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40.) After

Ember continued to cry as I dropped down across from her, on his other side, and grabbed her shaking hand. “He took Beckett from us,” she wailed, making my throat ache.

“No,” I whispered, “Beckett gave himself for us.” I corrected, and her lips trembled with the smallest of smiles. “He knew that if we killed the darkness he would be taken too, he accepted that.”

“I think your souls met for a reason,” Ember told me, her red eyes meeting mine. I nodded in agreement.

Beckett looked peaceful like this, the most at peace I had seen him. “It’s ok, Beckett.” I told him, lowering my forehead to his, my tears falling onto his cheeks. “The darkness is gone now.” If only, I hadn’t had to lose him in the process.

I don’t feel him there, as I had before. Like if I pushed slightly, I could step into his mind and dance with him. Beckett was gone. The part of me I’d grown to love had been ripped from me so harshly I felt like I couldn’t breathe.

“Come back to me,” I cried, placing my hands on his cheeks, touching him with no warmth or electricity.

In the back of my mind I felt a tap, so light. The presence was all knowing, and smelled of incense. ‘The power of life, Astra, is in the hands of the stars.’ Alatar whispered into my mind, and then I didn’t feel him anymore. I sat up straight, looked at Ember with wide eyes, and she looked back unaware.

I gasped, and gently, so carefully, released my power into my hands. It flowed down my fingers, absorbed into his pale cheeks, and made them glow golden.

The light spread through his face, under his eyelids, between his lips. I pushed pieces of me, gave over the parts of my soul that had cared for him despite the odds.

Internally I begged for him, outloud I told him everything was ok. Every nerve of my being reached for him, searched for him, pulled him back to me.

Then I felt a slight shift, his lips parted slightly, and his brow furrowed. My chest seized, Ember audibly gasped.

“Ow.” Beckett muttered, before his eyes opened ever so slightly. We didn’t dare speak, our breaths held… “Did we win?” His voice, so hoarse, asked.

Ember and I shrieked, squeezing him and each other tightly, laughing. My heart swelled with joy, love, and relief. I cannot remember a time when my chest felt so full with happiness, completeness.

“Ok...ow, easy-” Beckett gasped between us, and sheepishly we released him. He looked at me finally, and his eyes were not Beckett’s. No, the icy cold eyes were not looking back at me. The coldness, sharpness, and dark power had diminished. They were a warm blue, shining bright like his sisters, with golden specks of me in them.

Smiling brightly I pushed his hair off his forehead, careful with the bruises. “We won,” I told him. Beckett sighed, and pushed himself up off of our laps.

“You did it,” he told me, grabbing both sides of my face. The electricity was still no longer there, the warning now gone. Now a new electricity vibrated through me, but it was excitement that had my fingers buzzing.

“We all did,” I corrected, but he didn’t let me finish my thought. With a laugh he pulled me to him, pressing his lips gently against mine. My heart shot into my throat, and my hands shook as they reached for him and embedded themselves into his hair. It felt like coming up for air, like everything dropped into place, like my very being was whole.

When he finally pulled away, only slightly, so I could feel his smile against my own. “I have wanted to do that since the nightclub,” he informed me in his low voice. It made my heart skip, my voice shake.

“Same here,” I pulled away and looked into his eyes, how they softened for me.

“Thank you, Astra, for taking a chance on me.” Beckett said, before leaning in again. Our lips had only brushed briefly, not nearly long enough, when I heard Ashton’s voice coming from the stairs.

“Damn that was a walk.” He grunted, and laughing I turned to see him and Theo pulling themselves onto the column. Only, my laugh didn’t last long, not as I saw his eyes go to his dead best friend.

“Ashton,” I warned, but he was already jogging, jumping, then running to River.

“Astra, our saviour.” Theodore said to me with a wide grin, but his eyes were sad. Sad for the men we had lost, the good men who had fought for the betterment of everyone. On tired legs I climbed to my feet, pulling Beckett up with me.

“Beckett, thank you.” Theodore said, extending a hand. They shook hands, smiling at each other, and when Theo saw Beckett’s and I’s interlaced fingers he nodded.

“Prince Theodore, thank you for staying by Astra’s side when I couldn’t be there.” Theo nodded, smiling.

“Actually it’s king dad was not fit to rule the Somnium Realm.” I laughed dryly, that’s putting it lightly. “And of course, take time to think it through, but I’d love it if you’d be my right hand.” He said to me, and I nodded. It was definitely something to consider.

I hadn’t thought much about what would come after. Nobody ever talks about it, the out of body feeling after winning a war.

“What about you? Would you like a place in my court?” Theo asked, looking at Beckett. His blue eyes flashed with shock, and he seemed to stutter momentarily.

“Uh, actually, I was thinking of being a part of this court. Someone needs to pop their head in here occasionally and make sure the fae aren’t killing each other.” Theo nodded in understanding.

“For now though, can we just go home?” I asked Beckett, looking up at him hopefully. I didn’t want to think about him staying here, being away from me. He looked down at me and smiled.

“Yeah, for now.” The ‘for now’ hurts my heart, but I don’t let that affect me. Any time with him is better than none.

“Seriously though, Astra, Beckett, Ember...thank you guys. You’ve saved my people. I’m forever in your debt.” Theo said warmly.

“Then can you get me to a freakin doctor? My leg is broken.” Ember grumbled from where she sat on the ground.

“Shit! Right-” Beckett said, bending down to grab his sister. “Sorry…”

“Yeah, yeah. I get it, you were having a moment,” she mocked, but when she looked at me she winked and smiled.

Everything could be better now. So many people were lost, good people who didn’t deserve to die at the hands of that monster. Alatar, River, my aunt and uncle, Ky and Macy, Rose and Phillip. I would mourn each of them, miss the life I could have had with them, but be grateful for the life I have because of them.

Theodore joined Ashton, helping him carry River down the column. I followed Beckett down the steep stairs, where he was very careful not to drop his sister, and we met Nova at the bottom. Her eyes were red, she knew about her father and River, but she still smiled when she saw me.

“Way to not go all supernova!” She joked, nudging me as we walked past the celebrating men to the portals.

“I’m sorry, for all of your loss.” I told her, keeping my voice low. My chest hurt at the sight of the bodies being put onto stretchers to be taken home, of all of the men who lost their lives.

Nova sighed, shouldering her bow. “Thanks, but you dad was like, five hundred years old? Maybe older? He lived a life.”

“I meant River, I know you liked him.” Her eyes teared up, and she sniffed as she pushed a curl from her face.

“I think he may have loved me, you know?” I nodded.

“I think he did.” She shook her head, shaking the tears away, and smiled at me once more.

“So tell me, what’s it like to get your ‘happily ever after’? We all saw your guy’s kiss, it was like...epic.” I laughed, looking ahead at Beckett who still carried his sister. Despite being beaten, tortured, dehydrated, and exhausted, he carried her and joked with her. It felt right, to see her rolling her eyes at him again. I’m not sure what I would have done if I’d lost them. If, well, I’d been in Nova’s position.

Happily ever after? I sighed, relief tugging at my heart. Still, a smile on my lips at the sight of the people I love, alive and well.

“I guess we’ll have to see.”

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