I always felt that "Ptolemy's Gate" ended too abruptly, without real insight into Kitty's feelings after she lost Nathaniel. I hope someone will like my vision of what happened later.
Kitty takes her time. She spends a month regaining her strength and carefully avoiding any thoughts of either Bartimaeus or Nathaniel.
London is recovering slowly, but little by little, commoners and magicians are finding balance of the dual government. Piper keeps asking her to join them, but Kitty keeps refusing, and as soon as all the troops return home from America, she departs for Bruges. Jacob is more than delighted to see her, and it's easier not to think about Nathaniel there, it's easier to close that door and pretend she doesn't care what happened to Bartimaeus after the Glass Palace collapsed.
Still, all the while there's a dull ache inside her, a constant reminder that even though the hybrids are no more, and commoners won't be repressed ever again, things are not alright. She can pretend all she likes, but there's no closure for her.
Six months later, Kitty arrives in Egypt, and the closer she is to where the great library of Alexandria used to be, the harder it is to block out Nathaniel's last words to her. „See you later, Kitty."
There is only one way to find out if he wanted to tell her anything else, and she's reluctant to even try. If Bartimaeus is dead, all hope is gone, and Kitty finds it hard to accept even the possibility of it. She hates herself for being so weak, for not just summoning him and getting it over with, but she can't fight her indecision no matter how hard she tries.
She'd rather have hope than have nothing at all.
The dawn is breaking over the desert when Kitty draws two pentacles in the sand, lights the incense and finally does the summoning. One part of her expects a light show, smoke and a hideous face to appear in the other pentacle, and the other part expects another heartbreak.
When Bartimaeus comes, she almost wishes that he hadn't; the shock of it is too great, his form too unexpected. Where the pentacle was empty a second ago, Nathaniel stands now, looking at her with a calm smile on his face.
„Hello, Kitty", he says, and although Kitty knows it's not him (it will never be him again), she firmly refuses to acknowledge it.
„Hello", she whispers. „I've missed you", she tells him, barely keeping in everything else she wants to say. It hurts so much. Why did you leave me?
I would've loved you.
She doesn't let herself think about what she's about to do; she takes a deep breath and steps out of her pentacle and into his. For a second there's a surprised look on Nathaniel's face that's not really him, but then his arms pull her against him and she closes her eyes, tears spilling down her cheeks for the first time since the night he died.
It takes her a long time to compose herself, but somehow, she does, and she pulls away slowly, looking up at his eyes. There are galaxies hidden in those eyes, and she realizes she never noticed before. There's also something alien in their depths, something you can only see out of the corner of your eye, and Kitty can't pretend anymore.
„Thanks", she says and takes a step back.
„For what?" He asks, that smile making her almost breathless with pain. Her hand is still in his and she doesn't want to let go, doesn't want to stop looking at his face even though she knows it only looks like Nathaniel's.
„For not ripping me apart just now, Bart-„
„Shhh", he shushes her gently and pulls her down to sit on the warm sand. „Don't do this to yourself. Not so soon."
Kitty wants to be the voice of reason, wants to face the world the way it is, hard and hurtful, but whatever this is, whatever Bartimaeus is offering is too tempting to resist, so she goes along with it.
She looks at him from under her eyelashes, wishing that they could've been just a boy and a girl, with no magic and secrets and plots. She's been wishing for that for a long time.
„I thought you'd dye your hair", he says, and she shakes her head.
„I don't want to. It's a reminder of what happened even when I do my best to forget."
„Why would you want a reminder of… that?" He asks, and he's so good, so believable that it's hard for Kitty to think straight. All this feels more like a dream than it does reality.
„You know why."
„I do." Bartimaeus looks like Ptolemy again, and she grasps his brown fingers tightly, shaking her head.
„No, please, just a little bit longer. He never said goodbye."
Kitty looks up and Nathaniel's eyes hold her, hold her so tight she can't more, doesn't want to move or breathe or think. The pain is raw in her chest because she can almost see an alternative future, the one where he defeats Nouda and lives, the one where they are amazing together, and she is never alone again.
„I loved you, Kitty Jones, and I'm sorry I didn't tell you. You needed to get out, and I was afraid of your reply," he says, and Kitty smiles.
„I wouldn't have said a word", she says and presses her lips against his. Time ceases to exist and she feels right again, her body finally accepting the Earth's limitations, her soul finally ready to heal.
„Goodbye, Kitty", Nathaniel whispers against her ear and she closes her eyes, squeezing his fingers one last time before she lets go, stands up and looks down at Bartimaeus, looking like Ptolemy again.
„You really loved him, didn't you?" She teases, hoping that he knows how much this means to her.
„Well, I wouldn't use such a strong word-„
„Oh shut up, you know you did. You wouldn't do this otherwise", Kitty says sharply and he doesn't argue.
„He wanted me to say hello to you. I couldn't see any reason why wouldn't he do so himself."
„Just don't summon me again, okay? And if you could dissuade other magicians from doing it, I'd be ever so grateful." He stands up and looks at her expectantly.
„You have my word." Kitty goes back into her pentacle and dismisses him, looking out across the empty desert for a long time, a serene smile on her face.
When she gets back to London, she does her best to destroy any mention of Bartimaeus in as many books as she can get her hands on. The world is big, and there are magicians everywhere, so it would be foolish to think that a few books will make a difference, and yet, she's hoping against hope no one will ever summon him again.
Three hours before she's supposed to marry Jacob, Kitty locks herself in the spare bedroom, draws two pentagrams on the floor and summons Bartimaeus. She knows it's madness, she knows it's wrong in quite a few ways, but she does it anyway.
It's been six years since she stood in the sand and let him go, and she can't believe her eyes when he sees him appearing, looking like Nathaniel again. Maybe a part of her counted on it (that's why you summoned him, silly girl), but it still throws her.
„You promised, Kitty", he says, but he doesn't change; he's looking at her with Nathaniel's eyes and suddenly, time means nothing, and Kitty can't believe she waited for so long to see him again.
„I know, and I'm sorry", she says softly, and he shakes his head in time with her words.
„We both know you're not, but you're forgiven. I'm sort of glad it's you and not somebody else."
„I just had to see you", she says, and takes off her coat. Underneath it is her wedding dress, and something very like jealousy flashes across his face, and then it's gone.
„You're getting married?"
„In a few hours", she shrugs, and Nathaniel frowns.
„Why would you want to see me before your wedding?" The question comes out of Nathaniel's mouth, but it's Bartimaeus asking, and it almost breaks her heart.
She likes to think Nathaniel would understand, if he were really here.
„Because it baffles me that even though I love Jacob, even though you died years ago and I barely knew you, I still feel like we're not done yet. You came back to life to say goodbye, and it sounded more like hello."
„So you'll keep summoning me whenever you feel like it?"
„I always feel like it. I think about you more often than I should, and I just can't leave you behind. I wish I could, but I can't."
„You're marrying Jacob. I'd say that's putting me behind you", he says softly, and she gathers her skirt and steps into his pentacle, wondering briefly if she's got a death wish, and if Bartimaeus will tear her apart looking like the boy she can't not love.
Apparently, not today. She runs her finger down the side of his face and smiles.
„We have to stop meeting like this."
„You can stop summoning me", he says, entwining his long fingers with hers. There's no conviction in his words and she can't make herself ask him why does he put up with her.
„I summoned you twice in six years."
„Three times", Bartimaeus argues, and she giggles.
„I also worked pretty hard to remove your name from quite a few books, so I think I'm entitled to a short summoning now and again."
Nathaniel smiles, but it doesn't reach his eyes. „How did you know it was safe to leave your pentacle?"
„I didn't", Kitty says, feeling foolish and free at the same time. If he wanted to kill her, she'd be dead already.
„We're quite a pair, aren't we?" He asks and she nods, pecking him on the cheek before she goes back into her pentacle and releases him.
Sometimes she wishes she could slow down time, capture little moments with Jacob and their babies, and call them back every time Nathaniel invades her mind. She always thought that the older she got, the less she'd think about him, but it's not so. If anything, she sees him in her mind's eye clearer than ever, but it's not confusing anymore, it doesn't hurt like it used to.
She learned to live with it. He's like a shadow, but not sinister or unpleasant. Not really like a guardian angel because she doesn't believe in them, and she always, always believes in him.
Jacob doesn't know anything about her feelings toward Nathaniel, and it's not like she's cheating on him, even if she summons Bartimaeus every few years and holds hands with Nathaniel.
Sometimes she kisses him, but that doesn't count as cheating either because she's not really kissing Nathaniel, and Bartimaeus is not even human, and she doesn't love him like that. There's a possibility Jacob wouldn't see it that way, but there's no way he'll ever find out, and she'll never tell.
A few days after her 57th birthday, her third grandchild is born, and Bartimaeus doesn't come when she tries to summon him. She keeps trying again once a month for years, but he never comes.
She never thought anything would hurt more than laying on that burned grass, watching tiny flecks of glass falling all around her like frost, knowing without a shadow of a doubt that Nathaniel is gone, and yet, this does. This is like loosing him all over again, and that's how she knows that no matter how many times she says goodbye to him, it will never be final, it would be just an inverted hello.
She can't help wishing for one more goodbye, one more stolen kiss, one more smile.