She drew in one shuddering gasp of air then another, her body forcing itself to remember how to breathe. She felt so cold, like she had only once before in her life: when she woke up at home after defeating Beryl, when she returned to life for a lack of a better phrase. She shivered as a sharp pain made itself known in her chest, and she curled slightly towards it. It was only then that she felt the arms encircling her body. Her eyelids felt like they weighed a ton each, but she slowly opened them. Everything seemed so bright that she had to keep them squinted.
There was a face above hers. Dark messy hair, blue eyes - and was he wearing a green tank top? A name was bouncing around her head. It was odd, but maybe - maybe, she thought - the name 'Heero' fit him. She let her eyes slip back shut in exhaustion.
Just what had happened? In the silent space of a few seconds, she sifted through her memories. Everything recent was a bit of a blur, but she did recall a few things: Hyperion's death, forming their group to take on Thanatos, Hekate, Morrigan and Aed, summoning Amaterasu - then it was blank. She winced as she tried to make herself recall the rest. There it was, the quiet death inside Amaterasu's mind. So was she still dead?
"One of your chosen is dying."
The words echoed in her mind, Mamoru's voice but not. Who did that - Duo!
Her eyes shot open again and looked around wildly till they landed on the American. "Duo," she whispered. "You're alive."
* * * * *
Neither Heero nor Duo were willing to release her entirely. That suited her just fine. Holding on to both of their hands was helping her focus on why she was back - and indeed that she was back at all. She still halfway wondered if she were even alive at all. But it was harder to think that when she felt their warmth against her. If she was dead, then this was heaven and she didn't want to leave.
She was awfully tired, though, like she hadn't slept well in weeks. She didn't want to try going to sleep yet, not until she was sure she'd be able to wake up again. It'd probably be asking too much to request Duo or Heero to watch her, to make certain she got back up in the morning. Still, she was so exhausted. She tried to bite back a yawn, but she failed and instead hid it behind Duo's shoulder. The American grinned down at her, and she returned it with a sheepish smile of her own, feeling heat rising in her cheeks. She hadn't meant to get caught.
He turned slightly. "We're all about to drop here. Why don't we keep this brief today?"
Across the room, Haruka nodded. "We lost three allies tonight, but we gained a new one," she nodded respectfully to Signe, "and regained an old one." Her smile to Usagi was gentle. "Glad to have you back, Koneko."
She felt her face pinken a bit more at the nickname. "Th-thank you, Haruka-san." Heero gave her hand a quick squeeze, and she smiled at him for the reassurance.
"I spoke to Quatre's sister Iria," Trowa cut in. "She says we can stay here a few more days, but then we need to clear out. They're going to close this house up."
"It'll be good to go home," Michiru said softly. "There are too many memories here, so many of them bad."
"We should at least stay out the night. We can all get started out of here tomorrow or the day after, when we're all less tired," put forth Wufei. As if to punctuate his statement, her head finally grew too heavy to hold up and she let it fall on Duo's shoulder. "If Usagi can even make it upstairs, that is," he continued dryly.
She felt Heero's hand slip away from hers, and she protested sleepily till she realized she was picking her up and carrying her out of the room. One of her hands was tucked between their bodies, while the other... She blinked tired eyes open. Duo still held the other. That was nice. That was very nice indeed.
* * * * *
"She's asleep already," Duo noted in amusement. He smirked in response, an expression that grew into a slight smile as they got to the stairs and Duo had to gather up Usagi's hair with his free hand to keep either of them from tripping on it. It probably should worry him that it had remained long - longer than it had been when she was Selene - despite the fact she definitely was not the goddess right not, but he couldn't find it in himself right now. He didn't need to either; he could see the concern growing in Duo's eyes. "She's okay, isn't she? We're not going to lose her again so soon, are we?"
He shook his head. "No way."
"Good. 'Cause I don't want to have kick Amaterasu's teeth in for giving her back to us then taking her away again."
That earned him a smirk from the other man. "Only you, Duo. Only you would threaten someone like Amaterasu."
He pushed open the door to Usagi's room. "We just got her back. We can't lose her now."
He eased the sleeping blonde down on her bed. "Or ever, if I have anything to about it." He leaned back, staring at her a long moment. "She's really back."
Duo's hand seized his. "She's back, and she's ours. Let's let her get some sleep. We've got all the time in the world."
* * * * *
A faceless, vaguely human-shaped light hovered near the unconscious woman, paying no mind to the two men sleeping on either side of her. This was the first chance she'd had to truly look at her former host. In her mind's eye, Selene was little more than a child, though to her, none of these gods were very old. What they lacked in age, they more than made up for in determination though.
How else could they have defeated an Elder God possessing Vritra within himself?
She bent down and brushed formless fingers through the blonde's hair, stirring the strands like a faint breeze. When she spoke, she did think her former host heard her but instead more felt the words in her mind. "You definitely have been a learning experience for me, Selene. I hope this life you've returned to is a rich one." She brushed a feather-light kiss on the sleeping goddess' forehead. "You will have my protection until the end of all days, sister. All my hope lies with you. Be well."
With those parting words, the spirit of Amaterasu-o-mi-kami disappeared.
* * * * *
Somewhere else in the world, another faceless figure, this one colored so dark a blue as to almost seem black, hovered over the form of a dark-haired man half buried in rubble, waiting on him to die or wake up or do something interesting.
How could he have been defeated? He'd secured the body of an Elder God; he'd created thousands of demon underlings, both directly through his will and indirectly through the wildness of his power running loose through the world; he'd done everything he was supposed to do to be assured of a win. How the hell had Amaterasu pulled a victory from her pitiful band, locked in the body of a child-goddess?
Surely, no one could be that lucky.
Well, next time, he'd just have to turn luck on its head. And there would be a next time. He just had to be patient, and he was very good at that. For one such as Vritra, time meant very little indeed.
01 February 2005
And here it is: the final actual chapter of Gods and Other Creatures, at last. All that remains is the lemon side-story that Usa-chan was kind enough to write for me (several years ago ^.^;) and the epilogue. There is a strong possibility of a sequel, should there be interest.
It's been a wild ride these past four plus years, but I have to say I've enjoyed working on this story. It's truly been a long time coming to the end, but we're almost here now. Thanks to everyone who's stuck by the whole time -- and thank you to everyone who's made here to the end! I know it's a monster, so I have to say many thank you's for reading!
Eternal SailorM (Angel Maxwell)