Eyes in the Skies A/N: Rachel may seem a little out of character towards the middle- she's suppose to be (mwaha). Some suggested adult situations...a fancy way to say sex and angst, but nothing detailed. This was all written before the Ellimist chronicles came out and the concept thought of before #45, so I'm probably wrong on some details. Enjoy.

Eyes in the Skies

Prologue

The doorbell chimed.

Rachel looked up from her homework and ran to the door, glad for any distraction.

Looking through the peephole, she saw a boy standing on the door step, looking nervous with his hands shoved in his pockets.

"Tobias!" Rachel cried as she swung the door open.

He grinned. "Hey," he said. "hope you don't mind that I stopped by."

"Mind? Of course not. I was only doing math homework." She gave a little mock shudder and taking Tobias's hand, led him inside.

"So, what are you doing here anyway? And in human morph?"

"I was talking to Cassie...and she said that she thinks you might like it if I came to see you in human morph sometimes. You know so that um...our... er, relationship seems more real. So, uh, I came here the normal human way."

Rachel smiled at how flustered he was getting. "Since when have we been normal? But she's right. A lot of the times I miss...you know, just being able to hold your hand." Okay. She hadn't meant to say that. "Just because... yeah...you know." Now they were both flustered. .

Both looked down, feeling awkward.

"So...nervous about the mission tomorrow?" Rachel asked.

"Not really," he replied. "seems like it'll be easy. At least it'll make Jake feel better. He's going crazy over this thing with Tom. You don't think Tom's going to leave Earth any time really soon, do you?"

Rachel shrugged. "I wish I knew...He is my cousin, after all." she paused. "So...um...want something to eat?" Why was it so much more difficult to talk when he was human?

"That'd be great!" Tobias said, a little too enthusisaticly and quickly. The two walked into the kitchen. Jordan sat at the table there, bent over a book. She glanced up when they came in, caught sight of Rachel and Tobias's clasped hands (which they dropped a second too late) and grinned.

Rachel sighed. "Out, Jordan."

"Who's this Rachel?" Jordan asked, still grinning. Rachel groaned. Jordan had probably made about a dozen assumptions already.

"I said out!"

"All right, all right. Jeez." Jordan glared at Rachel, and stomped up the stairs.

"Sorry about her..." Rachel mumbled, shuffling through the fridge. "Ugh, we don't have anything good. Wait! Here's the last slice of pizza. It's cold...and a little old...er..."

Tobias laughed, and the awkwardness level dropped significantly. "How about some Lucky Charms?" he suggested, pointing to the box Jordan and Sara had left out.

"Lucky Charms. How dignified." Rachel smiled. "Only the best for you, Tobias."

Tobias returned her smile and Rachel grabbed a bowl and poured some Lucky Charms and milk into it. He ate a spoonful. "Mm." he commented. "Lucky Charms a la Rachel."

"Well, I always have been famous for my cooking." she said, laughing a little. She walked over and watched him, a wistful expression on her face. Tobias glanced up and touched her arm.

"What's wrong?" he asked.

"Nothing," Rachel answered. "it's just... I wish we could have these moments more often." The last couple words came out in a sob. Rachel looked alarmed, not used to how emotional she had started getting and Tobias stood up quickly. He put a hand on each of Rachel's shoulders and stepped back to look at her.

"We will..." Tobias said quietly after a moment. "I love you Rachel. I...I just never really loved anyone like this before, you know? I never had someone who really cared about me until I met you. I just don't want to screw it up."

"You could never do that Tobias." Rachel said. "I love you, and you know that no matter what, I will. Always. And I don't care how corny that sounds. I mean it." She looked at him intensely.

He didn't say anything at first. Then he spoke very quietly. "You're worried about the mission tomorrow, aren't you?"

"I am." Rachel whispered. "I'm...I'm looking forward to it so much that it scares me. The rush of battle...It's like I'm really becoming addicted to it. And it's terrifying. God, Tobias, how much longer can I take this?" There were tears in her eyes.

"Shh," Tobias murmured, reaching out a hand to stroke her hair. "we'll get through this together." They kissed lightly and Rachel put her arms around his neck and rested her head on his shoulder. They just held each other like that for long long wonderful minutes, keeping each other close.

"You're so perfect." Rachel said finally.

"You protected me when I became trapped." Tobias said. "And now I'm going to protect you."

"Don't tell the others about this, okay? About how worried I am."

"I won't." he promised. "Thanks for the Lucky Charms."

Rachel smiled. "Did you really mean that? I mean about how you're always going to protect me."

"Of course." he said, grinning. "I'm your eyes in the skies, aren't I?"

~~~

Rachel

Tobias. Dead?

The words echoed doubtfully in my head, twisting themselves into strange shapes.

There had been a battle. Normal battle. The Yeerks were receiving a large shipment of dracon beams. For some crazy reason we thought that if we stopped them it'd make a difference. And since the whole thing seemed easy, what was the harm? Plus, I had been getting restless. Glad for a reason to fight.

I guess we had all become accustomed to luck. Always found some loophole. Always found some way to escape with our lives. We were used to it. Too used to it.

Hell, we were up against humans. It was a piece of cake, until twelve Hork-Bajir were brought in.

Jake, Cassie said. maybe we should leave. We didn't come here for a huge battle.

We need to cause some damage. Jake said tersely. We need to! It's been too long, we've run from too much. See, we had heard that Tom's Yeerk was being promoted. We had also heard that their was a possibility that he would be assigned to a more important post, and he couldn't be bothered with keeping up the teenage boy persona. There was talk that he would have a fake death, much like Marco's mom. Chances were Jake wouldn't be able to even get the chance to save Tom for a long time if that happened, so he was trying to damage the Yeerks anyway he could, with any little set back.

Very un-Jake like, but he had a reason. If it had been Jordan or Sara instead of Tom. . . well, I'm not sure what I'd do. I wasn't sure what I'd do if I even thought about it.

We wouldn't have come here if it wasn't for Jake. We all understood that he needed to stall the Yeerks from making a decision about Tom, so we went along. It was a simple mission, and it would make Jake feel better, not so idle and guilt-eaten for not working against the Yeerks 24/7. That was the main reason we went.

Five of the Hork-Bajir surrounded me. Cassie and Marco were too far off to help, Ax was looking for the new supply of Dracon Beams while we kept the guards busy, and Jake leapt in for a rescue but was greeted with a stab in his leg.

I had to deal with the five of them on my own. I growled menacingly and lunged for a Hork-Bajir only to have a wrist blade catch one of my eyes. I howled, and another Hork-Bajir joined the group of five surrounding me, giving me little room to attack without being sliced and diced. This can't be it... I told myself. It won't end like this. You can't let it Rachel. I tried in vain to reach the recklessness that flowed through my veins, but I couldn't. Even for me, the odds of death were too great. I was planning to go out in glory, when six more Hork-Bajir joined the battle. One of then leapt towards me, blades gleaming.

Suddenly...a flapping of wings. Tobias! He clawed at the eyes of the Hork-Bajir attacking me. The Hork-Bajir screamed and twisted his wrist blade. It cut deep into Tobias's throat, and he seemed to be trying to stay in the air, wings hanging limply against his sides as he fell to the floor..

TOBIAS! I cried.

Rachel? he answered, confused, as if he wasn't sure where he was. The Hork-Bajir crowed triumphantly.

Tobias! I repeated. Tobias!

There was no reply. The Hork-Bajir had practically forgotten me in their glee over the fallen 'Andalite Bandit'. I growled and rammed into two of them, tearing their throats, scratching. All I could see was the memory of the hawk tumbling to the ground, and I felt a wave of rage as I bit deep into the throat of another Hork-Bajir, ignoring their blades cutting into me.

Rachel get a grip! Jake cried.

Jake, get Tobias! Cassie! Ax! Somebody!

Try Marco. Marco said dryly.

Marco! The gorilla scooped up the hawk from the ground. Stared at it for a second as I attacked another Hork-Bajir, a blade cutting me deeply.

Rachel... Marco said gently.

Oh God...no... My world went black and I fell to the ground.

I woke up in human morph on my bed at home, vaguely remembering regaining consciousness, only to demorph. Then I was aware of voices talking over me, but I couldn't hear a word, only the rise and fall of their volume. I guess I had blacked out again, because now I was in my room.

"You're awake." I turned to see Erek, sitting on the window sill. "You lost a lot of blood in morph."

"Oh." I said dumbly, closing my eyes for a second to gain concentration. "Did my family see you bring me here? I mean, you weren't forced to put me in a hologram or anything, were you?"

He shook his head. "Your sisters aren't home yet, and your mother is still at work I believe."

"Erek?"

"Yes?"

I, the brave and reckless Xena, gulped, afraid to ask the question. Erek looked afraid to answer.

"How . . . how is Tobias?"

Erek walked up to me and put a hand on my shoulder. "We did everything we could, but it was way too late by then."

"What do you mean?"

"I'm sorry."

"Sorry for what Erek? Sorry for what?"

He knew that I knew.

"I have to go Rachel. Just ... hang in there, okay?" With that Erek walked out.

I threw myself on the bed, wishing to lose consciousness again.

Tobias couldn't be gone. In fact, I was sure I'd hear him knocking at the window any minute now. Sure I would hear his voice running soothingly in my head, saying my name. We would go flying.

Tap tap tap

Tobias! I flew off the bed and ran to the window, my heart singing. Erek was wrong! Of course he was wrong!

My eyes searched the window but saw nothing. Confused, I realized the tapping was coming from the door, and my world rapidly changed from a wonderful 3-d, into a 2-d world. A world I couldn't escape. I went back to my bed and closed my eyes. The knocking at the door continued, but I lay perfectly motionless. Finally, the door opened.

"Rachel?" It was Jordan. "Who was that cute guy who just walked out?"

I didn't answer. Maybe if I stayed still I'd lose myself, escape from here and join Tobias.

"Rachel?" Jordan was alarmed. "Are you okay?" I gave no answer. After a minute she left. I heard her say to Sara on the way "Don't go in there. I think she's PMSing." Sara giggled, even though she had no clue what Jordan was talking about.

I would have been ecstatic if that was it.

I heard the phone ringing downstairs.

"Hello? ... Yes she's here... I'll go get her. " Jordan came stomping back up the stairs with the phone. "Rachel, it's Cousin Jake. He wants to talk to you."

I didn't answer.

"Oh for heaven's sake." She dropped the phone besides me and left.

Reluctantly I picked it up. "Hello?"

"It's Jake."

"I know."

"How you doing?"

"I'm not sure."

"Rachel," There was a long pause. "I'm...I..." I heard a muffled sob, before he took a deep breath and continued. "You want to come over to the barn? Cassie and Marco are coming. We'll see if we can find Ax."

"Tomorrow, maybe."

"Yeah... yeah, you probably need some time alone, right?" I stayed silent. "Anyway... look, this mission was stupid, okay? I didn't mean to get all upset over Tom. I didn't know it would end like this, end up being my fault."

"Jake, it's over."

"We have to keep fighting, Rachel." He had forgotten security, forgotten everything but the fact that he was responsible for Tobias's death.

"It's over." I muttered.

He sighed, a shaky sigh. He had been crying a lot before, I could tell. "Look, let's talk this over tomorrow at the barn."

"Maybe."

"Bye Rachel."

I hung up the phone. Everything was still, except the window curtain ruffling slightly from a breeze. I got up and shut the window, but my eyes traveled the sky. This was Jake's fault. Tobias was dead and ... oh God, he was dead. No more flying. No more talking. No more evenings together. It couldn't end just like that, could it?

My knees gave way and I sunk to the floor, my hands grasping at the window in vain, an effort to keep myself standing. I hit the carpeted floor and it brought me to reality. Pulling myself up on the windowsill, I began to cry.

~~~

I tossed and turned in my bed, making no effort to sleep. I glanced at the glowing red numbers on my radio clock. It was 3:23 AM. Everyone would probably be asleep. Everyone.. Except. . .

I concentrated on the Bald Eagle, the morph I used to go flying with Tobias, preferring to be in the morph that I linked with Tobias than owl at the moment. I felt a fresh stab of pain as I soared through my window and to the forest that was Tobias's home, looking through it with razor sharp eyes, even though the sky was dim.

Ax. I said softly. The Andalite was looking out over a pond, his stalk eyes dropped in deep pain. He hardly stirred as he heard my thought-speech, remaining emotionless, just as I had. I soared onto a low branch. Ax wavered a stalk-eye to me.

That is the same branch Tobias would often sit upon when we talked at night.

I quickly flew off it, afraid I would disturb something sacred if I perched there. I demorphed and shivered in my morphing suit. Ax did not glance at me. We stayed there in silence. Finally Ax spoke, although he stayed absolutely still.

This cannot be.

"Maybe it was a mistake." I agreed.

It was no mistake, Ax said bitterly. he was my nephew, but he could have been my brother. The only family I had for thousands of miles. He was my shorm. I swallowed a sob, afraid if I started crying I wouldn't be able to stop.

Finally he turned to me. Tobias loved you very much Rachel.

"I know the feeling." I whispered.

Ax smiled to himself. Whenever you two were going to go flying together... You should have seen how happy that made him. You two had a great bond. It should not have been broken so very soon.

"Who said anything about it being broken?" I said, anger making it's way into my voice.

Ax looked at me with all four eyes. He's dead. Ax said. Tobias is dead. His thought-speech voice cracked on that last word and he stood very still, his breathing ragged.

Ax was a warrior, who, if I didn't exactly like, I respected for the most part. He was strong. But here he was, falling apart and barely holding on to his usual stoic self.

The realization that he was gone really hit me then. Before it had been like I was watching everything from far away, none of it was happening to me, couldn't be. But now the last twenty-four hours whirled through my head, and there was nothing I could do to stop them. It was like watching a car wreck in slow motion. You want to stop it, but you're stuck in slow motion too and all you can do is look on helplessly, watch the agonized faces shriek in terror, watch the fire spring up and hear the silence when the desperate cries stop... I fell to the ground, sobbing into the dirt. I was strong too! I should get up...should...

Tobias would not like to see you cry, Rachel. Ax said, not unkindly.

"You said it yourself, Ax," I yelled suddenly. "Tobias is dead." The tears wouldn't stop. The constant pain would not go away.

Why was I here? Reckless, cold-blooded, dangerous Rachel crying in the dirt. Where was the strength I needed to go on?

The strength was dead, I realized. Tobias was my strength. Tobias was a part of me. He calmed me down, but gave me courage. He was dead. What would I become? How could he leave me? Anger welled up inside of me.

Suddenly a memory floated back to me... A memory of a promise I had shoved out of my mind. It brought a moment of peace mixed with breathtaking clarity, and through the tear-streaked ground, I saw what I had to do.

Quickly I began to morph owl. Ax, still overcome with sadness, hardly looked up. I flapped hard for altitude on this warm night, and finally I was rising up into the night.

I heard and saw a mess of things. Lucky Charms. Tobias and I soaring through the skies. Tobias in human morph dancing with me. . . Then falling to the floor, a hawk. And Ax. Tobias is dead. His voice was full of suppressed emotions. It repeated in my head, over and over.

Anger clouded my thoughts, but I still managed to find my way to Jake's house.

~~~

Jake's window was open and I swooped in, but the rustle of my feathers didn't wake him. I demorphed, hoping that Tom was fast asleep. I stood there in his room for maybe five minutes, just standing there, staring into nothing. Then, as if I was in a dream, I slowly walked over to the bed where Jake was sleeping. His pillow was stained with tears, but he was exhausted and knocked out.

I studied his face for a minute before I picked up an extra pillow, knocked casually on the floor. I placed it over his face, holding it there with all of my strength. He woke up seconds later and started thrashing his legs and arms, pounding against the mattress. Normally I would have been overpowered by him but I was filled with... I don't know. All I know was that I kept that pillow on his face. I was afraid he might morph, but I guess he couldn't concentrate on anything from lack of oxygen.

"Sorry cousin," I said, as his flailing grew weaker. "but you took Tobias from me." He couldn't answer, but I knew he heard me. I was Rachel. I was strong.

Soon he stopped struggling. He was dead. I stared at him, the fearless leader of the Animorphs. I was afraid I would cry again and I was too strong for such things. I laid my head on a corner of the bed and buried it in my arms. Closing my eyes I uttered a word, low but audible.

"Crayak..."

~~~

I felt a hand stroking my tangled hair. "As you can see, Crayak has kept his promise." a voice said. Quickly I spun around.

"Drode!" I said. "Get off me! I don't need sympathy!"

He smiled, impressed. "None of Crayak's Children need sympathy." He paused. "I have a feeling Crayak will favor you."

I stood up. I was strong again.

"Come with me," Drode said softly. "you don't belong here anymore."

~~~

Crayak did not bring me complete peace with Tobias's death, but he did fill me with a kind of grim satisfaction. Not happiness exactly, but a feeling of fulfillment, and hey, that's more than most humans feel in a lifetime, right?

He was cold when I, as an Animorph, met him. But when I met him on my own (moments after the Drode had come to fetch me) he was almost kind.

RACHEL. he "said". I'VE WAITED LONG FOR THIS DAY. I AM GLAD IT HAS FINALLY ARRIVED. I KNEW IT WOULD. he added. I just stood in front of the huge red eye, a little awkwardly. YOU ARE WONDERING WHAT I WANT OF YOU.

I wondered if I should speak- and if I did, what would I say? I simply nodded.

YOU ARE NOW ONE OF CRAYAK'S CHILDREN. YOU WILL BE PROVIDED WITH SHELTER, FOOD, CLOTHING. ALL NECESSITIES. YOU WILL HELP ME OUT WHEN I CALL ON YOU. AND BY THE WAY, he said, in a sorrowful tone. I AM SO SORRY ABOUT THE DEATH OF YOUR LOVE.

I looked down at the ground. "The guy I love is dead and I just killed my cousin and betrayed my friends and planet." When I said it, my tone was surprisingly emotionless.

RACHEL, IS THAT GUILT I AM HEARING?

"Yeah," I answered, without fear.

YOU ARE ABOVE THAT NOW. Crayak said. Suddenly he disappeared completely and I heard a voice whispering in my ear.

You never were like them Rachel. I whirled around, but no one was there. The voice continued. You knew there was more to life than sitting around, acting high and mighty, moralizing to no end. It spoke convincingly, jammed with emotion even though it was only the wisp of a whisper, maximized in volume. You belong with us. You know that this is the truth. You have never liked that whiny little voice in your head, have you? You have never trusted it, and though you have never admitted it to yourself, you have often wished it would go away. I shivered slightly. Rachel, here is your chance. Finally dispose of that little voice, and let me be your conscience. He paused. You will fight all you want. You will release all your rage. And you will not give any of it a second thought. Give up the weak side of you, and become the dangerous warrior you were meant to be.

The words sounded wonderful. I looked around for something I could talk directly to, but found only air. Talking to nothing, I said,

"I will become one of Crayak's Children." No doubt was there to sneak it's way into my mind. I had pushed the voice away, and Crayak was the savior who would take it's place.

~~~

Four years later. . .

Rachel, I have a mission for you.

I started. I had been staring into a hologram of Earth's sky. It brought back memories... memories of alien emotions that I no longer recognized, feelings that I studied observantly and logically from afar whenever I got bored. Crayak did not encourage this; he told me that they were only going to bring back the pain I had suffered, but he also said that he would not stop me.

I heard Crayak's "voice" and quickly whirled around even though I knew it was pointless. It was a human reaction I had not lost. Turning from the holographic window in my holographic (though very real feeling) house, I spoke.

"What is it?"

Before I tell you, I want to know that you are secure with yourself. This is the ultimate test Rachel, and although I have the utmost confidence in you, I am not sure of your reaction to this mission. I am not sure if you have accepted me yet.

I had fought many battles for Crayak. He had made me stronger physically. He had told me that my human body was weak, but it was the psyche that mattered, that he was just here to give me the helping hand and let the physical in me rise up to meet the mental. On the outside I was still pretty blond Rachel.

With claws and tougher skin.

But that was only in a desperate battle. I also had that handy little morphing power, though Crayak held control of it now. Usually I maintained my normal appearance. Like now.

I never understood any of the reasons for why Crayak wanted the creatures he sent me after exterminated. I didn't care. They were all the same in my eyes. A threat. Something that could be dealt with by using brutal force. I barely glanced at the creatures there most of the time. Generally they were weak, foolish. Sentient yes, but useless. I never asked Crayak why he wanted them killed, and he never volunteered a reason.

"It is no trouble for me," I said. "you know that. I am Rachel, a warrior. I have tackled the most difficult."

I know, and I am greatly pleased with you. But this... This will prove you a true warrior. Unless you fail.

"That will not happen." I said coldly. "What is the mission?"

You will go back to Earth.

I blinked. "Earth. . ." I whispered.

Things have changed since you've been there last. Crayak said. You are almost eighteen now, Rachel. In the years you have been with me you have been a strong warrior. You have grown. You have almost left all your weakness behind. The time has come to confront the last of this weakness, and demolish it's remnants. Crayak spoke fiercely, different from his usual kind, patient tone.

"Earth." I said again. "I can do that."

Your form can not be changed...It is against the rules. The rules he was speaking of were that of the strange game he was playing with the Ellimist. I had learned not to ask questions of this game. Some may recognize you...Most will not. I have taken care of the little details. The Yeerks will all believe you are a controller. he paused. What else? Ah yes, the Drode will go with you. I made a face. I had never really liked the Drode. Crayak laughed. Sorry Rachel. But the two of you combined can surely change the balance of the tedious war between Yeerk and Andalite. Change it for the better.

"Will I... will I be going back to my old home?"

There is the possibility. Do not lose sight of who you really are. Do not let the weakness win.

"I thought you had more faith in me Crayak." I said.

Then you think you can carry out this mission?

"I know it."

~~~

As soon as the words left my mouth I was on Earth . A group of humans are planning an attack on the Yeerk Pool. It was Crayak. Many Yeerks for peace will be helping. Your...friends from before will most likely not be there, but if they are. . . Kill them. Stop them. Do whatever you must. The Drode will join you later.

"Where are they?" I asked. There was no response. I looked around, dumbfounded. A car rattled by.

Suddenly the memories washed over me. I let out a cry of pain, weakness.

"Crayak..." I whispered. "Help me. It's coming back Crayak. Save me from it."

There was no answer, but I felt better, more grounded after this. Just the thought of who I really was had restored the feeling in my legs.

"This should be easy." I muttered to myself, as I shakily began walking down a road. "No problem. No problem." I repeated.

I heard the laughter of a child from a yard. A little girl, maybe six or seven, splashing in one of those kiddy pools.

"Kayla!" The voice of a women. A mother. "Come inside. It's too cold for that."

I turned away quickly. The motherly concern, the laughter. . . I ran down the street. But everywhere I turned there were memories... Everywhere I turned reminders. Voices, that use to be a background noise, suddenly popped out at me. I wondered how I stood all the voices when I lived on Earth as the girl, Rachel.

But two caught my ear especially.

"Nooo, you're not doing it right! The seeds have to be one to three inches underground."

I turned to see two girls behind me, kneeled in dirt. They were holding seed packets. One looked disgusted, the other looked impatient.

"I don't know why mom made me help you with this stupid science thing anyway." The older, disgusted girl who must have been in her teens said.

"It's a homework assignment. And it's not stupid." This came from a younger girl, who looked to be about nine.

"Oh come on Sara, you'd think watching trees grow wouldn't be stupid . I have some things that need to be done. They're...they're really important."

"Remember how Mom said that she wouldn't take anymore of your skepimism?"

"Skepticism. And you don't even know what skepticism is."

"I do too! And I also know that if I call Mom and tell her about your behavior. . ." the girl trailed off.

"You wouldn't!"

"Just watch me!" The younger girl closed her eyes and yelled, "Mo-o-om. Jordan won't help me with my assignment!"

"Jordan!" A voice from the house yelled, exasperated.

I gasped.

My sisters. My mother. My house. My backyard.

My old life.

I ran down the streets, heart pounding, taking in long shaky breaths. This was too much. My worlds colliding, and me... I was stuck in between, being crushed by both.

Finally I stopped. My eyes were wild, my lungs crying for air.

Someone tapped me. I whirled around.

A boy stood there. I would have thought him to be an innocent six or seven year old, except his eyes were filled with cold laughter.

"Enjoying Earth, Rachel?"

"Drode." I said.

He looked at me critically. "You seem to be having trouble."

"I'm fine," I muttered, bending down slightly so that I could look him in the eye. "So. Where is this group of humans?"

"I'm pretty sure I know." he said. "This human body is rather annoying. Let's get this done quickly so that I can get out of this... form."

"Did you morph?" I asked, a lame attempt at conversation.

"Of course not." The Drode said, laughing. "Crayak changed me. 'Did I morph?' Honestly Rachel, after all these years with us I wonder if you have grown at all."

"I'm not the one just standing here." I said, ignoring his jab at me. "Take me to this place."

"Oh, I don't know Rachel," The Drode said in mock-concern. "it might upset you."

"Drode, my patience is wearing thin, and Crayak will not be happy if he learns how you held up this mission."

"Only trying to help." The Drode smiled brightly. "Ready then?"

"Been ready."

"Well what are we waiting for?"

~~~

In the same moment I was suddenly standing in front of a large building. "The Yeerk Pool is downstairs. When you go in, ask for 'Mr. Visser' You will come to a room, where you'll see a desk. Pull out the top drawer." The Drode said. "They will be attacking the pool momentarily."

"Excellent," I said, mainly to myself.

Drode turned his gaze from the building. "If you need any help," he said, with a hint of a sneer, "I will do what I can. I will be rather busy however, foiling any other plans this group has. You are Crayak's brute force Rachel. Remember that if you have any doubts."

"I do not have doubts." I said. "You are way too concerned with me Drode. Worry about yourself."

"Who said anything about worrying?" The Drode said.

I laughed. "Just because Crayak doesn't dote on you doesn't mean..." I turned, only to see he was gone. Giving a wary glance at the building I stepped in.

A secretary looked up from a small TV (which was showing The Tom Green Show - nice to know Yeerks keep in touch with pop culture, huh?) and smiled politely. "Yes ma'am?"

I gave her my best smile. "I'm looking for a Mr. Visser."

The secretary nodded and lowered her voice to a whisper. "The Visser is feeding now, and not in the best of moods. You may want to try another entrance, so that you can get a pier far from him..."

I shook my head. The secretary shrugged and then continued as if nothing was said, in a bubbly, cheery sort of manner. "Down a floor, the third door to your left, dear."

"Thank you," I said, and briskly ran down the stairs. I heard the secretary laugh at something on the TV. She had scarcely noticed me.

I was faced with a hallway, eerily silent. I turned to the third door on my left which was shut and turned the knob, feeling slightly stupid. The door swung open easily as if it had just been well-oiled.

The room was almost empty except for a desk oddly placed in the middle of it. Drode had told me to open the top drawer. Without really caring I wondered what was in there. I pulled out the drawer, so forcefully a pencil came tumbling off the desk.

I jumped back, not scared, but surprised. All five drawers moved loosely upward together until they were underneath the desk, and connected to the top of it. The floor directly underneath them folded into a compartment on the side. I blinked. It was unmistakably a doorway. I peered into the darkness, my eyes adjusting after a moment or so to see the stairs I knew would be there. I knew where this door would lead. I could hear the cries for help, the terrified shouts, the crying. Immediately the adrenaline began to flow through my veins, that wonderful addictive adrenaline that use to be a warning but now was a messenger bringing forth news of the exciting thrilling bloody battle to come.

~~~

I jumped down into the short hall that had been concealed in the floor, and started my journey quickly down the rather twisty stairs. In my hurry I banged in to someone who gripped the banister tightly to prevent them self from falling.

"Sorry." I muttered, continuing to race down the stairs.

"Wait!" called the person. I turned automatically and jumped.

It was Principal Chapman.

"Don't I know you?" he asked, furrowing his brow. "Even my host agrees you look familiar."

I shrugged.

"You jumped when you saw me. You must recognize me somewhat then. Is your host an old student from the school?"

I shook my head. Chapman smiled apologetically. "Sorry...I know it's not exactly normal to stop someone here. But I haven't seen you around here...Which doesn't make sense as you do look familiar."

"I...have a sister who looks like me. She went to your school."

"Really? Who?"

"You probably wouldn't know her."

"Well, what's her name? She's not one of us, is she?"

"No she isn't...Um...Jennifer." Common. Stay with common.

Chapman looked impatient. He had caught up to me on the stairs. "Jennifer what?"

"I'm afraid I cannot tell you that." I said, giving a mysterious smile.

Chapman looked infuriated, but then suddenly terrified. "You...Oh my...Are you from the council? That sounds like a foolish question. I'm really not foolish you know. Surprised. We weren't expecting you so soon. I didn't mean to ask questions. They said you were coming in a month..." He babbled on a little longer before I stopped him. "I can't tell you who I am exactly."

"Yes, yes, I quite understand." he said meekly.

I decided I might as well take advantage of this opportunity.

"So tell me. How are things going on this planet?" I had not confirmed that I was a council member but playing a long wouldn't hurt.

"Oh, excellent, excellent!" he said, looking glad to be a bearer of good news. "We are branching out quite a lot recently."

"Really?" I replied, trying to feign interest. It was the battle that interested me, but I might learn something useful now.

"Oh yes. We just installed a new pool out of this country, so we now have three pools in Europe- oh that is a different section of this planet and-"

"I know of this planet's geography." I told him.

"Of course!" he said. "I didn't mean to imply that you didn't, it is just-"

"Silence," I said, surprised at how commanding my voice sounded, getting satisfaction out of the way he cowered when I said that. "Tell me of your progress and do not speak to me as if I were an idiot."

He talked very quickly after that, hardly stopping for a breath, he was so terrified. I had a feeling that I should soothe his nerves - I was, after all, on the Yeerk side for now, until something more powerful came along and interested Crayak enough to pit them against the Yeerks. Just the same, I still didn't like Yeerks, even if I was currently fighting with them, and I did like the power I held over Chapman.

Chapman told me that the Yeerks had two pools in Japan, and one in Canada, the last time he checked. "But," he pointed out importantly "the numbers are always rising, especially in America."

"So this whole area...this whole town...they are all controllers?" Was Cassie? What about Marco and Ax? How long had it been since I thought of them?

Chapman looked very alarmed. "N...no...But...wedidnotrecieveorders ." It took me a second to understand what he said.

"Ah," I said after a moment. "I was just wondering. Of course, it's more important to get a good hold of this world than infest one specific area thoroughly before moving on. We want to have a good base."

"Yes! Of course!" Chapman said, nodding so eagerly that I thought his head might fall right off his neck. Then he babbled on to tell me more of what he kept referring to as the "great accomplishments"of the Yeerk empire. It had been so long since I had talked to a human (even if he wasn't all human), and it was amazing how fast Chapman talked in his fear, stumbling over words. I learned a lot during that ten minute (for we had gone slowly and taken our time) trip down the stairs. Only one controller had hurried past, ignoring us. I guess most of them had heeded the words of the secretary.

Finally we reached the bottoms of the stairs, and Chapman fell silent. The cries had gradually gotten louder, but this close I could hear all the desperation wrapped in among them. My eyes quickly swept over the huge area, widening as I saw Visser Three- or Visser Three's host anyway. He was pacing in a cage. There was something that looked like a mini pool next to the main one. It was the Visser's private Yeerk pool, I realized. Chapman followed my gaze.

"He does not know you are here..." he murmured. "Shall I tell him?"

I shook my head. I was becoming confused. Crayak usually had everything planned out for me. I was the physical power. I only killed. But this mission's details were getting more and more sketchy. What the hell was I suppose to do?

Chapman glanced at me, still fearful. "Er...If you would like to use the Visser's pool... more roomy...I'm sure he would not mind, once you told him who you were."

I gave him what I hoped was a royal, arrogant sort of look. "I believe I will use the same pool that you do, so that I can get a better feel for the circumstances."

"Okay! Er, this way."

We lined up on the pier.

"You've taken a human host." Chapman observed. "Voluntary?"

I nodded. "Humans." Chapman laughed derisively. I felt a spark of indignation when he said that. I was, after all, part of the human race. Forget it Rachel. The strong destroy the weak. It's life, and right now, humans are weak. All but you. I knew that was arrogant crap, but I needed to hear it, needed to tell myself that.

We moved up in line. "Mine is involuntary." Chapman said, eager to make conversation with someone he thought was so powerful, despite his fear. "Once he was voluntary. It was a deal we had with him- we promised not to take his daughter," He grinned. "Needless to say that didn't hold up very well."

Melissa. I had long forgotten about her, but now her memory was resurfacing.

To Chapman I simply asked "Why not?"

He looked surprised but answered readily. "She was a threat. Humans are not as dumb as they look- not quite anyway. We had to take her." He waved his hand airily. "Enough about matters of my own. You may be interested to know that a new Kandrona is on it's way for one of the pools and..." He droned on. It reminded me of the long boring lectures he would always give in assembly.

So. Melissa had been taken. Had the others?

Not my problem.

FOOL! A loud angry thought-speech voice, that burst out so suddenly that I jumped, along with pretty much everyone in the area.

It was Visser Three. Surprise surprise.

Everyone quickly turned away, not wanting to be the one caught gawking.

What do you mean it's been cancelled?!

"V-Visser..." said the shaking human. "R-really no n-need to get upset... A petty worry for a problem that can easily be repai-"

WHAT?! the Visser. PETTY! WHAT exactly are you implying?!

"N-nothing Visser, it's j-just-"

Dispose of this man. the Visser said quietly, looking to his guards triumphantly.

"Please! N-no!"

One guard, a hork-bajir, held the man. The other aimed his dracon beam.

Nobody watched. They continued with whatever they were doing.

We moved forward on the pier. My panic was rising. What would I do when I got up to the pool?

That's when I saw a tall man creeping down the stairs by our pier. His eyes were shifting nervously and his legs were shaking. He caught sight of the Visser, who was in his normal Andalite form, and his eyes widened in amazed terror. I caught sight of a human gun.

Idiot. He had forgotten to conceal it.

I had no doubt that he belonged to the group that was planning the attack on the Yeerk Pool. Apprehensivly he stared out at the sight before him. I remembered when I first saw the Yeerk pool. It was like an underground city- right under our town. I had been shocked. I had been fearful. God, what a pitiful, weak thing I had been back then.

The man went down the stairs and started heading down, past the line of piers. I followed him with my eyes, until he had passed the pier I was standing on. I frowned. Should I follow him?

We moved up in line.

What was going to happen when I got to the front of the pier? Did Crayak have something planned?

I wasn't big on stealth, nor had I ever been very good at it, even as an Animorph. Battle I could handle. Battle was straightforward, no rules, no second-guessing. But being sneaky, being a spy- that was something else.

I signed impatiently, tapping my foot. Chapman looked up at me and smiled weakly.

"Usually the lines are m-much quicker than this." When I said nothing he continued. "If you tell them who you are, I'm sure they'll allow you to move up to the front of the line."

I shook my head. "I'd prefer to see what life is like here for the average Yeerk. You seem to be the only one intelligent enough to have guessed who I am. A promotion will be in order." There. That praise should keep him silent for a good while. I thought as he beamed.

Suddenly a shrill voice... "REBEL YEERKS AND HUMAN HOSTS! ATTACKING THE POOL!" the voice screamed.

God. About freaking time.

I ran over to the commotion, Chapman behind me, huffing and puffing as he tried to keep up.

I sighed. They had only caught the one lone human, the one who I had seen creeping down the stairs. About twenty dracon beams were all aimed at him. I saw his gun had clattered to the floor, a few yards away from him. A human controller spotted the gun, leered at him, and pocketed it.

This wasn't right. He had been going to join the group, the Yeerks must have caught him before he reached the others. I took a closer look at the man- and realized he was only a boy. He was shaking, his teeth gritted together in an effort to stop them from chattering.

He was a good-looking boy, or maybe young man was the correct phrase as really he looked around twenty one, twenty two maybe. He had spiky dark brown hair and gray eyes. He was the first human of my own age that I had really looked at for years. He had a well-toned body, though currently it was cowering under the glare of Visser Three and various controllers.

"Any time you'd like to stop gawking Rachel."

I spun around quickly, my defenses ready, only to find the threat in the form of a six year old child, with large blue eyes that blinked at me.

"Drode, what do you want?" I grumbled.

"You have a mission, Rachel, if you'd stop listening to your hormones you would remember. Is it beginning to resurface in that small brain of yours?"

I growled slightly, but the Drode just smirked. "Anyway... The group of rebel humans sent out this one here-" he gestured to the boy, "to provide a distraction, as that earlier mishap did not keep Visser Three busy long enough. The group is hiding at the moment, preparing. They are under that stairwell." I followed his gaze to one of the exits with rusty stairs leading up to it.

"You would not want to morph in front of the Yeerks. They would mistake you for an Animorph." He said the last word with a sneer that looked so out of place and disgusting on such a young child.

"Well obviously." I said, walking to towards the group. If it was a good enough hiding place for them it should be a safe enough place for me- because really, who cared if they saw me morph or not?

Silently slipping past the commotion I began to run towards the stairwell. As I neared I caught sight of about ten humans gathered together. They were talking in hushed voices and looking anxiously at the boy the Yeerks had caught. They didn't even notice me coming up behind them, all alone.

"We have to save Gabriel." said one of the group, an auburn haired girl who looked more anxious then the rest of them. She stared at the controllers from afar, then turned and glared at the others. "I don't care what it comes to." She spoke with passion, love. She loved the man who was faced with either death or infestation. That's when I realized that this group was made up almost entirely of young people. My age, some younger, some older. It filled me with a sort of pride, seeing their faces set in determination. They knew death was a possibility. Yet here they were, fighting for the human race, despite the fact that it could mean the end- the end of freedom, the end of love, the end of their lives. Freedom, love, and life. Three things they were just beginning to discover and experience. And here they were, gambling it all, even though the odds were against them.

I had a feeling if I had never become an Animorph, that was where I'd be. With this group. Helping them save the world, even though we would have absolutely no weapons. Would I have a boyfriend among them? A best friend?

I just stood there behind them. Staring. At that moment I wanted nothing more than to be with them, but all I could do was stare at them, like they were a display in the window and I was that poor girl who couldn't afford it but dreamed about it anyway.

I had totally lost myself behind that window separating us.

A man around twenty turned to the auburn-haired girl. "First priority is to save Gabriel." By his eyes I could tell that he was a Cassie in this group.

"No one is going to die, Lili," agreed a girl. She sighed wearily. "but we have to do some damage to the Yeerks. You know that..." she said, looking at the auburn-haired girl- Lili - with a look of regret. "Okay...group A try and distract the Yeerks from noticing Group B and from paying attention to Gabriel. He cannot be infested. Group B, you head to the pool, throw in the toxins and try to get hold of some dracon beams. And avoid Visser Three at all costs." The girl took a deep breath, brushing a black strand of hair out of stressed eyes . No doubt she was the Jake.

"Kari, we've been over the plan," said a boy. "over and over and over."

"Well no one can forget their part!" she whispered hoarsely, looking over at the Yeerks.

"Enough of this! Visser Three killed that controller that was sent out as a distraction! One of his own kind! We have to get to Gabriel as soon as possible!" Lili said, adding a "duh".

"Right..." Kari murmured. "Okay. Do you have the chemicals?" Half of the group nodded, which is when I noticed that they were concealing something under their jackets. Kari continued. "Everyone, good luck. Now kill those slugs," (The Cassie boy winced slightly) "and... and if your life is in danger get the hell out of here."

"Sir, yes sir!" answered a short girl with a sardonic grin that was identical to Marco's.

Kari glared at her. "Cerianne...." she trailed off threateningly despite a smile..

"How about yes Ma'am?" It was a very stupid joke but they were under a lot of stress and all grinned. Lili laughed. A second later Cerianne grew very business like. "So...let's go."

"Let's do it!" said a girl with dark hair.

Whoa. Rewind.

It was Jordan.

I recognized her instantly. After all, I had seen her earlier that day. I smiled. Jordan was a little younger than the average here, but her face was just as set in determination. I wondered how she had found out about the Yeerks. Was Mom a controller? Dad? Did she notice something was wrong? Did she put two and two together?

I watched the group, and Jordan especially. The ten of them looked out at the Yeerk pool solemnly for a second. Suddenly some of them hugged each other. One of the guys reached out and touched Jordan's shoulder. They kissed, along with two other couples. Lili looked out at Gabriel. Kari and the Cassie Boy (it was all I could think of him as now) gave each other a sort of 'what the hell' look and kissed lightly as if they weren't really use to it.

As quickly as it had started it was over. Half were running towards the pool, the other half towards Gabriel who was being dragged to the pool (the unconscious cannot be infested I guess). I was hit with a jolt of realization. I was Rachel. I was strong. And I wasn't about to be controlled by some sapfest. Some stupid display of emotions.

"HUMANS ATTACKING THE POOL!" I screamed. All ten of them jumped. Some turned to look at me. Others didn't. Kari looked like she wanted to kill herself for not seeing me there watching them.

Whatever.

Immediately the Yeerks threw Gabriel aside.

The lines on the piers stopped moving forward. Grab them! Infest them! Visser Three shouted. Kill them if you must. Foolish humans. he said to them. Do you really believe you're going to escape, or even sillier, win? This is the Yeerk Empire!

It was a long run from the entrance to the pool, even longer if you're carrying a pound of dangerous chemicals, as I was sure half of them were. The other half were running back and forth, zig-zagging.

A dracon beam was shot. I don't know from where or who. It hit a guy who was in Group A, the group that was distracting the Yeerks. He let out a shout of pain and suddenly he was gone.

Cerianne let out a cry of anguish. "KEN!" she screamed. "Oh..god..."

I turned away quickly. Dracon beam shots lanced through the air. It was sort of like when there's a cockroach in the room, and there's chaos as everyone tries to kill the cockroach at once. The Yeerks that were shooting seemed to be enjoying themselves. Others were looking on as if they couldn't believe what was happening. "They're defenseless..." one was muttering to the other, looking angrily at Visser Three (from a distance).

I was suppose to be fighting there with the Yeerks. Instead I just stood, looking on, as in what almost seemed to be slow motion Kari and several of the others were shot. I couldn't seem to move anything but my eyes. It was a very weak feeling that I didn't like. It was a feeling of vulnerability. It was what I was running away from when I came to Crayak. You didn't run away, Rachel. I told myself. That's where you belong. With Crayak. Being strong. It was who you were meant to be.

A loud cry shook me out of my thoughts. I turned. At the end of a pier stood Lili and Cerianne. They were each holding two coffee cans. They tore the lids, threw them off the pier. The lids hit the pool and the slimy sludgy liquid came up and splashed them slightly but they both ignored it.

"Take that you fuckin SLUGS." screamed Cerianne. Her face was stained with tears but she gave a maniacal grin as she and Lili poured the unpleasant looking contents of the coffee cans into the pool.

"LILI! CERIANNE! Watch out!" It was Gabriel. He was being held back by a Hork-Bajir. Lili ducked at the last moment but Cerianne wasn't so lucky.

"CERI!" cried Lili. She stared for a moment at where her friend had been standing. A dracon beam shot narrowly missed her head and she gave a sort of whimper and ran from the pier, moving as if she was drunk so that she wouldn't be such an easy shot. She ran straight into Gabriel's arms. The Hork-Bajir let go of Gabriel, not anticipating this. And for a moment they just sort of stood there, holding each other. It reminded me faintly of Tobias and me.

NO! Don't think of that. Don't think of him. Don't don't DON'T.

They kissed. And then a Controller finally got some sense and a dracon beam hit Lili.

Gabriel's eyes widened. His arms were still around the air where Lili had been, as if he were holding her. It was kind of funny, this guy holding air, looking down at it as if surprised to see no one was there. Funny.

Hysterical.

The Hork-Bajir Controller grabbed Gabriel. He was, once again, surrounded.

His arms were still held out. He muttered something under his breath. I wondered if it was a prayer or something.

I let out a gasp. They were forcing him to the infestation piers. He looked at the Controllers surrounding him, and a change came over his face.

"Life without freedom is no life at all!" he screamed, the cheesy phrase said with absolute conviction. He wrenched a dracon beam out of a controller's unsuspecting grasp.

He shot himself with it. I wondered if it was merely on stun.

It wasn't.

Everything in the area was deadly silent. I was feeling empty. I had come into the battle pumped up for anything, yet I hadn't taken part in the battle, although I had warned the Yeerks. That wasn't the same.

Most of the Controllers began turning, looking for any stray human they might have missed. But they had gotten all of them. All but one.

I looked where the others weren't looking. I scanned the abandoned stairs leading out of this hell hole.

Yes. There she was. Jordan had just reached the stairs and was beginning to run up. I found Chapman in the crowd and grabbed his shoulder roughly.

"I've spotted one of the humans. I need your dracon beam."

"Yes!" he nodded quickly and handed me his dracon beam. "Usually we don't get humans attacking the pool...You must realize this is not ordinary at all, not at all, the thing is-"

But I never heard what the thing was. I took hold of the dracon beam and was at the stairs in moments. A girl with a smallish frame and dark hair was nearing the top. She sounded like she was panting or sobbing or both. She was wounded- part of her leg looked like it has been hit with a dracon beam. I ran up after her, silently as my feet would allow, while she staggered up the stairs. She reached the top of the stairwell that opened up into an exit.

I exited moments after she did. I heard someone outside in the hallway say, "God, I hope we're not too late." Jordan screamed when she saw my form behind her but I jumped her before she could run.

I couldn't do this. This was my sister, Jordan . I was the big sister, the protector. This was my little sis. I wouldn't do it.

She closed her eyes, not willing to meet the gaze of the attacker that had pinned her to the floor. When nothing happened she opened her eyes slowly. She looked up at me, and I don't know how, but she seemed to know that I wasn't a controller. Now her eyes widened in disbelief rather than terror.

"Rachel?!" she exclaimed. "But...you're dead."

Struggling to form words, a rush of confidence suddenly came over me.

"No." I said cooly. "No, I'm not dead. But you are."

And I pressed the dracon beam against her jugular and pulled the trigger.

I felt a hand on my shoulder. "Rachel?" The tone was astonished.

I whirled around in a flash and stood up

It was Cassie. She was about eighteen years old now, but there was no mistaking Cassie. I saw Marco and Ax behind her. They were staring at me.

Cassie wasn't staring. Her eyes were horrified as they went from me to the dead Jordan with blood seeping from her neck (dracon beams aren't as neat at killing as they seem to be) and then back to me again. They rested there. Cassie still seemed horrified but a look of understanding began to seep up through the horror.

The horrified look I could take. But the look of understanding I couldn't. She had realized what I was.

Before I knew it I was running. I was running out of that room and out of that building and out of that world. I was going back to where I belonged.

I had killed my sister. If I had still been an Animorph I might have been shocked. I might have been crying. I might have been weak.

I wasn't.

~~~

I laid back on my soft bed and stared at the ceiling. Whether it was a hologram ceiling or a real ceiling didn't matter. It's purpose was to be stared at. And I stared at it, like many teenagers before me. I wouldn't allow myself to reflect on the previous day's events.

Drode appeared suddenly. I sighed. "What do you want?"

"Crayak wants to speak with you," Drode said, smiling slightly. "so be ready. He'll arrive in about five minutes."

"Okay." I said. I turned over on my bed, then turned back. Drode was still standing there. "You're still here?" I rolled my eyes and waved a hand towards the door. "You may go."

"How arrogant you've become!" Drode marveled, not making any movement to the door. "I suppose Crayak doting on you has swelled your already big head a good deal." Drode grinned and lowered his voice to a whisper. "You do know Crayak will become bored with you eventually?" I narrowed my eyes. "He always does. I'm surprised you've lasted as long as you have. It's because you are young and reckless and he fancies you for it. But fifteen, twenty years from now... You'll slow down some. Your youth will fade. By then you will be a simple robot of Crayak's with none of the spunk he loves so about you. And trust me, when that time comes, Crayak will not hesitate to finish you off."

I glared. "With loss of youth comes experience. I can become an important asset to Crayak with my experience in battle, much like you."

To my surprise, Drode laughed. "Rachel, Rachel, Rachel. Still full with false grandeur of your own self I see. You know, underneath all of that recklessness you're still just a - what is it you humans say? Ah yes. A dumb blonde."

He disappeared before I could lunge at him. I watched the spot where he had been for a minute or so until suddenly,

"Rachel..." a voice said. I jumped. A boy was standing at my doorway. He was around my age, and had black tousled hair. His eyes were a bright green. There was something strange about him.

I sighed. For a second I had thought the boy was Tobias. Stop Rachel. I told myself.You can't think of him. The boy looked nothing like him anyway, although the messy hair was slightly familiar. Remembering his messy hair brought an odd feeling, and I quickly pushed the thought away.

"Who the hell are you?" I demanded.

The boy laughed, his eyes looked me over lazily. I blinked. His pupils were red.

"Crayak?" I said.

He nodded, a smirk playing on his face. I jumped up, off the bed. I should've guessed it was him. Who else would wander into my room, minus the possibility of the Drode?

"I didn't know you had a human form..." I muttered, feeling a little stupid.

"I didn't until recently...I wanted to thank you Rachel. I didn't believe you would stay loyal to me during this trip to Earth."

I shrugged. He had told me this before, when he first transported me back here. "I didn't do anything."

"You warned the Yeerks about those humans, didn't you? Without you they would have very likely been successful and over three quarters of the Yeerks in that pool would be dead now."

"Two of the girls there threw in some of that chemical stuff though." I pointed out. Crayak nodded.

"Only a hundred or so Yeerks were effected by that." he said casually, as if that was only a number. "When you saw your sisters I thought I had lost you and would have to dispose of you. Yet you recovered. And when you were face to face with Jordan I was sure you would forget your loyalty to me." He beamed at me. "But you did not. You passed the test, Rachel."

I said nothing. It was weird talking to Crayak as a human. He still radiated so much power. It was unnerving, but I remained stoic. Crayak continued.

"You are stronger than I have ever given you credit for. It's amazing to watch you in battle. You're so wild, so beautifully wild." He paused. "So many of those who are in my services are cowards, or dreadfully boring after a while. But I have never yet tired of you Rachel." I frowned slightly. Where was this leading?

"I was talking with Drode," Crayak said. "about you. And do you know what he suspects?"

I shook my head. "He suspects you are lonely. Silly really, but Drode is terribly observant even if he's not always droll."

I laughed a little. "I've never thought much of Drode's opinion. You know that."

Crayak laughed too. "Just the same he's intelligent enough, and I believe him on subjects such as these. You know, this human body is immensely attracted to you."

Well. That was subtle.

"Our relationship," he continued "has always been an interesting one. There are some things about I have wanted to find out. And I wondered if-" he stopped, paused for a moment, and then continued, never finishing his sentence. "As I've told you, I admire you Rachel. You're untamed, alive...I've never seen anything like it. And when I am in the body of a human you seem beautiful." He spoke so logically. No emotion came through in his voice. To him I was simply a puzzle, humans were a puzzle. And he was here to put the pieces together.

But his words sounded nice, despite the lack of emotion. He had said I was beautiful.

Suddenly he was kissing me hard, pressing his body against mine.

I'd like to say he forced himself on me. Really I would. But he looked up at me in mid-kiss and I nodded I think. I can't really remember what went through my head at that moment, just that the next thing I knew he had begun to unbutton my blouse, and was gently but firmly beginning to move me to my bed. . .

~~~

"So, didja have fun?"

My eyes flew open. I focused. I was...I was in the sky, standing on nothing. A distant cloud began to float by. I spun towards the source of the sound. A guy around eighteen. He looked so confidant, so grown-up, that I wouldn't have recognized him if it hadn't been for his eyes.

"Tobias?" It took a second to calculate. I didn't run to him, he didn't sweep me up in his arms and we didn't kiss passionately.

Well not for the first five seconds anyway.

It was a dream. But why did it feel so real?

After a minute Tobias set me down. He held my face in his hands and looked at me. Those dream-filled eyes had a touch of the razor-sharp glare that belonged to the hawk, and they seemed to drill into my own sharpened gaze, studying me. I blushed. I felt that in looking at me as he was, he now knew everything that I had done, all the lives I had destroyed. Some would call the things I did terrible, horrific, devastating. I never knew embarrassing could fit so well amongst words like that.

"You didn't answer my question..." Tobias said after another long minute. "Did you have fun?"

He was talking about Crayak in human form and me, of course. I blushed even more furiously. "I...I hardly felt I was there." I managed to whisper.

"Oh. So were you there when you killed Jake so that you could escape yourself? Were you there when you killed your own sister in cold blood?"

I didn't answer.

"No Rachel. The answer is no. The Rachel I love...I'm beginning to think she's gone for good."

"What about you Tobias?!" I demanded, suddenly angry. "You left me just like that. I was struggling with...well, with myself really, and suddenly poof, you were gone."

"Yes. And you proved yourself weaker then I could have ever imagined you being." He paused. "Why did you do it, Rachel? Why did you come to Crayak in the first place?"

"Tobias...without you I was nothing. Without you by my side to keep me human and to keep up my strength, living was impossible. God, you were the only one who really knew how vulnerable I was, despite my bravado, how afraid I was of becoming..." I trailed off, but Tobias said what I hadn't dared to.

"Of becoming what you are now." he finished.

I noddled bleakly through tears. I was crying? "And Tobias, look how right I was. Look how weak I am without you."

"Rachel... I'm here to give you that strength you need. I'm here for you. Okay? What do you think the whole point of this cheesy vision-of-a-dead-loved-one takeoff is?" He grinned and I laughed shakily. My first real sincere laugh in a long time.

"So is this a dream? Or some vision?"

"Like I could tell you and ruin the cliched drama of it all." He smiled. I smiled too. When Tobias had kissed me it had felt so true and real. What else mattered?

He grew stern again. "I'm here to give you strength and to tell you that I'm disappointed in you. I want you to face everything for the first time...Can you really look at yourself, here with Crayak breathing down your neck?"

"It's safe here." I said simply.

"Wow. Three words I never imagined hearing from you Rachel. You've been telling yourself you're strong all the years you've been with him. Are you strong enough to go back and face the others? Don't answer that," he added. "not yet."

I nodded but my thoughts were on other things. "Remember when you said you were always going to protect me?"

Tobias put his arms around me. And we held each other close, just as I had always wanted to do, one last time. His warmth enveloped me, and finally he murmured into my ear "I'll always be here to protect you Rachel. Remember? I'm your eyes in the skies."

I laughed softly. "Eyes in the skies." I echoed.

~~~

I sat up in bed. The sky was gone, Tobias was gone, but a bit of the warmth from his embrace lingered along with the crystal clear memory. It escaped a few minutes later, and I pulled my bath robe around myself tightly, shivering a bit.

To my relief Crayak had not returned, though he had been exhilarated once the deed was done. I guess the average hormones of a teenage guy don't change no matter what dimension you're in.

The dream or whatever it was started to become more vague. Other thoughts began to flood my mind, but Tobias's eyes remained fresh in memory, the eyes I had avoided thinking about for so long.

I remembered one of the humans fighting the Yeerks, Cerianne, and the pain in her eyes when that boy Ken was killed. I remembered the way Gabriel had stared at the air, dumbfounded, when Lili disappeared out of his arms.

But I also remembered the way that girl Lili had run into Gabriel's arms, and the tender way he had held her. I remembered all ten of the humans who had attacked the Yeerk pool, even though they were practically defenseless and knew they barely had a chance.

Would I go back to Earth for these things? Was the love and strength worth the pain of loss, the pain of failure, all the pain that came with the love and strength?

There wasn't any pain here with Crayak. There was adrenaline, there was shelter, there was no real danger in the battles as long as I had the weapons Crayak provided me with. Hell, there was even sex.

But there wasn't love.

Love. Could that really be worth all the things Crayak gave me?

And then I remembered Tobias's eyes as they looked into mine.

Yes. Love was worth it.

~~~~~

Epilogue. . .

Rachel placed a bouquet of pale violets on the dewy grass. She wished violets had some sort of sentimental meaning to her, but to be honest, she had chosen them simply because she had thought they looked nice against the vibrant fresh green grass.

On my own...Pretending he's beside me.

She had been back on Earth for a year now. A year since the Ellimist had obligingly transported her back here. All she had thought was "I want to go back home" and he had come. He was glowing- literally (as always) and figuratively. He was beaming at her. THINGS MAY NOT BE EASY, RACHEL. he warned her.

Rachel told him that yes, she knew, but that she had made her decision.

Her family, her friends outside of the Animorphs- they all believed Rachel had run away, and when an unidentifiable girl was found in a ditch everyone was sure it was Rachel. Even the Animorphs.

All alone, I walk with him till morning.

But when Cassie had seen Rachel at the Yeerk pool that day, the Ellimist was forced to tell them the whole story and what really happened to Rachel.

When Rachel had come back, those who thought her dead had their memory altered. Cassie, Marco and Ax did not. They were painstakingly distant to Rachel. Marco was the angriest, Ax was the coldest, and Cassie was the one who was the most hurt.

"I lost Tobias, my best friend, and my boyfriend all in the same twenty-four hours." she said between gritted teeth when she saw Rachel for the first time since the incident at the Yeerk pool. "I like to say that I'm generally a forgiving person, you know? But Rachel...You're a selfish b..." Marco cut her off, slipping his arms around Cassie's waist from behind her.

"Cass, don't let her get you worked up." He glared daggers at Rachel. "She's not worth the effort any more." Marco and Cassie were officially an item now, after years of fighting with the guilt of wanting to move on with each other. They were a couple Rachel had expected the least, but once they had actually gotten together they had both helped each other to survive the war.

Rachel didn't remembered the exact date when Tobias had died, so instead she celebrated his life on the day when Tobias saved her own. The day she had returned to Earth, away from Crayak. Around two months ago Cassie, Marco and Ax all forgave her, as they finally realized how hard she was working to get along, to be helpful, to be perfect, to redeem herself in their eyes anyway she could. But Rachel still wasn't sure if she could ever forgive herself even though she had loyally fought the Yeerks with them since she had been back. Things never ran as smoothly without Jake, and the others told her that the group had broken up several times due to arguments, but always got back together a week later.

Without him I feel his arms around me.

It was hard for Rachel at first- being back in battle, and for a while she was afraid that Crayak would get her there, where she was most vulnerable to that adrenaline rush. But he never came. There was only the fear there to haunt her.

And a week and a half ago the war ended.

They had won.

The Yeerks had had enough. Their belief that the Animorphs would "win the battle but lose the war" was disproved. All the battles that the Animorphs had won added up, and for now Earth was more trouble than it was worth. For now.

The day after the Yeerks began to leave the Andalites came. "Irony is a constant visitor in my life." grumbled Rachel as she stared down at the flowers. She still didn't like the Andalites, but she had to admit, they had worked quickly over the week, and with their slightly clumsy memory wipers they controlled the chaos, wiping away all memories of the Yeerks. They wanted to wipe the memory of Prince Elfangor away from the Animorphs so that his name would not be damaged, but all the Animorphs refused. Ax had told the Andalites that he was going to stay to ward back the Yeerks, but Cassie had told Rachel she knew that he just didn't want to leave Earth so soon.

Rachel and Ax had grown closer, though their relationship was strictly platonic. They would talk about Tobias often. Since Rachel had kept Tobias and Jake and Jordan out of her mind, once she let their memories free it was like she was experiencing the loss all over again. It was the most painful time she could remember. But she had dealt. She was becoming strong again.

Rachel had come to what she had dubbed "Tobias's Cliff" alone. She thought of it as his memorial- the top of the cliff led to a beautiful view of bright blue sky, with white patches of clouds here and there. The wind blew about her hair pleasantly.

Rachel laid back on the grass, and crossing her arms behind her head for a pillow she stared up at the endless blue sky that paraded onward across her line of vision. She saw what was hardly more than a dot circling upward and gave a little cry. A ray of sun had glinted strongly in the dot's direction and Rachel spotted it's rust red tail. She smiled despite the tears she felt beginning to run down her cheeks.

And when I lose my way I close my eyes and he has found me.

"My eyes in the skies." Rachel told herself softly as the Red-tailed hawk rose up on a thermal, disappearing from view.

It was going to be a wonderful day for flying.

~the end~ My happy Post-fic Thanks and disclaimer: Thanks to all the people who were mentioned in this fic- you know who you are. ;) (Yeerks watch Tom Green!). Lots of thanks to my (dun dun dun) Offical Betas, Amalin and Forlay. I don't own Animorphs or Les Mis's song On My Own, so please don't sue the Sad Broke Child © . Thank you.
Email: SkySorceress@hotmail.com