Authors Note: This is my first fanfic :) I've been eyeing this site for a while, and finally decided to write my own story, admittedly in one of the less visited archives. The Companions Quartet was one of my favorite series a couple years ago and I've enjoyed paying homage to it by revisiting its world. This fic takes place a couple years after The Chimera's Curse but before Water Thief (if you haven't read that, I recommend it; though only available as an eBook or from an exclusive publisher, it's a good read) and ended up being ConniexCol. This fanfiction is going to be told partially in flashbacks, as indicated by the italics. So now, on with the story!
Darkness in her soul. Darkness transformed into pure, light, and good—for the moment. She maintained a fair grasp on the evil, but lived in fear of it gaining control.
Connie tried to be an optimist; she tried to think of the darkness as a 'talent', a 'gift', but suspected it was truly a curse. At fourteen years of age, it was difficult to think rationally.
How to tell someone what she was? Especially Col. Connie loved him beyond belief and knew it wrong to hold back information, but was scared he'd label her as a freak and break off their budding connection. The longer she concealed her secret, the harder it became to reveal it.
And so four years passed. Already eighteen, Connie was invited to lead the Society, and accepted. Her time spent away from Hescombe cause Col to break up with her, saying she was "too distant" and "didn't have any spare time."
"Connie, it's not working." Col stood with his arms crossed outside No. 5 Shaker Row.
"Sorry, what was that?" Connie asked absently, stroking Madame Cresson.
"I'm breaking up with you." He stated bluntly.
Connie looked up, her eyes wide. "What?"
"It's not working! You're so…distant all the time! When was the last time we had a date or even hung out together? You're too busy off playing the leader with the Trustees to have any spare time for me!"
"I'm sorry Col…I'll do better, I promise…" Connie's voice trailed off.
"You have a phone. Maybe you should actually use it, but it's too late now. You don't care, so neither should I. Bye Connie. It was nice while it lasted," he tossed over his shoulder as he strode off and mounted his motorcycle.
Connie swayed, pale and trembling, attempting to keep her footing. Col was right; it was her fault.
She couldn't begrudge him his arguments. They were true. Nonetheless, Connie's heart was broken, though relieved to feel a bit less guilty about her secret.
Healing wasn't easy to do, though, when you'd loved a person for so long. Especially when said person began dating again less than a month after their awful break-up. Especially when said person began dating Shirley.
"Guess who my new boyfriend is?" Shirley trilled as she sailed into the Society meeting.
"Who?" asked Connie and Jessica, disinterestedly.
"Col!" she squealed. "He finally agreed to go out with me! He's soooo hot…I love his eyes! And have you seen his muscles? My god, so sexy…" Shirley faded into thought, fanning herself.
Connie resolutely stared forward.
Heart obliterated to pieces, the universal left the country to travel abroad, remembering Great-Aunt Godiva's strategy to forget pain. However, she remained in contact with the Trustees and Society through them but requested a vacation which the Trustees respectfully granted, understanding Connie's fragmented state of mind.
"…So can I take a vacation please?" Connie finished her diatribe, massaging her temples.
The Trustees exchanged glances. "Of course, Connie," Kinga kindly stated. "We understand the stress and pressure of such a high position. Take as much time as you need."
As Connie forced a smile and left, Eagle-Child addressed Kinga. "Are you sure that was wise? She may need the Society in this troubled time of hers."
"She may," Kinga acknowledged. "But she needs time to herself, as I'm sure we can all understand."
Spending her time in a foreign country without any contact with anything familiar may not have been a wise idea. She was much more susceptible to the monster inside her with her defenses emotionally weakened, and one dark night, the monster awoke…
Connie fell asleep angry, her thoughts teeming with hate. To hell with Col. To hell with herself, the ugly, weird, monstrous girl. Her mental ocean became choppy and rough, drowning all life that existed until the girl in white appeared and with a flick of her wrist, turned the silver water into a midnight indigo.
Connie's eyes opened suddenly. Her mouth twisted in a deranged smirk that wasn't her own as acid yellow eyes burned instead of mismatched green and brown. Rising from bed, she stretched, flexed, and walked out the door. Once outside, she inhaled…exhaled…and began her work.
Forks of lightning flashed. Thunder roared. Cloud cover and fog rushed in, blanketing the area. Basketball sized hail drops fell, deadly and dangerous. A volcano began grumbling nearby, and out at sea, a whirlpool was forming. The ground began shaking from all the (un)natural events, and an earthquake began.
Connie closed her eyes and smiled dreamily. How glorious to hear screams and know she was the cause of it, the power source. She was in control. She was the most powerful being on Earth.
Sylphs in the nearby area began to gather around Connie, summoned by the vortex of fierce winds around her. One was brave enough to attempt an encounter but was flung away by the sheer amount of energy emitting from the universal. It recognized the young woman, though, and determined to awake her, formed a group. Together, they shocked the girl with yellow eyes awake as their bond forced her into the shape of a sylph.
Connie came to abruptly in a body not her own. She recognized the flowing body of a wind sylph and changed back, though it drained the last of her energy.
Glancing upward, Connie spotted Wisp, Omar's companion, flying above. And if Wisp was here, Omar must be, she thought.
As if on cue, Omar stepped out of the shadows. "Hello there, Connie. That was…absolutely amazing." He solemnly stated, eyes shining with admiration.
Connie furrowed her eyes in confusion and disgust. How could he find such a disaster amazing?
"Not the storm," he quickly amended. "But changing shape…amazing," he repeated.
Saved by Omar and his companion, gratitude turned to affection which turned to need. He alone knew who (or what) she was but accepted and loved her anyways. He asked for a relationship-she contemplated but denied. Mentally, she was burnt and scarred, but Omar brought her pleasure, in more ways than one; however, she could never shake the thought of Col from her mind.
"Can I…?" Omar whispered his breath hot in Connie's ear.
She shivered, wanting to say yes, but knowing she'd never forgive herself.
Omar met her eyes and seeing the resolve there, gave up. They stayed in the darkness without speaking until Omar broke the silence.
"You still love him, don't you."
She spent a year in the Amazonian rain forest with Omar, beating down Kullervo's presence, until the Society began to get antsy with the Universal's absence. She bid Omar farewell, told him that whatever they had was over, and left for England without any regrets.
Omar waited with Connie outside the airport until she felt composed enough to enter it.
"Are you sure you want to go? You could stay here, y'know. Stay with me. I love you…" Omar's voice held a small amount of meaningless hope.
"Omar…" Connie's voice caught in her throat and sniffed to hold back tears. "I know. And I'll miss you…but I don't love you."
He smiled, but there wasn't any joy in it. "I know. Bon voyage, Connie."
"Goodbye," she whispered, and stiffening her spine, marched into the airport wheeling her luggage.
That is, she didn't have any regrets until she spotted Shirley's engagement ring. Huge, glistening, gorgeous—and the most terrible thing Connie had ever seen. Shirley pranced it about, showing it off to anyone and everyone, crowing on and on about the wedding and her plans for it. The absence of Col by her side so often peaked Connie's curiosity and she tracked him down to inquire after him.
She found him with Mags.
"Hey, Col. What's new?"
Not looking at her, he replied," Not much. Engaged, that's all." There was a bitter twist to his words.
Connie paused, thinking through her words carefully and asked before losing her nerve, "Do you really love her?"
Col looked at her, then to the horizon. His hand brushing Mags stilled. "I promised to marry her; what does love matter now?"
His response wasn't encouraging. Obviously, he was going to go through with the wedding, whether he had feelings for her or not.
A miserable year passed as Connie celebrated her twentieth birthday and dreaded the impending wedding, though she got a rather excellent piece of birthday news later that turned her mood around.
Connie sat at the dining room table trying to smile while Evelyn, Mack, Hugh, and Simon sang the birthday song; halfway through, the door banged open and a gust of wind blew the candles out on her cake.
"Oh, I'm so sorry!" the figure in the door cried out.
Recognizing the voice, Connie smiled more freely. "It's alright Jess, come in."
Jessica grinned and slid into a chair at the table. "I just came over to tell you that Shirley broke up with Col and called off the wedding, but now that I'm here, can I have some cake?"
A grin spread across Connie's face and she exclaimed," Of course!"
The candles were relit and the song resung with exuberance.
Connie closed her eyes, blew, and made a wish.
Col went to America after that, perhaps trying to escape Shirley's claws. Though every molecule of Connie urged her to go after him, she let him be, thinking it best if he came to her.
It was the Trustees who intertwined their lives together again. Kira had been diagnosed with cancer and was severely ill. Windfoal temporarily resigned from her position and suggested Col and Skylark be elected as the Two-Four representatives. An emergency meeting of the Trustees in London was thus where Connie next saw Col and Skylark. The meeting was rather awkward, what with the tension between Connie and Col, so Connie swore to be professional from then on, a promise she completely broke at the Mastersons' Christmas party.
The Mastersons were holding their annual party for Society members, and requested the presence of the Trustees. As Connie wished to catch up with her friends after her year abroad, she came, as did Col, who was trying to mend his relationship with the Mastersons.
To try to distract herself from Col's presence at the party, Connie downed several glasses of champagne. She was nearly twenty-one after all. The champagne loosened her tongue, and she mingled among the guests unselfconsciously. All of a sudden, she bumped into Col.
"Hey there, hot stuff," she giggled, running a hand down Col's chest.
Col smelled the alcohol on her breath and immediately suspected something. "Connie, are you drunk?"
"Maybe," she said coyly, fluttering her eyelashes.
Col groaned, running a hand through his hair. "Here, come outside with me. We don't want you doing anything you'll regret."
Once outside, they settled onto the porch. The pounding music beat and laughter was still clearly audible, but muted.
Abruptly, Connie changed into a dragon.
"What the…?" Col rubbed his eyes, sure he was hallucinating.
Connie paddled her feet and breathed fire before transitioning back to normal. She looked pleased with herself.
"What do you think?" she asked.
"I think…I think it's bloody brilliant, Connie! Why'd you never tell me you could do that?!"
"Dunno." Connie shrugged. Without warning, she leaned over and kissed him hard, pulling a leg over and straddling him.
Col pushed her off him. "Erm…not that I'm complaining, Connie…but you're drunk."
"So, you're not going to remember this."
"Well then," kissing him again, "you'll just have to," another kiss, "remind me."
The next morning, Connie woke deliriously happy. Col saw what she was and thought it beautiful, though she'd shown him in a moment of weakness. Was he touched in the head? But when he asked for a second chance, she eagerly granted it.
Kira mysteriously recovered after that and resumed her position as Trustee, which Col didn't challenge. Connie suspected that her 'illness' had been a ploy to get Col and her back together, but was so happy she didn't care at all.
Col started pressuring her to tell the Trustees her closest secret, the only flaw in their relationship. She finally caved when he told her he'd be by her side the whole time. So it was with a heavy heart and sense of foreboding that Connie called a Society meeting at Tintagel.
It was ten o'clock at night when the entire European branch met at Tintagel. The news had spread that it was the Universal's summons and everyone had wanted to attend, as the Universal had been rather scarce lately.
Connie faced the crowd, trembling. God, how had she let Col talk her into this? She could've continued lying for the rest of her life; at the moment, that seemed preferable to facing this mass gathering. What would she say? Were they expecting some kind of eloquent speech?
She glanced at Col anxiously with a pale face, squeezing his hand until her knuckles turned white. Understanding her nerves, he squeezed back, boosting her confidence just by being there.
Figuring she'd better use this rush of adrenaline to her aid, Connie cleared her throat. "Ahem?"
It was amazing how quickly the crowd quieted, probably because of their respect for her. Not many saviors of the human species were around these days.
Connie continued. "So, erm, I called you all here tonight for a reason. You see, um, well, I haven't …er…been completely honest with you lot."
A grumbling broke out in the crowd. Connie could just imagine what they were saying about her. Were the universals reverting to their true lying, secretive nature?
She broke out in a cold sweat. "Col, I can't do this!"
Holding her close, he whispered, "Of course you can. You're the Universal. You defeated Kullervo."
"Yes, but…it's like a mob out there!"
Col laughed scornfully. "You're overreacting. They don't have torches and pitchforks yet."
Connie batted his arm but found herself smiling. Clearing her throat again, she announced, "Attention please!" Pressing forward, she held her head high. "I'm sure you all have heard of the events of seven years ago, when I defeated Kullervo. You all celebrated, of course, but I'm not quite sure if you ever heard of the consequences of his defeat."
"Of course we have!" A large, rather belligerent man bellowed out from the crowd. "The weather giants betrayed the Society! We all know that!"
"Not that," Connie reprimanded patiently. "I'm talking about something more…personal." The crowd went silent. "You see, I did defeat Kullervo. But he hasn't yet left this Earth."
Immediately, the Society members began yelling insults about a job only half-done, and how could she have let such a malevolent being continue to exist.
Silently swearing in her mind, Connie realized she could've phrased that much more effectively, a sentiment shared by Col.
Breathing in deeply, Connie screamed," EXCUSE ME! I'M NOT DONE YET!" Again, the people went still, as the Universal was normally so quiet and gently. "He hasn't left this Earth…" Connie gulped. "Because he lives in me." The crowd went ominously silent. "You see…I took over his mind. He had nowhere to go. And I now have some of his powers."
Figuring there was no time like the present to demonstrate, Connie held her arms outstretched and transformed into a beautiful, pearly pegasus.
Pandemonium ensued. Surprisingly, it was Dr. Brock who managed to quiet the riot.
"EVERYONE! THIS IS A SUPRISING DEVELOPMENT, BUT IS IT REALLY NECESSARY TO BERATE THE UNIVERSAL? THERE WAS NO WAY TO PREDICT THIS OUTCOME AND SHE HAS STRIVED TO SERVE US TO THE BEST OF HER ABILITY. IT IS FOOLISH AND IGNORANT OF YOU TO FIND THIS UNNATURAL AND DISGUSTING. IF YOU FEEL THIS WAY ABOUT HER, WHAT DO YOU FEEL ABOUT YOUR FELLOW COMPANIONS?" Dr. Brock looked around, and exclaimed passionately," 'Tis beautiful what she's become! She's unique! One of a kind!" Eyes searching out Connie's, he winked and quipped," Of course, we've always known that."
The night then passed by as a blur. Friends came to congratulate her and joke about it, as the gathering turned into a party. The Sea Snakes danced in their sinuous dance line to the echoing beat of the Elementals music. High Flyers scattered confetti and Two-Fours frolicked about on the ground.
But the one thing that really stuck in her mind was Rat's last remark to her.
Connie couldn't remember the last time she'd felt this joyous. Everyone was there for her and loved her and supported her—it was the best twenty-first birthday present ever.
As Connie walked down the aisle with a smile, she thought she might have a new favorite memory soon. Dressed in a simple flowing white gown with fitted bodice and puffy veil, her long hair cascading down her back, she was the very embodiment of true beauty. Clutching her father's arm, she caught glimpses of Anneena and Rat, Jane, Evelyn and Mack, Dr. Brock and Godiva, Great-Uncle Hugh, Simon, Jessica and Aran, Liam, and the Khalids, but her eyes were trained solely on Col.
In a handsome tux, he stood waiting for her with that half-grin he wore so often. He took her breath away, making her feel like she was staring at an angel. As her father handed her off and faded into the crowd with a proud smile, the priest began to announce the vows.
Barely listening except to murmur a thing here and there, the world came into focus as Connie realized it was her time to say 'I do'.
"I do," she announced, love streaming through her eyes and voice.
"I do," Col repeated, eyes bright and alert.
"You may kiss the bride," the ancient wizened priest intoned as Col flashed a mischievous smile and proceeded to thoroughly make out with his wife in front of the audience and congregation.
At midnight, Connie lay curled up in Col's arms as they star-gazed on the Hescombe beach.
"The stars are nice tonight," Col commented, watching a shooting star.
"Mhmm…" Connie uttered, her mind on other things. "It all started here, did y'know? I met Scark here…was that really ten years ago? And Dr. Brock saw me, and Mr. Coddrington assessed me…"
"The idiot," interjected Col.
Connie smiled affectionately at him. "And I had my first encounter with the Sirens and met the Trustees and became part of the Society…and I defeated Kullervo…" her voice faded off as she watched a shooting star. "Those simple events caused so many aftershocks. I wish I could undo the last seven years."
"D'you really?" Col twisted around, arching an eyebrow in surprise.
"Y-no. No." She amended firmly. "I like life the way it is now. You and me. Together forever. The way it should be." Connie smiled as she pecked Col's cheek lightly and snuggled closer.
"Connie, you're weird and always have been. But I love that about you. I love everything about you with all my heart," Col said passionately as he drew her in for a longer kiss.
"I love you. Always," Connie whispered as they broke apart.
The couple, seen only as silhouettes, kissed and exalted in their love for each other underneath the sparkling starry night. Their happy ending had finally come.
A/N: And that's a wrap! Hope you enjoyed it :) If you've got any suggestions for future fanfics, please PM me! And reviews are always appreciated, especially constructive criticism.