A/N: Here it is at last, the long-awaited epilogue to this story. Thank you so much to everyone who read, reviewed, and favorited this story. I've had so much fun writing it. Just so you know, I'll be posting a follow up to this in my oneshot series Thinking of Her.
Epilogue: Outside the Cave
GGGRRROOOCCCKKK! With shaking earth and thunderous noise, the ugly carving of Hideyoshi ground back into place, exactly reversing its earlier path and sealing the opening of the cave, trapping Alistair, Dan and Amy inside. Ian swiftly bent and removed the coin from Hideyoshi's mouth, sticking it safely back in his pocket. Then he stood there, staring, his suave, confident smirk gone, replaced by a hollow look of regret and disbelief. The last thing he had seen beyond Natalie's dart gun was Amy's shocked, devastated expression, her eyes already beginning to swim with tears, and then the cave had closed. You did what you had to do, he thought to himself, anything to win."
They had done it. The mighty Kabras had defeated their poor, American cousins. Ian and Natalie had found the clue, though, disappointingly, it was one the Lucians had already known for ages. They had secured the lead to the next clue, and they had finished off their rivals for good. Their parents would be pleased with them. He should be pleased with himself. So why wasn't he? Ian didn't want to admit it to himself, but deep down he knew it was because he had allowed something to go a bit wrong with this mission. He just couldn't quite figure out how he had let it happen.
Ian's task had been to make Amy Cahill fall for him and, while apparently he had been at least partially successful, it seemed he had also, inexplicably, become somewhat attracted to her at the same time. That had emphatically not been part of the plan. The irony of it all was almost too much to comprehend. He should be proudly calling his parents to report their success here in South Korea. Instead, he just stood staring at the torn up ground, remembering throwing himself on top of Amy to protect her, remembering what had happened next…his lips tingled as he relived the moment he had briefly, impulsively kissed her and said she was lovely. Surprisingly, he had meant both the kiss and the compliment. What had he been thinking? I wasn't, he berated himself. That was my mistake. As they'd entered the cave he'd seen Natalie squint her eyes at him suspiciously, so he winked at her to make her think everything was going according to plan, nothing to worry about.
But the plan hadn't included Ian wanting to reach out and hold Amy's hand as they walked through the darkness. The swarming bats had given him his excuse to do so as he helped her up, grasping her hand in his own just a second longer than absolutely necessary. The plan didn't call for Ian to keep glancing at Amy, hoping for her lantern to swing and light up her face so he could see just a glimpse of it. Ian had been brought up right, though, and would never let a few misguided feelings distract him from his goal. Despite his inner turmoil he was still focused on his purpose, so he was easily able to manipulate Amy into giving back the coin. Admittedly though, when the Kabras had been pretending to rejoice with the Cahills over finding the clue, gold, he'd also had to pretend that his heart hadn't pounded wildly when Amy brushed her face against his. The normally composed teen had had to turn away quickly so no one would see how affected he'd been by her touch.
He could never let his family have the slightest inkling of suspicion about what had taken place here between himself and Amy Cahill, or everything he had worked for and been trained for all his life would be lost. Ian knew quite well that Lucians, and especially Kabras, did not allow themselves even a moment to be sidetracked by weak emotions like attraction or regret. If any of the other Lucian agents found out they would gladly exploit his weakness to bring him down and humiliate his parents. If Ian's own family realized he'd had feelings for Amy, fleeting and unwelcome though they were, he would surely be harshly disciplined to train them out of him. Shameful feelings of friendship or sympathy for one such as her would never be tolerated. Ultimately none of that mattered, though. No one would ever know. He had carried out his mission with single-minded focus, regardless of his own feelings. He had been true to his Lucian blood and training in that, at least.
He was brought back to the present by the sound of angry voices and, very faintly, weeping coming from inside the cave. The slight feeling of regret in his stomach grew into a sick feeling. He shouldn't be here, listening to Amy's tears. He shouldn't care about her at all.
"What are you doing?" Natalie's sudden appearance at Ian's side startled him, snapping him out of his reverie. "Why are you still standing here? We've got the lead. Let's go. I'm tired, there are disgusting bat droppings on my shoes and my hair smells like the stench of that cave. I need to decontaminate myself right away! I've already called for the helicopter, so we must go meet it, now. Anyway," she said smugly, "you don't need to guard the opening. Those pathetic fools aren't going anywhere for a very long time." She tugged on his arm and grinned evilly, just like their mother.
Woodenly, Ian turned to go, following his sister down the mountain path they had come up so eagerly only a short time before. It seemed like another lifetime when he'd teased Amy and raced her to the big rock. He climbed up on it to look back at where they'd been. The memory of staring down into Amy's eyes, standing so close to her on the rock in that endless moment, made him catch his breath. Thinking back, he realized that was the moment something had changed between them. All of his disdain and pride had suddenly evaporated and he had no longer wanted to antagonize Amy, he'd just wanted to stare into her eyes.
Ian looked down at the rock W formation, remembering their brief kiss once again. Amy, Dan and Alistair would get out eventually, he rationalized. They were Cahills, they always managed to escape. Surely he would see Amy at some other locale during this hunt and once again enjoy teasing her and making her blush. Maybe he'd even get a chance to kiss her again, for real this time.
As Ian pondered, a deep rumbling sound came and the earth beneath their feet started to shake. Then, right before his eyes, the entire W collapsed, from one end to the other. He gasped, shocked. Natalie climbed up next to him and gave a short laugh.
"That takes care of those peasants for good. And we didn't even have to get our hands dirty. Well, mostly." She inspected her palms, then dusted them off with her pink silk monogrammed handkerchief.
"Yeah," Ian responded weakly, still staring. Amy. She was in there. She's gone now and I killed her. What was wrong with him? He shouldn't be so upset by the death of their enemies.
"I guess we won't have a chance to go back and collect all that gold now," Natalie sighed. "I suppose it will be sent to museums and collections. Such a waste. Ian, we'd really better go now before anyone figures out we were involved," Natalie urged impatiently. Ian blindly stumbled after her, not seeing the path down the mountain, but only the events of the last day and a half. His mind was replaying every conversation with Amy, every glance and touch.
He eventually became aware of Natalie frowning accusingly at him and realized she had noticed his strange behavior. He mentally shook himself and ruthlessly squashed down any sadness and remorse he was feeling. He had to stop thinking about that miserable -dead- peasant -Amy-, or Natalie would know something was up. He reminded himself what his priorities were. He could be proud of himself because he'd done exactly what he needed to do to win the clue and figure out the next location. He had proved himself worthy of his parents' highest praises. He was Ian Kabra, brilliant, ruthless and successful. No girl, dead or alive, was going to distract him from his goal. After all, winning the Clue Hunt was the only thing that truly mattered.
Ian turned away from Puhkansan Mountain and ran after Natalie to board their helicopter, eager to put South Korea behind him and get to the next location. Already busy on his phone lining up their flight, he did not see two tiny figures emerge from behind the trees and join the uniformed people swarming the ground. He did not see one of them stare up at the rapidly shrinking helicopter and wipe her eyes.