earth couldn't have asked for anyone better."

"I killed Tom."

They were quiet.

"I killed Tom," Rachel corrected. I looked up at her bleakly.

"I gave the order. But…how can you live?"

Rachel didn't hesitate.

"Because I know, now, that even though Tom didn't want to die, he knew that he needed to. That if he died, he died to help save Earth. To save his family. To save you. And that was something good."

I broke.

I cried.

I cried out every tear the war ever forced me to carry.

They were all there to see it.

And I was still their champion.

It was Cassie that I had my arms around. I was crying into her shoulder. She helped me to my feet. Then it was all of us together. A huge group hug. I wish with all my heart that the war had never happened. But a small piece of my heart is glad. Glad because it had given me the best friends, or as Ax would say, the best shorms, that any one could ever have, or ever would have. From now until the end of all ages.


We had peace.

Our celebrity status made us all have to move into a gated community, but we didn't mind. We all became next-door neighbors. We also managed to get it so we had a sort of community pool in between all of our houses. Our backyards all faced each other, making a ring.

It was a haven for us.

How'd we afford it, you might ask?

Well, as it turned out, we'd all been keeping records of what happened. Diaries, journals. All handwritten, of course. We typed them up and published them. You're reading the last volume now.

The last night of any importance was of no importance at all. That's what made it beautiful.

All of us had gathered around a small fire that we'd made in a fire pit out in back of my house, right by the pool. The firelight flickered on the gently rippling water. We were quiet, just enjoying each other's company. Just us. Cassie: the farmgirl; the girl I loved; the one who knew everyone's heart. Rachel: the supermodel and the Xena; our strength, the one we turned to when hell had walked on earth; Marco: the strategist, the joker, the one who made us laugh when we were about to give up; my friend from beginning to end. Tobias: the quiet; the strong, the bravest. The truest. The one who lost it all and still kept going. Ax: the Andalite, but the kid just like us; now the hero of his people, his name as great as his brother's; the only one who never, ever faltered, gave up hope.

And me, Jake: the one who chose not to be the leader, but got chosen anyway.

What we had been through wasn't fun, no. Not by any definition. But we'd done it. We'd done it together. And now we had the greatest bond any humans, Andalites, or any species had ever known.

We were brothers. Sisters. Best Friends.

We'd found a happy ending.

And we had peace.



The End


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