Chapter 1

I found it difficult to gather my thoughts as I sat smoking my cigarette in the silence. The reason was, ironically, the fact that the silence was so loud. I heard once that scientists had discovered that, by broadcasting the exact opposite of a sound, you could make it so that no sound was actually heard. That's what this silence was, it was anti-sound, it was the opposite of a million, shouted conversations at once in a tiny prison cell, it was loud. I gave up the impossible task of thinking in that silence, stubbed out my cigarette, and sat back in my chair so that I could survey the room.

The others were all here, except for the two who were representing us in council. Even with Gallagher and Hans gone, I still believe that this was the first time this many of us had been in one room in years, since we had last been in high school, in fact. Now here we all sat, years older... but still nowhere near as old as we felt. I reached, almost without thinking, in to my breast pocket and fished out another cigarette, glad that I did not have to step out into the cold New England winter to allow myself this attempt to relax.

After lighting my smoke, I leaned even farther back in my chair and surveyed the room. I felt the sudden need to know where my friends were, and more importantly, where those less friendly to me were. It wasn't really that I had enemies here, we were all clansmen after all, but under circumstances such as ours, what had began as small personal rivalries and disagreements had begun to be blown out of proportion. For the most part, we were still loyal, in some cases fanatically loyal, to either the clan, it's goals, or each other, at least I was fairly sure MOST of us were, although there was one person here that I was fairly sure wasn't interested in anything but himself. Almost without thought, I began to look for him, but before my eyes could seek him out, my view of the room was cut off as a golden vision softly inserted herself between my eyes and the room.

Nightshade sat down and in the chair across from me. Only inches separated our knees, but to my tortured heart it was as though a mile wide chasm occupied those few inches. Our eyes met and for an instant I saw that she understood this pain, and her eyes were as clear as crystal, allowing me to see the sorrow beneath them. Then she blinked, the crystal clouded, and I saw only the tight penetrating gaze I remembered so well from before.

"Hello Fey." Her voice was as soft as her earlier gaze, but as emotionally dry as her present look.

"Nightshade." I inclined my head slightly, and took care to keep my voice as even and controlled as hers.

"How have you been?"

"I've been as well as can be expected, all things considered." Damn. I hadn't meant to let that slip so quickly, but apparently she understood, for she simply nodded to herself. As she opened her mouth to reply though, a small tornado suddenly rushed across the room and deposited itself in her lap.

"Hi mommy!" Raven, Nightshade's daughter piped, fixing her mother with an impishly whimsical gaze from beneath long curls as black as her name implied.

"Hello dear." Nightshade replied, pulling the young girl the rest of the way up and seating her in a more comfortable spot on her lap. "What have you been doing?"

"Playin' with Geordie." The child responded proudly, holding up the slightly ragged stuffed doll she had in her hands.

"Oh I see." Her mother smiled, and as she looked at her daughter, I saw the same crystal clarity I had seen earlier, but this time the emotion radiated was pride, but was that a touch of wistfulness as well, or was it my imagination? I decided that I'd never be sure, and that it was best not to think about it. She glanced at me, beaming with that warm maternal glow I had only seen once, a few months before Raven's birth, and scant weeks before the last time I had seen Nightshade. "Darling, you remember Fey don't you?" The child looked up at me and her eyes sparkled.

"Of course mommy, Mr. Birdman!" She giggled at this last part and her mother and I shared a chuckle. The name I used here, different from the one I currently used in the real world, was Fey Ren. Ren, in this case is pronounced the same as WREN, a small bird, hence the child's nickname for me. "He's the one that's so nervous about me." The child added, which ended our mirth.

"Why do you say that darling?" Her mom asked sharply.

"Cause it's true mommy, I hear it here." She insisted, pointing at her head.

"Darling, you're not supposed to talk about what you hear, remember? Now apologize to Fey."

"Yes mommy, I'll remember. I'm sorry Mr. Birdman."

"That's alright." I replied automatically.

"Now go play honey." Nightshade set the youngster down and watched her as she scurried off to a private corner. Then she stood, her golden hair waving slightly with her movements. "We'd better go get some more wood for this fire."

Realizing that she really wanted a chance to speak with me alone, out of earshot of the others, and seeing as the others were doing a fair job of ignoring us right now, I knew the discussion had to be extremely private.

"Look." Nightshade said, as soon as we stepped out into the woodshed, "I don't want there to be any tension between us, we've had that for too long. Can't you accept me as a friend and forget about the other?"

"It's been a long time since we were anything, let alone simply friends." I avoided looking at her as I began tossing wood into the bucket.

"Maybe as they measure time, but for us it's barely been a heartbeat."

"Maybe, but my heart got cut pretty deep between those beats."

"And you think mine didn't?!"

"You left. You were going to run away home and never look back, never talk to any of us again." Now she really got upset, and her cornflower blue eyes swam with brimming tears.

"You were doing the same damn thing and don't you forget it!"

"I couldn't stand to see the two of you together anymore. He was my friend, but I wanted to kill him for the way he treated you!"

"You think I didn't? Hell, leaving was the only way I could get away from him. By the time I was settled, you'd left as well and I didn't know how to find you. I couldn't leave a message for you with anyone because he'd have gotten it."

She was right... I didn't like it, but she did have a point. I knew how hard it was to find someone across 3/4ths of the continent, hell I'd been trying to find HER this whole time.

"How do I know you're telling the truth?"

"How do you know I'm not?" Damn I hate it when she makes sense.

"Fair enough." I conceded, then I thought of something, "You know... I've thought about what this conversation would be like a hundred times... but I never thought it would be like this."

"Really? How did you think it would be?"

"I thought that we'd end up together again. But that won't happen now, and, no offense, but I'm glad it won't."

"Fair enough. How is your family by the way?"

"They're doing alright... William doesn't understand why he can't be here, but the others are old enough to understand."

"What have you told them?"

"The kids? Just that I had some very important stuff to do and that I'd try to be back soon."

"And your wife?"

"I've told her everything. I told her the whole story before we got married," I grinned, "she thinks I'm crazy, but she thought that before I told her, she just thinks it's worse now."

Nightshade's lips crinkled in that familiar wry smile.

"I understand how that is, believe me."

"Well, we'd better get back." I lifted the full wood pail and opened the door.

I entered the library and walked directly to the fireplace. Setting the pail on the hearth I squatted down and started feeding the blaze, which had just begun to die in my absence. As the second log landed in the flames and, popping gently, settled into position, I felt it. I always know when someone is behind me, especially when that person is unfriendly. I knew who it had to be, and I knew that he meant me no immediate harm, so I ignored him just long enough to toss a third log on, stand and brush my hands casually on my jeans.

"What do you want Lucius?" I asked wearily as I turned to look him in the eyes.

"What's going on Fey?" His eyes sparkled, and his mouth drew back in that merry grin he usually uses to his advantage, I, however, was having none of it tonight.

"Cut the crap brother." I said, placing all the scorn I had ever felt for him into that last word. "I'm in no mood to pretend with you tonight."

"Alright, if that's how you want it. I thought that we could at least act civil to each other tonight."

"I've spent too many years being civil to you, while at the same time hating everything you stand for."

"Fey, it's been what, more than two thousand years, can't you forget about that one life?"

"Why should I? The rest of the world hasn't. You corrupted the thinking of the entire planet with that simple power play you pulled."

"Simple? You think that life was simple? Living within those rigid constraints, just because a bunch of guys who suffered heat induced delusions managed to convince a bunch of hot, starving, bastards that they knew what was gonna happen and then wrote down their insanities? Hell they had everything accounted for, you have no idea how hard it was to pull off."

"Then why did you bother with it Lucius?"

"For the power, and to misdirect the humans." he shrugged, "Same reason we've all had for the things we've done at one time or another."

"Well, I'm through with that shit, for now and forever." I brushed past him and began to head across the room, but his voice from over my shoulder made me pause.

"If that's true, then why are you here tonight?"

I turned back to him and looked him in the eyes and replied, perfectly clear and level, so there would be no mistaking my meaning... or my honesty. "Because I believe we can finally work to repair the damage our presence has had here. All our petty squabbles are pointless and they've ruined this place, I'd like to see us start helping the humans instead of treating them as pawns and sheep. They are our children, after all." I broke off at that, though there were a hundred more things I could have said, I hadn't intended to make a speech.

He simply snorted softly, dropped his eyes, shook his head gently, and walked off to the shadowy seat in the corner that he had occupied most of the night. I shrugged, turned, and continued my walk back across the width of the room. I begin to browse the books on the cases that lined the walls, starting next to the door and working my way clockwise around the room towards the fireplace, making sure that I would reach it long before I came near Lucius again.

As it turned out, my precautions were unnecessary. No sooner had I started to browse the titles on the first bookcase, than a low gong resonated through the library. It was, of course, the symbol we had been waiting on. Galigher and Hans had returned from the council meeting, now we would see what had been decided, if anything.

Being closest to the door, I opened it, and held it as the others filed past. I looked no one in the eye, though I was not unaware of the quick glances thrown in my direction. I concentrated instead on the flames roaring in the hearth, beautiful, as fire always seemed to me. Sunshine was the last, and I closed the door behind me as I followed her out into the hallway and turned right towards the dining hall. I was somewhat surprised that she had answered the call, seeing as how she had tried her best to deny what she was. I suppose there are some things you can't change about yourself, no matter how much you want to. I had once felt that way, though I had no desire to change the things she did, but I had learned years ago to be happy with who and what I was. No mater how much I might hate some things I had done, and that had been done to me, I knew that they had all worked together to make me who I was, and damn it all, I liked who I was.

I followed the others as we filed into the spacious dining room. Places had already been set in expectation of this conference, and each assigned seat was indicated by the ornate goblets set just to the front right of each small plate. These large silver chalices were custom made, and each displayed a different symbol to signify its owner. One by one the people in front of me stepped forward to make their bows to the current matron of our clan. Gallagher stood behind her chair at the northern point of the circular table. She seemed to be in her element as she acknowledged our obeisances with an elegant nod; only the pale whiteness on her knuckles, from the strength of her grip on the chair back, gave any indication that she was using this ritual to cover some strong emotions. I didn't know what those emotions might be, but I sensed that she was probably displeased with the news she had to deliver. I straightened from my deep bow and stepped to my seat, indicated by my own symbol of a night blue and black yin-yang superimposed by a silver pentacle. At Gallagher's gesture we all took our seats

Quietly, servants immediately brought in two platters piled high with small sandwich wedges which they set in the middle of the table. Another servant carried a tray with several glass bottles upon it. They all appeared to be different vintages and types of wine, but I knew that there would be other substances as well in a few of those bottles. I discovered that I was right as the man brought the tray to me, I studied the labels for a moment then indicated a rich crimson 12-year old vintage. The waiter filled my goblet and Lorne, on my right chose a nice Merlot, I noted that Sunshine on my left had chosen simple grape juice, but was unsurprised. What did surprise me was the fact that they had chosen to seat me next to Sunshine in the first place, as opposed to Rosa who sat between Lorne and Nightshade, who sat at Gallagher's left hand. A glance at the person on Sunshine's left gave me a quick answer. So, they want her to act as a buffer between us, eh? Well, I hope it works.

The servants finished their tasks and departed as silently as they'd entered. After they had left, the butler closed himself outside of the double doors and we were left alone. Gallagher stared down at her goblet for a few moments and then looked up as though only just now aware that every face in the room was fastened on her. Her gaze swept clockwise around the table, making brief eye contact with each of us. It almost seemed as if she were unsure how to deliver her news.

"Well, I want to thank you for all coming on such short notice, I know it's been hard on many of you. Please feel free to try these lovely snacks. I hope you find your beverages to your liking as well."

"Just give us the news Gallagher." This growl came from Lucius, which I expected, the man was constitutionally incapable of small talk when he was impatient. His grasp of civility was as firm as iron when he was relaxed (or trying to sell someone something, which was almost always) but he'd evidently seen the nervousness in Gallagher that I had and was infected by it. It was this nervousness that fueled his impatience, though he'd die before he admitted it. I, however, reached for a sandwich, I had a feeling it was going to be a long night.

"The news Lucius, is that there is no news!" Gallagher responded, finally allowing her emotions to leak out. "The council is constitutionally incapable of making a decision anymore!" Hans placed a hand on her elbow and she quieted. "Forgive me, we've spent all night arguing and my temper is shot."

"Perhaps it would be easier to start from the beginning, m'lady?" I asked with a look that, I hoped, conveyed my concern and sympathy.

She smiled sweetly, "Of course, dear Fey. If only I knew where the beginning was."

At this lapse, Hans finally spoke. "A petition for a motion has been placed before the council. It has been suggested that we need to release the magic."

An awed and hushed silence filled the room, I felt my jaw unhinge and as I closed it, I realized that I was not the only one who had to do so.

Let me take a moment to explain. There are five sources of natural energy; the first four have been harnessed, to some extent, by modern science. The aquatic energy from our dams; the energy of the winds, harnessed by windmills for centuries; nuclear power, drawn from the depths of the earth itself; thermal and solar energies, which we are just now beginning to put to use; and Magic, the energy of the spirit. Every living thing is born with a varying amount of magical energy. There are also ways to increase your store of magic, two of the easiest ways are simply using it, and getting older. Because of the circumstances surrounding our existence, the magical energy we store up does not dissipate with the death of our physical bodies, as we assume it does with normal humans; instead when we reincarnate we retain that energy, and then proceed to build up more.

Several centuries ago we realized that our constant fighting, coupled with our enormous magic reserves, would, if unchecked, destroy everything we were fighting for. Since peace was completely out of the question (our feuds had gone on so long that nothing short of victory could end them) it was decided that we would have to limit the power available to us. For the third time in history, virtually all of the clansmen from all of the clans gathered together. We drew most of the magic out of the world and sealed it away on the Astral plane. We left only enough for life to continue, and to sustain our spirits between incarnations. There would be no more great feats of magic, no more magical creatures roaming the lands, and no more danger of the world being torn apart by our feuds, or so we thought. And now someone was suggesting we bring it all back.

"You must be joking!" Sunshine exclaimed. "Surely the situation can't be that bad!"

"No," I heard myself say, as it all fell together with an almost audible click, "It's worse."

Gallagher looked at me intently, "You know what's happening?"

I shook my head, "Not for a certainty, but I suspect."

"Tell us your suspicions, please."

"Yea, genius, tell us what we're too stupid to see on our own." The sneer in Lucius' words was as visible as the one plastered on his face, but I chose to ignore the insult, and thought for a moment before answering Gallagher.

"Alright," I sighed, "Since this is the first time the entire clan has sat around a table in this lifetime, the problem must be drastic. That, combined with what I've been hearing on the news and what I know, tells me what the problem is... and how bad it is." I stopped, and looked around the table at the blank incomprehension scrawled on the face of everyone except Hans and Gallagher, "Don't tell me no one else knows what's happening in Asia right now."

Rosa's eyebrows furrowed, "I remember hearing about some fighting in the Middle East... but what's that got to do with us?"

I sighed heavily, this was going to be more difficult than I thought. I stood up and started pacing, a nervous habit I fall into when trying to pull my thoughts into enough of a semblance of coherence that I can explain them to someone else. Then I figured to dispense with all the background and just throw it out there. "It's not the Middle East, for starters; it's Pakistan and India, South Central Asia. For years they have been fighting over a province in the Himalayas called Kashmir. Last week, Pakistani forces invaded the region and declared war on India. India has responded by calling up its entire army to drive out the invaders once and for all. Even if the Pakistani were to field every single person who could carry a weapon, they would only have maybe an eighth of the number of Indian Army regulars, they have no hope of holding the region. What makes it worse is that both of these countries have nuclear weapons, when Pakistan is overrun by India in the next week, the president of Pakistan will most likely push the button.

"And that will trigger World War 3?" Lucius asked, not yet seeing the entire picture.

"Possibly... but if I'm right, we'll only wish it had. You're still not comprehending what this means. Twelve Million people will die in the first twenty-four hours of the strike; that doesn't even count the millions who will die as a result of radiation; nor the millions around the world who will die as a result of famine. Our relief organizations are nowhere near capable of dealing with this tragedy. This is going to collapse the already shaky Asian markets, and bring the European and American markets with it. Before too long any company bigger than a mom-and-pop operation will be bankrupt. And those won't last too long with no way to get supplies. The lack of supplies and funds will cause the collapse of almost all public services and utilities. The larger cities will collapse in riots and looting." I stopped pacing and looked at all of them, "Unless I'm wrong, civilization is about to come to a screeching halt and then back peddle a few centuries."

Stunned silence greeted this dire pronouncement. It was a few moments before anyone got up the nerve to speak. Lorne pulled himself together first. "You said unless you're wrong; is he wrong? This question was directed at Gallagher and, to a lesser extent, Hans. She sighed.

"No... unfortunately Fey is most likely correct. The clansman who brought the petition forward is a senior official with the Pakistani Embassy in Washington D.C. He says that if India seeks to reclaim the territory then there will be a nuclear strike. His description before the council of the end effects was even more graphic than Fey's."

"Do we know how long it will take before all this happens?" Rosa asked, quivering in fear.

I knew how she felt, I was scared too. There were no guarantees as to who would survive the immediate aftermath of the fall and I was finally beginning to enjoy this life. I knew that she wasn't as scared as she would be when I answered her question... but I had to be honest. "I estimate that by the end of next month every major corporation in the world will have closed its doors. By that time the riots will have spread out of control. In some areas, it may be as much as a week later before the electrical companies go down, but when they do, that'll probably be the point at which we can safely say the present age has ended. Once the power goes out, the process will begin to slow, and it could be as long as... ten years?... before we reach a late Middle Ages society, and who knows how much farther back we may slide after that."

"Good God!" Nightshade breathed, "The want us to reintroduce magic into that chaos?"

I thought on this for a moment before replying, "That might not be an altogether bad idea. The recent growth in magic-oriented religions means that there are a great many people all over the world who would know how to use it. It might possibly keep the world from sliding any farther back than the late Middle Ages, but there's no way to be absolutely sure."

Gallagher looked at me intently, "Do you believe it will, Fey?"

"I think it likely that making the magic available to use will be more beneficial, in the long run, than keeping it locked up will."

"But do you know what that will require from one of us?"

My eyebrows furrowed as I looked at her; confusion was written upon all our faces, but slowly her meaning dawned on me. My voice broke as I responded, "One of us will have to die... permanently."

This pronouncement triggered a sharp intake of breath from my companions. Hans and Gallagher slowly dipped their heads in acknowledgement of the truth.

I didn't know what else to say. In truth, I wasn't entirely sure what I was feeling in that particular instant. Everyone has a fear of death, but most people develop some form of coping mechanism that allows them to function. Most usually, they choose to ignore their own mortality, to behave as though they will live forever. We, as clansmen, have also each created a method to deal with the reality that we will one day die, but it has never been as well developed as most people's. We recognize the fact that we will die, but we all know that our deaths are not permanent. Sooner or later, we will always return. But now, here we were, faced with a concept that we hadn't had to face in more centuries than I cared to recall. What would it be like to really experience death? What would happen to that person? I realized that there was no way to know. We couldn't know what would happen to us any more than we knew what happened to humans at death. I knew that part of what I felt was pure unbridled terror of the unknown, but another part of what I was feeling was something completely familiar to me... curiosity.

"Well," Lucius finally sighed, "that's it then. I seriously doubt any of us are willing to make that sacrifice for the others. I guess we should focus on how we will deal with this new problem. Any thoughts on what we can do to ensure our protection?"

"I'll do it." The tired voice sounded familiar and I looked around the table for the speaker, but everyone was turning to look at... me. Had I really said that? I sorted through my tangled brain and realized that I had indeed said that, and what was even more surprising was when I realized that I meant...

"What do you mean, you'll do it?" Hans asked

"I'll open the portal, I will 'make that sacrifice, ' as Lucius so eloquently put it."

Pandemonium. Everyone began speaking at once. My pronouncement seemed to have taken everyone by surprise, and they all wanted to voice their reactions to it. Gallagher attempted to shout over the cacophony, but was unsuccessful. Hans stood up and began banging his fist on the table. Eventually order was restored, more due to everyone running out of energy than to Hans' futile attempts to beat a hole in the table.

"Dear Fey, are you sure you want to do this?" Gallagher asked, once everyone was silent.

"Yes, I am sure."

"Well, I'm not!" Nightshade shouted as she stood. "Think about what you're saying, Fey, think about your family, your wife, your son! Do you really want your son to spend the rest of his life without his father, especially if the world changes! Who's going to explain to them what's going on if you are dead? Please think about it!"

"Perhaps Nightshade is right, perhaps you should think it over," Gallagher mused. "It is almost dawn; I propose we retire for the day. We will reconvene at sunset and if you are still willing, then I shall inform the council tonight."

"Very well, I shall have my answer for you at sunset." I bowed to Gallagher, turned and strode out of the room. The butler was still at his post in front of the door, but as I opened the door he stepped to the side to let me exit.

"Follow me, please, sir; I will show you to your quarters."

"What do you think of what you heard?" I asked as we mounted the hall stairs.

"I heard nothing sir."

I was amazed, "But that room is hardly soundproof and we were not quiet, how could you have heard nothing from right outside the door?"

"A butler hears nothing sir, not even when he is in the same room." He glanced over his shoulder and caught my eye.

"Oh," I said, feeling slightly foolish, "Of course."

We walked down the hall in silence until he stopped at a door and opened it with a subdued flourish. "Your room, sir."

I stepped past him and through the doorway. It was obvious that this room had been furnished, if not designed, with me in mind. A king-sized canopy bed stood up against the center of the right-hand wall surrounded by surrounded by sheer black curtains and flanked by twin mahogany nightstands. Against the left-hand wall was an enormous fireplace, already roaring. A wardrobe stood against the far wall next to a matching chest of drawers, and a small mini-bar sat against the near wall to my left. Two wing backed chairs sat in front of the fireplace with individual end tables, each bearing a glass ashtray, and individual ottomans. My suitcases were not in evidence, though my laptop case stood against the nightstand nearest to me. I turned to the butler and opened my mouth to ask about my belongings.

"I took the liberty of unpacking your things, sir; you will find your cases under the bed. Also, the bathroom is located directly across the hall."

"Ah, of course, thank you."

"Will you be requiring anything else this evening, sir?"

"No, I don't believe so... ah, I'm sorry, what was your name again?"

"James, sir, and if you should find that you require anything, you will find call buttons under each of the tables."

"Thank you, James."

"Very good, sir. Good evening." He bowed slightly, turned and left.

I closed the door and stepped over to the mini bar and opened the door. Noting the contents, I snorted softly to myself and grinned. The main cooling unit had been modified to heat, rather than cool the bottles inside, keeping the contents at perfect temperature. I pulled one out at random and looked at the label, not surprisingly it was the same as the one I had selected downstairs. Rolling the other bottles label up, I discovered they were all the same. I pulled out the cork with my teeth and turned over a crystal goblet. Chuckling to myself as I poured, I said, "Gallagher, you know me too well." I replaced both cork and bottle, raised the goblet to my nose and savored the aroma before drinking.

"But sometimes it's not altogether a bad thing." I finished as I smacked my lips softly.

I don't always drink blood. I'm not a vampire, at least not in the classic sense, not this time around anyway. I eat real food, drink water, juice, soda, the whole nine yards, but there are times when my body craves warm human blood. It doesn't happen often, but now was one of those times.

I took my glass and sat in one of the chairs and stared into the fireplace. I thought about what Nightshade had said. What would happen to my wife and son after the Change? Would she be able to survive? Would William? I set my half empty glass down and lit a cigarette. I wasn't agonizing over my decision; I learned a long time ago that my first impulse was the best. The goddess had led me for almost thirty years in this life, no reason to stop listening to her now.

Not that this life had been perfect, I'd had more than my fair share of heartache and problems, but every difficulty I went through taught me a lesson that I had to learn.

The gods are not cruel, I had decided, though they are often a bit capricious. For about twenty years, two-thirds of this lifetime, I had fantasized about the fall of this civilization, longed for it to come, prayed for it, and now I wouldn't be around to see it. Oh well, I shrugged, such is life.

A quiet knock interrupted my thoughts. I did not feel like getting up to answer the door, so I simply called for whoever was there to come in. I heard the door open and close again slowly, though it made barely a whisper, and the sounds of a figure crossing the room behind me. I did not turn to see who it was; my supercharged instincts told me that it was a friend. The footsteps lacked the measured tread of Gallagher and seemed slower and less certain than I would expect from Nightshade. That left Sunshine or...

"Fey?"

Rosa. I looked to my right to see her standing beside the other chair. Without looking away from her, I stubbed my cigarette out and picked up my glass.

"Rosa" I said, raising my glass in a silent toast. "Have a seat. I'd offer you a drink, but..." I chuckled softly at her grimace and then took a long slow sip, my eyes dancing with mockery above the crystal rim. She sighed and shook her head as she stepped around the chair and sat down, her shoulder length red waves bouncing slightly. She slid her tiny feet out of her black flats and tucked her feet up beside her. She shifted in the chair so as to face me, though it caused her to sit a bit crooked in the wing-backed chair.

"Comfortable?" I asked, eyebrows raised. She laughed nervously.

"You know me, I'm almost always comfortable."

I noted the qualifier and realize that she was unlocking the door to her real reason for being here. After a quick moment of consideration, I decided that if she wanted to cut through the pleasantries, then I'd oblige her. My head cocked to the right and my left eyebrow arched inquisitively.

"Almost?"

"Well, I wasn't comfortable sitting down there listening to you volunteer to kill yourself. For God's sake Fey, think about what you are doing!"

"I have thought about it. I'm still thinking about it. I doubt I'll change my mind though."

"But why! Why would you want to kill yourself like this? I know you Fey, you're smarter than this."

"Because I'm curious. I want to know once and for all what is out there! And because I'm bored... I'm tired of constantly coming back. I don't like this world anymore... if making it better means that I have to die, then so be it."

"But... you have so much to live for." She seemed close to tears and at a loss for words. I felt a sharp pain of pity.

"Everything I have will do just fine without me. My family is strong and they know that I love them."

"Do they know that you're going to do this?"

"I haven't told them yet, I was planning the letter when you walked in."

"How can you do this to them? How can you abandon your family and everything you've worked for all your life?"

"I'm doing this for them! They are the main reason I am willing to sacrifice myself for this world... to make it a better place for them."

"I don't understand how you could think that."

"Then you don't understand me."

She smiled a bit at that. "I've never understood you, Fey, and even if we both lived for another million years, I doubt I ever would."

I smiled a bit in response. I could see in her eyes, however, that she knew that she could not change my mind, and, amazingly, she seemed crushed by that knowledge. My smile began to slide away and I hid that fact by taking another drink. As I drank I continued to look into her eyes, searching for the reason for her feelings. When I found it I was shocked.

"You've relit that old torch?" I did not mean to blurt it out that way, I was simply too astounded to have seen those feelings in her eyes. She blushed and looked down at her lap.

"It wasn't on purpose, I didn't remember that life the last time I saw you... it wasn't until about a year later that it unlocked itself during a therapy session. You should have seen my therapist's face, she thought she'd screwed up and made me really crazy." She chuckled and looked up at me, gauging my reaction. I did not disappoint her as I truly did find the idea amusing, so I shared her chuckle.

"I imagine so. It's not everyday that you get to witness someone remember a brand new past life memory in the course of a normal therapy session... especially if they're not trying to remember them." I sobered then, "But that doesn't explain why you feel this way."

"Oh Fey, once I remembered what we'd had, and what had happened, I understood why things happened between us the way they did this time when we met again as children."

"What do you mean?" I was honestly curious.

"You mean you really don't know why I resisted you?"

"No. I've gone over it a million times; it's never once made sense to me."

"Well, look again, and this time, look deeper." She replied, reaching out and laying her hand on mine. At her touch, I froze as she pulled the memory of that life forward. I felt it wash over me and closed my eyes as it broke like a tidal wave upon my consciousness."

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