A/N: This one I went into a quick revision on towards the end, because I REALLY needed to start the MatoroxHahli factor in this story… This one's for all my loyal readers, to show that you're one of the things I'm thankful for, both as friends AND as faithful reviewers…

Disclaimer: I only own Zephyr, Aurora, and Soot.

Chapter 7: A Dark Turn of Events and Love Kindled for Two Pairs

That night, Matoro's mind was plunged into a nightmare.

He found himself chained to a large slab of obsidian that stood upright. On either side of the slab was a large torch filled with black flames, the stand and holder of each made of millenia-old bones. In front of him was an immense black crystal glowing faintly red, deep crimson cracks forming a spiderweb over the front of it. Then he saw the silhouette of the being trapped inside.

It was the exact opposite of him.

It was pure black - no silver, no secondary colors - with leathery bat-like wings, as well as a ring of metal spikes at the base of its neck. It emanated an aura that disturbed Matoro greatly - greed, bloodlust, cunning, malice, spite, ego….

… Pure evil.

Suddenly Matoro heard the sound of a door opening behind him. A series of metallic taps was heard, the noise echoing off the walls of the large chamber as the one who'd entered came closer. A feminine laugh reached his ears as they stepped into the ruby light of the crystal, revealing it to be Roodaka. She looked up at him with a triumphant smirk, though the reason remained unknown to him.

"So much for you being difficult to catch. We found your dreamself simply drifting near here and dragged it in without you even noticing!" she proclaimed, her smirk widening. One claw reached out to trace his cheekbone and he flinched away as best he could, remembering the Vortixx's history of temptation.

Roodaka smirked at this, then turned away and began walking towards the crystal, reaching out and digging her taloned fingers into the cracks. The evil aura increased as she yanked a shard loose, her eyes glinting as she spoke. "My new master will soon have control of you… Teridax's legacy shall live on!"

What the heck does she mean by that?

Matoro's thoughts were cut short as Roodaka, quite suddenly, plunged the shard into his chest, right next to his heartlight.

His head snapped back and he screamed in pain, feeling the shard infect his bloodstream. It felt like millions of blue-hot knives had pierced his skin and heart, burning an eternal brand onto him. He saw a tremor shake the crystal and cracks spread up and down it before it shattered, its former prisoner taking to the air as its eyes, like burning stars on the brink of death, splotched with red and black, opened and stared balefully into his own…

He was home again, laying in his bed. Hahli was trying to wake him, Zephyr watching worriedly at his side. The Turaga stood nearby, also worried, and the rest of the team was watching from the doorway with concern.

His heartlight felt more erratic and weak than if he'd run a marathon after a triple-shot espresso, and sweat beaded his body, making his wings feel clumsy and heavy. His chest felt tight - suffocatingly so - and as he tried to push himself upright, his arms trembled and gave way beneath him. Every breath he took rattled and rasped worse than the boughs of a frozen hemlock in a winter gale.

A warm drink was pressed into his hands, bringing back the feeling in them. He felt dazed, unable to recognize or understand the happenings around him, trying to simply find solid ground for his thoughts, to steady his mind and make sense of everything.

A trickle of common sense found him and he took a sip of the still-warm drink. It had a faint taste of vanilla with a bit of mint as well, sweetened ever-so-slightly… It did the trick, though, and his chest loosened, allowing his breathing to level out. His mind began to acknowledge voices around him and could actually make sense of them now.

"…good thing Zephyr woke us all up…"

"…looked like he was having a seizure…"

"…all that from a nightmare…"

"…could've been a vision…"

"…ought to ask him…"

"…he's been through enough tonight as it is…"

"…the longer we wait, the less info we get…"

"…No. Let him sleep."

He took a larger gulp of the drink and felt his heartlight steady itself, finally managing to make his hands stop trembling. He felt Zephyr drop a moth onto his forehead in an effort to make him feel better and sighed, but stroked Zephyr's eye ridge all the same. After all, it was the thought that counted!

He felt a hand on his cheek and, looking up from the mug, found it to be that of Hahli. She had an expression of concern, and was watching him, unsure whether or not he was okay.

"I'm fine…"

"You've fooled us enough times into thinking that when you weren't."

He sighed again. She did have a point.

Without explanation, he felt Hahli gently scratch along his jawline, then just below it. That felt… nice… Honestly, it was quite relaxing - soothing, even - and soon, he felt himself leaning into her hand, the caress relaxing him to the point where his eyes were closed and a gentle smile was tugging at the corners of his mouth. Then her hand went a few inches lower… and all he knew was bliss.

Pure and utter bliss.

His eyes rolled back and his brows relaxed, and, without warning, the purr every ice Toa has once they become just that - a Toa - found its way through his vocal chords and let itself be known, and known well. It was easy to hear, the sound similar to that of an idling chopper-type motorcycle mixed with a warble and the cooing of a pigeon, quite loud for a purr indeed. Loud to the point Hahli could feel the vibrations of it through her hand. Loud to the point where Ehrye, up to no good (though that was no surprise) and passing by on the street outside, could faintly hear it and paused to look around for its source, before shaking his head bewilderedly and continuing on his troublemaking way.

Hahli couldn't believe it. Was this all something new from him being a Great Spirit? Was he this relaxed just from her scratching that particular spot, or was it because it was her scratching it that he relaxed that much? He was leaning towards her to the point that his head was basically on her shoulder, and his feathers - both on his neck and wings - were "fluffed," the mug of concealed sleeping draught having fallen from his hands and spilled onto the floor. She noticed a feather in his "mane" that seemed somewhat loose, and, still continuing her scratching, gently reached over and slid it free, the feather having been ready to fall out anyway. His purr seemed to increase in volume slightly, and, not thinking any harm of it, she continued. She didn't know it, but for a Great Spirit, it was their lifemate that would help preen their feathers, pulling out ones that were ready to molt and pulling off the keratin sheathes of pinfeathers that had finished developing. So, preening was, in a sense, a very tender and, in a way, intimate thing for a Great Spirit to let someone do for them - it meant they had a very special place in that Great Spirit's heart. Thus, Hahli preening Matoro was bringing the two even closer together. Between the two, a spark of love had ignited.

Looking over at the Turaga, Hahli was surprised to see that Nuju actually had taken a video camera out and was recording the happenings.

"How long ago did you start recording?" she asked in a whisper, not wishing to wake Matoro, who had fallen asleep with his head on her shoulder and his face buried in her neck, still purring nonstop.

"When he first started relaxing with your help." Nuju replied, also in a hushed tone, "I never want to forget this… and it's good blackmail." He slightly smirked at the last point.

Hahli sighed and shook her head slightly, but then yawned as she realized how tired she, too, was. Her legs were complaining quite noticeably about being cramped from standing so long, and Nokama, noticing this, made Nuju turn off the camera and brought a comfortable chair over for Hahli to sit on ("I believe that we all can agree on it; He's going to need you to stay with him tonight."), then bade her good night and made sure the other Turaga and the rest of the Inika left as well, leaving a Toa, a Great Spirit, and two Kewa falcons alone in the house.

Looking over at Zephyr and Aurora, Hahli was surprised to see that the two falcons were both snuggled together in the nest Zephyr had made (mentioned in Chapter 5) and actually sharing a few pieces of meat. She shook her head and looked back at Matoro again, then, without thinking, bent her head down and kissed him on the cheek. He muttered something in his sleep and buried his face in her neck even more, causing a faint giggle to escape Hahli. She yawned once more, then noticed something lying on the headboard of Matoro's bed. Reaching out, she picked it up and brought it towards her for a closer look. An odd amulet depicting two Kewa falcons of blue and white with a rose of similar colors held between them was what her sight revealed, and, confused as to what it was from or for, she looked back down at Matoro. At the moment, the still-purring Great Spirit could offer no answers, still asleep with his face buried in her neck. She sighed and held onto the strange pendant. She'd just have to ask him in the morning.

It was as she fell asleep that she noticed a comforting scent emanating from Matoro; it brought to mind pine trees laden with snow, riding on the back of a winter wind, the gentle thaw of spring. That was the last she thought of before she dreamed…

••••••••

As Nuparu walked across the sand of the desert to return home, a faint mewl reached his ears and he cast his gaze about in search of the source. At first all he saw were the familiar dunes of his "home turf," but then he noticed a small patch of black slowly approaching him. Upon closer inspection, it proved to be a Muaka cub, lost and far from home. Barely even a week old, by the looks of it. It pawed his foot and, before he could stop it, curled up atop it and fell asleep.

Well… I guess I'm camping out tonight…