All Beliefs are Welcome Here!
Death was in love...and utterly and completely miserable. He had spent an eternity being emotionally detached from the denizens of the worlds that he traveled, but it seemed that that impish trickster, Cupid, had decided he needed some livening up.
So Death sat, floating in midair in the space between realities, legs crossed, with one elbow resting on his crossed legs and his chin in his hand as he idly stirred a tornado into being with one finger of his other hand on the surface of the world he was currently observing. He finished forming the tornado and sent it whirling off on a path of devastation. He watched impassively as the line of souls grew larger, not even really paying attention as the psychic waves of grief and the wails of those souls touched on his mind...
A mind that was distracted with the thoughts of the one being in all of existence that had ever caused him to experience emotion...Khrystiana.
She was the first mortal he had ever actually become aware of in a sense of anything other than a statistic in his book which held the times when every living creature on any world, in any dimension, was scheduled to die.
Khrystiana, with her jet black hair, eyes the color of a summer lake, skin the color of a magnolia blossom in the moonlight...he could no longer deny it to himself, he loved her with a passion that went far beyond the mortal concept of the emotion...
And it was tearing him apart, for he could never even touch her, much less make her aware of him.
His thoughts were interrupted as Cupid suddenly appeared, floating, cross-legged, a little in front of him, a cocky grin on his face and a twinkle of mischief in his eyes as he regarded Death.
"Why so glum, old chap? What's the matter, you bored with your job? One would think you would be too busy to be bored, what with the rising rate of violence, greed, corruption and malice that are growing by leaps and bounds on that little mud-ball the mortal's call earth."
Cupid paused for just a moment, and the grin faded, as did the playful look in his eyes, which grew oddly, at least for him, grave,
"They have grown so filled with those things that I am finding that more and more of them are completely impervious to my arrows of love and respect...even when they are sent to the ones I intended to feel those things for themselves, much less their fellow mortals."
Death merely looked at the God of Love, sighed heavily, then spoke in an emotionless tone,
"Cupid, please go away. Can you not see that I am not desirous of company at this time? I have weighty matters on my mind and do not seek or desire companionship, other than..."
All at once Death ceased speaking abruptly, a rather startled look on his face, almost as if he had nearly let some secret slip.
Which, in point of fact, he had, for he had let none of the other immortals even begin to suspect that he may have fallen victim to one of Cupid's arrows...much less with regards to a mortal.
Cupid tilted his head a little, regarding Death with what was all to plainly a curious light in his sparkling eyes. It was plain he had caught that near slip.
And Cupid being Cupid, he simply could not simply sit there and let the matter go, he immediately grew curious as to what Death was trying to hide. Curiosity was one of Cupid's greatest flaws and sometimes even got him into trouble...some of which Death had gotten him out of.
With his head still tilted sideways, his normally laughing eyes now thoughtful, Cupid regarded his friend. Theirs had to be one of the most unusual friendships in the entire immortal plane, for they were diametrically opposed to each other in their traits and abilities.
Cupid ran his gaze over Death, who had returned to gazing off into some unknown place only he could see. Cupid's brows drew together a tiny bit as he studied his friend. Death really wasn't that bad looking a fellow, when you got right down to it.
With nearly mid shoulder length jet black hair, aristocratically chiseled features, eyes as black as the night skies and whip cord lean, he actually presented a very elegant figure, not anything at all as the mortals portrayed him.
And, in Cupid's opinion, he had been alone for far too long, which was why he had "targeted" his friend with one of his arrows.
All at once Cupid's eyes narrowed and a speculative gleam came into them...hmmmm, could it be? Could that arrow have actually begun to work?
Trying hard not to grin at the possible reason for his friend having broken off what he had started to say, Cupid reached out and lay his hand on Death's shoulder, causing him to turn his head,
"Very well, my somber friend, I will leave you to your thoughts, but just remember, should you ever desire a willing ear, mine are at your service."
Death reached up and lay one slender, long fingered hand over his friends with a somber smile,
"I thank you for that, my friend. You are one of the few immortals who does not avoid my company. I truly do treasure our friendship, for even I know the pain of loneliness sometimes. But for right now, I simply seek to be left alone to my thoughts."
Cupid gave him a slightly sad smile as he turned his hand and for just a moment grasped Death's,
"I know, my friend, I have sensed it for some centuries now. But I know your nature and I know that none but an immortal could withstand your touch, even in affection and love. But I will respect your desire for solitude. Fair-well for now."
And the moment that Cupid finished speaking, he vanished.
Death sighed, friendship amongst the immortals was to be treasured, for all too many of them had jealous, self serving natures, and they had grown no more mellow with the passing of time, as many of them were no longer even remembered, save through odd mention in stories and legends.
He turned his attention back to the world of mortals, making a sweeping motion with one hand, causing a hazy mist to appear in front of him, simply floating in the air.
Narrowing his eyes a little in concentration, he began to focus in on the one solitary mortal that he had watched from the moment she came into her sixteenth year, nearly ten mortal years previously, strangely drawn to her even then. For some odd reason, he had felt drawn to her even before he had felt Cupid's arrow pierce his heart.
"Oh yes," he thought as he began to yet again watch the one that held such a strange fascination for him, "I do possess a heart. I feel just as much, if not more, than the mortals who seem to fear me so much."
He sighed, wondering if the mortals ever stopped to realize that if it were not for him, their tiny world would have ceased supporting them centuries ago. They bred so rapidly, and with time had even begun to destroy the very world that they were dependent upon.
He knew they had always feared him, and also basically why. They blamed him for those that he had to take through acts of violence, little realizing that they themselves had chosen the manners of their deaths, in many cases, by the very choices that they had made in their lifetimes.
For those he took who had died as a result of violence against them, but they themselves had held goodness in their souls, those special ones were given other chances, reborn over and over again, but for the ones he took who had been corrupt, they were sent straight to his brother's domain, there to be tortured for an eternity.
His attention was drawn back to the activity of the beautiful young woman who was shown in the mist mirror. He watched as she moved about her loft studio, gathering her paints and brushes, carefully setting the canvas on the easel and then as she began to form an image with flowing strokes on that canvas.
He watched her work, and it was as he watched that he became aware that there was something strangely eerie about the focus and intensity with which she worked this day, almost as if she were under some form of compulsion.
And then she moved sideways just a little as she continued to form the image, her hand moving with a fluid grace, and he was able to see the image she was forming for the first time...
And his eyes widened in shocked surprise as he watched a face begin to take form on that blank expanse...a face he knew all to well...
How could this be? No mortal had EVER seen his true form! How could this fragile appearing mortal female be able to craft his very visage so accurately with her small stump of charcoal?
So Death sat there, totally enthralled, as the female mortal finished roughing in the outlines of what there was no way of denying was his face, then began to fill those lines with color, bringing them more and more to life with each brush stroke.
Death had sensed that it had been mid evening when she began that painting, and it already had all of the major based tones painted by the time she retired that night. He watched her as she slept, aching to reach out and run his fingers softly over her face, to smooth those silken ebony hued tresses...
But he knew it could never be, for were he to touch her, even glancingly, he would forever destroy the very thing he had come to cherish the most.
And if any had seen him as he watch Khrystiana sleep, they would have been shocked...
For they would have seen the tracks of the silvery tears of sadness, loneliness, grief and longing that flowed unchecked down his face.
Death watched as Khrystiana worked for days on that painting, watched as she brought life to the face of one who, unbeknownst to her, had brought nothing but his namesake, Death, to every living thing that had life since the beginning of time.
And then something happened the night she finished the painting...
She was attacked and mortally wounded and Death had no choice but to go to her...
To finally touch her.
Khrystiana moved her hand feverishly over the canvas, without hesitation. The image formed almost as if some otherworldly force were guiding her hand.
The face that began to emerge was one she had known as long as she could remember. Even as a child, when she would have night terrors, the man who wore that face would always arrive in the nick of time to slay and destroy whatever demons were troubling her.
It had been so very lonely at the orphanage, for she had always been different than the other children there. The difference was not really something one could describe, not even herself, but she had always known, and learned to accept, that somehow she was.
The other children, those that did not tease and ridicule and pull cruel tricks on her avoided being left alone with her. She had basically grown up lonely, despite being surrounded by the other children and staff. Often she could be found in a corner of the library or garden, curled up with a book.
Even the staff had seemed to be wary and uneasy around her.
And the couples who came to consider the others for possible adoption had sensed that difference and always chosen one of the other children.
She had spent her entire life, for as far back as she could remember, in that orphanage, going from ward, to helper, to assistant housemother, watching the children come and go, but never once chosen herself.
Then when she turned sixteen, something happened that was to shock her to the very core of her soul...
For on the morning of Khrystiana's sixteenth birthday, something was to happen that was to change her life forever.
Khrystiana's birthday had been based on the day she had been found in a crude, worn basket on the doorstep of the orphanage, so newly arrived the umbilical cord still had blood on it, with no note or anything to identify her.
The morning of Khyrstiana's sixteenth birthday she awoke to the sound of screaming...
And to finding herself floating nearly a foot and a half above the mattress.
The girl who had been her roommate had run from the room screaming hysterically at the top of her lungs about demons possessing her just as Khrystiana had dropped, landing hard enough to jar her teeth, back on the mattress, to lie there, stunned and very, very shaken.
What had followed had been the most harrowing week that Khrystiana had ever experienced. The housemother locked her in the attic, only coming up twice a day to slip a tray with stale bread and a bowl of watery soup, along with a tiny glass of water, through the slot at the bottom of the door.
The room had originally be used as a punishment chamber for the more violent and unruly children, but this was Khrystiana's first time in it.
An exorcist had come and performed some strange form of rite over her, but all it had done was make her scream and cry, for the ropes with which they had tied her to the wooden framed bed had been cutting off the circulation in her feet and hands.
Two days after that night, she had escaped, though for the life of her she never could afterwards say how.
All she had known was that she had been lying, weeping and frightened, wondering what was to become of her, when all at once she had heard the door lock click. Terrified, fearing further mistreatment, and mentally and physically bracing herself as best she could, she had curled up even tighter, waiting for the feel of the three stranded whip that the housemother had been using on her every night, claiming she was trying to drive out the demon supposedly possessing her.
So she had lain there, shaking in terror, watching as that door began to open inward.
But once it was completely open, she was shocked to discover that there was no one on the outside of it, and there was no way for them to have moved back down the small flight of stairs in the time from when the door fully opened to when she could see directly outside to the tiny landing at the top of the stairs outside the room.
Driven by a compulsion she could not explain, she had gotten up, gotten dressed, the simply walked out of that small room that had been both her prison and her torture chamber for a week and made her way through the strangely silent house. Not even the doberman that roamed the house during the nighttime hours seemed to be there.
Still driven by that strange compulsion, she had simply walked to the front door, and then out of it, looking neither to the right nor left...
And then kept walking, not aware of her actions, only knowing she had to keep moving.
She never saw the car that hit her, breaking one of her legs in three places and knocking her back on the sidewalk, never heard the squeal of brakes or felt when she was lifted and placed in the car.
Her next conscious thought was waking to white walls and the steady beeping of medical machinery.
She had spent nearly a month in the hospital, going through multiple surgeries while they pinned her shattered leg back together and taught her how to walk with the brace that would allow her to somewhat walk without putting stress on the bones that now had metal plates screwed onto them to hold them together.
Her third day of consciousness she woke to find a stranger sitting by her bed, studying her with what could almost have been called a look of both guilt and worry.
The stranger was the handsomest man she had ever seen, save for one...
That mysterious male figure that had protected her in her dreams, but had always seemed to fade whenever she would try to touch him.
Her voice had been very weak, coming out in a mere whisper, "Who are you? Can you tell me how I got here, wherever "here" is? The last thing I remember is falling asleep in the orphanage after the housemother had finished beating me."
The man, who couldn't have been more than perhaps twenty two or three, had looked down at his hands for a moment, which he had been twisting back and forth in his lap. His clothes had patches of various colored paint stains, and his hands were also stained with paint. She had found it odd even then how she had noticed such small details.
His voice, when it came, held a slightly husky timber to it, "Uh, I found you lying unconscious on the sidewalk as I was returning from a trip to get some painting supplies. There is an all night artist store near my apartment. I brought you here, for your leg had obviously been broken and you were bleeding pretty bad. You didn't have any identification, so I didn't really know what else to do. At first they refused to treat you, at least until I told them who I was and that I would cover any costs."
He had paused, looking down at his twisting hands, the looked up at her almost shyly, "Uh..erm...you really won't need to worry about the hospital costs, its nothing to me, really. You see, my dad was a big wig oil consultant and my mom was a high profile lawyer, and when they were both killed in a plane crash two years ago, it pretty much set me up for life where money is concerned. But I was just wondering, you said something about an orphanage, was that where you worked? And why would they beat you? I thought that kind of stuff only happened in the past."
Khrystiana, for some odd reason, had been very hesitant to reveal the real reason that she had been abused at the orphanage, so she merely told him that she had been raised her whole life there, having been found on the doorstep as a child.
He had turned his head a little sideways as he had looked at her, and his voice had been so kind and sympathetic, totally lulling any suspicions she might have had, "Uh, does that mean you don't have anywhere to go? You could come stay with me till you are stronger. As I said, I'm not hurting for money, but I, uh, well, I sort of could use help around the apartment, I'm not really that good a housekeeper when I am creating. And if you knew how to cook, that would be great, I sort of get tired of takeout."
Khyrstiana studied him for many long moments, debating. Finally she made a decision.
"Thank you, I really appreciate that. And yes, I know how to cook, for I was often forced to take over the cooking duties at the orphanage when the regular cook was off or ill."
He had given her a grin, "Oh man, that would be great! I will just go and talk to the doctor to find out when you can leave. And by the way, if you know what size you wear, I can, uh, well, pick you up some things."
Just then Khrystiana's attention was caught by the sight of a building she was all too familiar with, the orphanage, which was being shown on the television, which the stranger had evidently been watching while she slept.
Without knowing why, she reached out and turned the volume up..."...all made it to safety thanks to the quick wits of the doberman that apparently guarded the orphanage at night. The dog was said to have scratched and howled so persistently at the door of one of the junior staff members that it woke her. From reports she gave, she immediately, upon opening the door and smelling the gas fumes, woke all of the remaining residents and got them out into the street, with no real casualties save some faintness and headaches. So far there was only one fatality, a middle aged, heavy set woman, who according to one of the survivors was the housemother. She was found in one of the ground floor rooms near the kitchen area, which may be why she was the only one who succumbed to the gas fumes. The firefighters had to bust the door down to get to her, for it was triple bolted from the inside. The woman who had roused the other residents, when asked why the door had been bolted, had replied that the housemother had had a phobia of being attacked in her sleep. This is Serena Jones, Channel Nineteen News, signing off. Back to you, Rodger."
Khrystiana had lain there in shock, too stunned to speak. So, the old bat had finally been paid back for not only her cruelty to herself, but also to the other residents.
Khrystiana's eyes turned hard for just a moment...oh yes, that evil woman had had very good cause to fear for her life when she slept, for there had been several attempts on her life about a year before that fateful morning of Khrystiana's sixteenth birthday.
Her attention was drawn back to the young man as he suddenly reached up and smacked his forehead, then gave her a somewhat sheepish looking grin, "Oh man, where are my manners, here I am asking you to stay with me and I haven't even told you my name! It's Jason, what's yours, if you remember it, that is."
Khrystiana had given him a shy smile and told him her name, then he had stood, and after telling her he was merely going to talk to the doctor and that he would be right back, he left the room, leaving a somewhat bemused Khrystiana lying there, wondering at the strange twist her life had taken.
The hospital had released her and she had gone to stay with Jason. Over the next two years, when she wasn't tidying up, she would sit for hours and watch him paint.
Then came the day that she, being somewhat bored, picked up one of his sketching pencils and began to sketch on the back of one of his discarded drawings.
She became so lost in what she was doing that she did not hear him come in, nor see him as he came to stand just off to one side, watching as she brought the face that had haunted her dreams her entire life to visible reality with a series of seemingly effortless strokes.
Khrystiana's first warning that she was no longer alone was the sound of the low appreciative whistle as Jason reached over her shoulder and pulled the sketch from the easel. "Man, you are really good! Have you ever painted or drawn before?"
She had looked down a little self-consciously at her hands, "Uh, only tiny portraits in crayon on paper grocery bags of some of the children at the orphanage. I'm not really that good."
Jason had looked at her in all too plain astonishment, "What on earth do you mean, not that good! Girl, I have known artists who have drawn for years that would turn pea green with envy to have just a portion of this much talent! Tell me, have you ever worked with anything other than the crayon, like any form of actual paints?"
Slightly startled by his all too apparent excitement, she had merely shook her head. He had immediately grabbed her hand, pulling her towards the corner of the loft where he did his actual paintings.
He put a clean sheet of paper canvas on the easel, then went to the kitchen and brought back an apple, which he sat on the little stand that stood by his easel. Then he had taken one of her hands in his while using his other hand to move her head up to where he could look directly into her eyes, "I want you to try something. I don't want you to think about trying to make it perfect, for this will evidently be your first time working in oils, but I want you to try to paint that apple, as realistically as you can. You can take as long as you need, but I don't want you to quit till you feel you have captured it, alright? Forget about the housework and everything else, I want you to stay focused on bringing that apple to life on the page."
He paused for a moment, but maintained the hold he held on her eyes, then spoke again, "I will stay away from you while you are doing it, unless you call me to ask me something. I want you to focus on that apple, study it, study the way the light and shadow appears on it and gives it depth and shape, and then I want you to paint, as well as you can, what you see, okay?"
Khrystiana had nodded her head, then he had led her to the stool he sometimes sat on when sketching, and then, after placing a piece of charcoal in her hand, had merely given her a small smile, then turned and walked away, leaving her to sit there.
She had turned her attention to that apple, and as she had begun to study it, something strange had happened...it had almost been as if she had stepped outside of herself. She had sat there staring at that apple, and then she had turned and begun to sketch, not even really aware of anything other than the sight of those lines flowing from her hand, a hand that at first had started out with hesitation, but quickly began to move over the paper in flowing strokes.
Then she had turned, and still not really aware of what she had been doing, only knowing that it felt more right than anything she had ever felt in her life, she began to pick up tubes of color and place small splotches of paint on the palette...
And then she began to paint...
And she continued to paint nearly every waking moment for the next three days, only stopping for personal needs or to eat.
And at the end of that third day, when she placed what she somehow instinctively knew was the final brushstroke on that painting, she called Jason to come see it. He had made sure to steer clear of her while she had been working on the painting, and had even set a small screen up to block her from the rest of the apartment.
And he had simply stood there, staring back and forth from that painting to her with amazement.
When he finally spoke, his voice was filled with awe, "My God! I can't believe what I'm seeing!"
He looked from the painting to the table that held the now slightly withered apple, and then to her, then back to the painting...
A painting that could almost have been a snapshot of not only that apple...
But of the table, everything on it, and the viewable portion of the room around it, in perfect, minute detail.
He had looked at her, then a strange look had come over his face, and for just a brief moment, an almost sly look had filled his eyes, there and gone before she had been really sure she had seen it.
He had reached out and taken her hands as he had spoken in a voice of suppressed excitement, " Would you like to try something else?"
She had responded with no hesitation whatsoever...yes.
And thus it had begun. Once more his apartment took on the appearance it had possessed when she had come as she began to spend more and more time painting...
And became more and more lost to the world around her, and to the fact that Jason had begun to change in his treatment of her.
She only knew that when she was painting, it was if she had found a part of herself she had never realized was missing.
And then came the day that Jason struck her for the first time, the day she learned he had been selling her paintings, after putting his signature on them, and using the money to buy drugs.
She had sold some of her paintings herself to different galleries, and gotten fairly good prices for them. And she had put that money into an account which she had not revealed to Jason that she even possessed, for during her stay with him, he had let it be known that he would handle all of her finances, as he felt she had no knowledge of the business world, having been raised in an orphanage without any real technical or business learning.
The day she learned the his true nature she had gone to town to get supplies and happened to pass by the display window to a small gallery near the apartment,
And seen one of her paintings...with his name as the artist.
She had stood staring at the painting in shock for several long moments, and then the rage had come. She had gone in and purchased the painting, and had confronted him with the proof of his duplicity when he had returned from a trip out of town. They had gotten into an argument and he had struck her hard enough to knock her to the floor, leaving her with a huge bruise on the side of her face.
He had told her that she had owed him for taking her in and that until he decided to release her, she was to remain in the apartment and paint, that she would only be allowed to leave if he was with her.
The second time he tried to strike her she was astonished when his hand paused mere inches from her face, almost as if someone or something had grabbed his wrist.
She was even more astonished when he suddenly flew halfway across the room to land in a heap against the wall. He had risen with a roar, grabbed a nearby fireplace poker, and come towards her, his face contorted with rage and his eyes mad.
He had made it to within barely a foot of her when all at once his eyes had gone wide with what could have almost been described as terror, and then he had dropped the poker and dropped to the floor as he began to scream and convulse.
Terrified herself, fearing for her life, she had grabbed his car keys and her jacket and left.
She had not gone back, but had rather found a cheap apartment in the poorer section of town, hoping and praying he would not think to look for her there.
Several years passed and she continued to paint. She became well known under her assumed name, and soon had enough money to get a luxury loft apartment in the upscale part of town.
And with the passing of time she began to let down her guard, to relax, to be less cautious.
She also began to draw the same male face over and over, adding it to her paintings. No matter how hard she tried, she could not get the strange face out of her mind.
Sometimes that face almost seemed to be of someone that she had known at one time, perhaps the one who had left her on the doorstep of the orphanage.
And then one evening she tried to bring that face to life with the power of the oils.
But this time there was something different, this time it was almost as if she no longer had no power over the strokes that brought that strangely beautiful face to life on the canvas. She could have no more denied the urge to form that visage than she could have stopped breathing.
Khrystiana lost track of the hours she spent painting, she barely ate or slept as she worked on it.
And the night that she put what she somehow knew instinctively was the final brushstroke on the portrait, her front door crashed open, slamming against the wall with a thud, she heard a sharp noise, and then felt a burning sensation right over her heart.
As Khrystiana lay on the floor, a figure came to loom over her, simply standing there regarding her impassively as a voice she had not heard in three years once more filled her ears, "I told you you were not to go anywhere without me, bitch, and I meant it. But I guess you don't listen too good. Well, you disobeyed me, and now you are paying for it. I made you what you are and I have the right to destroy you."
All at once Khyrstiana saw his eyes go wide as he began to back away, holding his hands out as he began to scream, "No! Stay away from me! Do you hear me, I said stay away!"
That was the last thing he was ever to say, for he suddenly clutched his chest and went crashing to the floor.
Khrystiana lay there, no longer in pain, but sensing another presence. She was oddly unsurprised when an oh so well known face came into her line of vision. She reached up, her eyes welling with tears, meaning to wipe away the tears that were running freely from those heart-breakingly familiar eyes.
But the stranger pulled back before her hand could make contact.
Her voice was faint and weak, "I know you. I do not know how, but I do. I have seen you in my dreams all of my life for as long as I can remember. Who are you? Why do you haunt me? And why do you always retreat when I try to touch you?"
Death tilted his head back to look heavenwards, then once more gazed down at her, too moved with emotions he had never known he possessed till that moment. Unable to say a word, he showed her his identity as he flashed to the form her mortal concept of him would understand, the skeletal, darkly robed and cowled figure with scythe in hand.
Strangely, she did not scream or panic, but rather gave him a rather wry smile, "Ah, I see. So you have haunted me my entire life, but why? And why was it that you always seemed to be protecting me in my dreams, yet from everything I have ever read or heard of you, you are said to be without any feelings of kindness, compassion or humanity?"
Death started to reach his hand out to run it over her hair in a soothing manner, but drew back at the last moment, but he returned her smile, though his was tinged with sadness, "I have watched over you all of your life. But for some reason I have been drawn to you most strongly since your sixteenth birthday. I myself cannot explain it, for by my very nature I am normally not capable of feeling anything at all for a mortal. And the very fact that you were not only aware of me the times I vanquished the monsters of your dreams, but even more astonishing, that your were somehow able to draw my true visage, means that you also must somehow be connected to me."
Suddenly Death tilted his head back, his hands in tightly clenched fists at his side, as he gave a howl of frustrated grief and rage, speaking in a tongue that had been old when the earth was formed, "Oh you,most high power, how could you be so cruel to allow me to care for this one, knowing I could never touch her without destroying her! And then cruelest of all, to force me into a position where I MUST touch her to ease her suffering! Have I not fulfilled your purpose for me? Must I wander throughout eternity forever alone? Why did you even allow me to feel this for this mortal when you knew what the ending would be!"
Death fell to his knees beside her, his head bowed, his shoulders shaking with his sobs. Suddenly she coughed, blood welling from between her lips. Her eyes were glazed with pain and he knew that he could no longer delay the inevitable.
But she took matters into her own hands as she reached out, and with one butterfly light caress, lay the hand closest to him on one of his tightly clenched ones resting on his knees. Her final words were soft with acceptance, "It is alright, I am ready to go, for this world holds nothing for me."
And as Khrystiana's hand dropped to the floor, Death finally reached out and touched the only being, mortal or immortal, that he had ever loved, gathering her to his heart as he began to weep in earnest while he rocked her.
He was so locked in grief that he failed to notice when she began to stir. His first indication that she was even moving was when she reached up and tenderly wiped his face with her fingertips.
In wonder he gazed down into her eyes, then to her chest where that horrible life stealing wound had been...
And no longer was. The fabric of her shirt did not even show a trace of blood or tear, almost as if the wound had never existed.
But what shocked him even more was the soft glow now surrounding her form, a glow that was only possessed by an immortal.
Tentatively he reached down and touched her face, his eyes wide with questioning wonder, "But how can this be, you are mortal, I would have surely sensed if you had not been before now."
"Perhaps I can answer that question." came a silvery sounding feminine voice.
Death's head whipped around to look up at the slender female that stood, along with Cupid, beside him...
And who had one of Cupid's ears very firmly held between her fingers with what was all too plainly enough force to cause him to grimace in pain.
Which, all in all, made a rather odd picture, given the fact that the female who held him was about two feet shorter than his nearly eight feet, causing him to bend in a somewhat awkward pose due to her grip on his ear.
The newcomer's voice came again, "You have my son to thank both for your strange attraction to this mortal. And as to her current state, I felt I owed it to you, considering you would not have even been attracted to the mortal had it not been for him. I know his arrows, when shot with true intention for good, are non-reversible in their effect, and I did not think it fair for you to spend the rest of eternity grieving, so I made her immortal. Now you can be together without fear of harming her. And by the way, I also gave her the ability to understand the ancient tongue."
Death looked at her in silent gratitude, then turned his eyes back to gaze down at Kyrstiana. Her eyes were wide as she gazed at where the other two immortals stood.
Then a shy smile lit up her face as she turned her eyes to gaze up into Death's with a look in them that was unmistakable. This wonderful female loved him, it was there in her eyes even though she had not spoken the words. And that surmise was confirmed when she reached up and pulled his head down to where she could lay her lips against his.
As the kiss deepened, Cupid's mother's voice could be heard even as they both began to fade, "And as for you, you finally nearly went too far, Cupid. And this time I will not be lenient with you. I think about a century of mucking out Pegasus' stall and cleaning up after the minotaur aught to be sufficient punishment."
The last thing that Death and Khrystiana heard was Cupid's rather, given his age in centuries, very definitely childishly petulant "But mother...!"
And as Death hugged his precious love to a heart that very definitely was beating with love for only her, he couldn't help but do the one thing he had never, in his entire existence done...
He tilted his head and burst out laughing as he and Khrystiana faded from sight.