Recommended listening: Somewhere Over the Rainbow as sung by Israel Kamakawiwo, or Spin by Lifehouse. Both good songs, both appropriate for the last chapter. See the end of this chapter for the Author's notes and thanks, which are quite lengthy. And, if you've made it this far with me, whether for the first time, or the third, I thank you so much for coming this far. I hope you've enjoyed what you've read and please, feel free (and encouraged) to leave a review!

I'd rather chase your shadow all my life

than be afraid of my own

I'd rather be with you

I'd rather not know

where I'll be than be alone and convinced that I know

and the world keeps spinning round

my world's upside down and I wouldn't change a thing

I've got nothing else to lose I lost it all when I found you

and I wouldn't change thing

no you and I wouldn't change a thing

Everything I know has let me down

so I will just let go let you turn me inside out

cause I know I'm not sure about anything

but you wouldn't have it any other way

spinning, turning, watching, burning all my life has found its meaning

walking, crawling, climbing, falling all my life has found its meaning

you and I wouldn't change a thing

no you and I wouldn't change a thing

-Lifehouse, Spin

Chapter 41: Ends and Beginnings

Darkness.

"Hey, how does this damn thing turn on?"

The record light flickered on a black screen, the scene just a little fuzzy before the picture came in. Suddenly, the picture rattled completely, tumbling down to provide an excellent view of the ground before the picture once again fuzzed out.

"Oh, shit!" came the audio. An innocent whistle followed. "Whew. No harm done."

"I saw that, Zell Dinct!" came a voice off screen, sounding remarkably like Selphie's.

"Oh, shit." Came the mutter. And then, louder, "Saw what, Selphie?"

A rattle sounded, but the darkness and silence persisted for a good three minutes before Zell spoke again. "Hey, look who it is. It's Mr. Sunshine. Say something to the camera."

"What the fuck am I supposed to say to a camera?" came the mordant reply. "Shouldn't you be painting, Chicke-"

"You finish that sentence; I'll-"

"You'll what? What are you gonna do, film me to death? In that case, you might want to take the cap off, genius. It's been on the entire time."

"Oh. So it has. Heh. Whadaya know." Suddenly, the blackness faded, panning up to show a view of Balamb Garden's main room, decorated with blue tarps on both the ceilings and the floors.

A muttered comment by the same voice didn't quite make it to the audio.

"Yeah, same to you, asshole," replied Zell. But there was no malice in his tone, nor in the other voice's. It was a light banter, casual like rubber bullets.

The camera continued to pan around the room. Students hung from the ceilings and stood on platforms on the sides, all brandishing paintbrushes and bright red bandanas, (courtesy of Mrs. Dinct.) Architects were walking around, blueprints in hand, shouting orders to the students and shaking their heads. Music blared from a small stereo on the ground that was doing its double AA best to fill the large, dome-shaped room with music. The soldiers were supposed to be painting, but all it looked like they were doing was throwing paint on one another and doing a fairly good job of it.

"Hey guys! Say hi to the camera!" A few of them waved, grinning and shouts of 'Hey Zell!' traveled over the music. The camera wiggled, and Zell's hand appeared in front of the screen for a moment.

The picture swerved, and Zell's face appeared in front of the screen. "Greetings, all! This is the amazing Zell Dinct-"

"More like the village idiot-" came a caustic drawl from somewhere off screen, the same voice that had taunted him earlier.

"Hey, screw you!" Zell cleared his throat. "Anyway, as I was saying, I, the-"

"Biggest moron here," Interjected the same voice, this time coming from another direction.

"That's it! I warned you! Don't make me put this camera down!" A pause, and the camera angle was adjusted as laughter ensued in the background. "Whatever. As I was saying, I, Zell Dinct, will now conduct a tour of the new and rapidly improving Balamb Garden!"

The camera turned, sloppily, and Selphie came into focus, a paint roller in her grip, wearing a pair of paint-covered overalls and a red bandanna on her forehead She was strung to the ceiling by a rope, and her feet were planed firmly on either side of a yet-unfinished paint job. The young woman was covered in paint, and two white streaks were even painted under her eyes, apparently for spirit value.

"And here's the lovely Selphie Tilmitt, sporting Balambwear complete with lovely red bandanna done by my own lovely Ma Dinct. If you're not covered in paint today, then baby, it just ain't Balambwear."

Grinning, Selphie, stuck out her tongue and waved her roller at him. "Shouldn't you be painting, Zelly?"

"Naw! I'm recording this for prosperity!"

"It's posterity, moron!" came another voice. The camera swiveled to catch Irvine, hair tied back in a ponytail and a red bandana tied around his head in a similar fashion to Selphie's. Like most of the other cadets, he wore a plain white tank top and a pair of black Garden-issued sweatpants. A white bandage was wrapped securely underneath the tank top beneath, ensuring that the young man's movement would not disturb the scar tissue. His tanned skin was also covered in a coating of paint. It appeared that no one had escaped untainted from an apparent paint war that had taken place beforehand.

"Hey, Irvine, try to get some on the wall, huh?" shouted Zell. Irvine looked down at Zell from his position on the rope, shot the camera a winning, toothy smile, then promptly flipped Zell the bird.

"Nice, Irvine!" shouted Zell. "Way to really express yourself!"

"Get a paintbrush, lazy!" shouted Irvine back at him, but the gunslinger was grinning good-naturedly as he flicked his paintbrush down at his friend. The angle swerved. "Damnit man! Selphie's gonna cut off my nuts if I wreck her camera!" The camera angle skittered back, and whirled around.

A pair of older women came into view, both working on propping up one of the newly painted doors. The two women were talking, smiling, although their faces wore more age and sadness than did most of the young ones around them.

"Hey, gals! What's a couple a' hot babes like you doin' in a place like this?"

The older of the two women turned, revealing the kindly, plump face of Ma Dinct. The woman promptly swatted at him with a rag. "Oh, you!"

The camera jumped back to avoid the rag. "Aw, come on you, too! Strike a pose, babes!"

Zell's enthusiasm was infectious. The two women rolled their eyes, exasperated, but proceeded to wave in response.

"Away with you," said Edea, laughing softly, shooing him. "Go and torment the others."

Still chuckling, the camera panned around, to where a pretty raven-haired girl was working on painting one of the doorways. She, too, seemed to have fought a losing paint war...that, come to think of it, he had started.

"Hey, Rin! Smile for the camera!"

The young woman turned, a vibrant smile lighting up her face as she waved, paintbrush in hand. Her coveralls were spotted with white paint, and there was a large smudge across one cheek.

The camera then panned off to the side, to where a black-clad figure stood, hand on hip as he watched the reconstruction process, a stern frown gracing his handsome features. His arm was still tightly slung to his body in a cast sporting nearly every signature Garden had to offer.

The unfolding scene showed Rinoa sauntering up to an unsuspecting Squall, and, taking a hold of a roller brush, running it the length of Squall's back. Squall turned, surprised, glaring at Rinoa as the young woman burst into giggles. She whispered something in his ear, then smeared a streak of white on his face with her paint-covered hand. He glared sullenly at her, and his girlfriend began laughing hysterically at the irritable look that overcame his features.

There was, however, just a hint of a smile within that frown, if one knew to look for it.

The camera shook with Zell's laughter. "You- you look like a freakin' skunk, man!"

"Rinoa, Angelo's eating the paint again."

"I'll be right there."

Squall's eyes focused on the camera then, and narrowed as he stalked towards it, a murderous look in his eyes.

"Shit!" exclaimed the young camera operator, a flurry of motion and haphazard scenery swishing as Zell retreated. The floor was the only picture for several minutes as the martial artist caught his breath.

The cafeteria woman and her hairy wart came into view, along with the rest of the cafeteria staff who had been hardy enough to survive the collapse. Zell had a theory about that relating to the high metal-content in the cafeteria food, but no one was particularly interested. All the staff stood behind a long white table, each pouring juice into Styrofoam cups or preparing a sandwich. The camera, however, focused on a large crock pot, next to which a few bags of hot dog buns could bee seen.

"And may I say you ladies are looking especially lovely today?" asked the camera, bowing just slightly.

The head woman gave the camera a dirty look, hands on hips. "You ain't getting' nothin', Dinct. Lunch doan start for an hour. Now git!"

"Hag," muttered the camera.

"I heard that!" came the gruff reply. "No hot dogs for you, Dinct!"

"Aw, shit! Not again!"

The camera angle rocked suddenly, and the camera panned down to focus on a large, dark-colored mongrel, who was covered in white hand prints from where the other cadets had been petting him. A red bandana had been tied around his neck as well. The monstrous thing barked, tail wagging like a propeller. Angelo appeared at his side, also wearing a bandana and looking particularly (and suspiciously) fat.

"Hey, it's Cerberus and Angelo, my favorite couple! Hey guys! Wanna go steal some hot dogs for me? Go on, boy! Go on girl! Find the hot dogs!" The dogs let out a bark loud enough to shatter concrete, then ran off, weaving through the crowd.

A crash ensued.

"Who let those damned dogs out again?" Came a loud shriek could be heard above the flurry of activity, followed by another loud crash. "Zell Dinct! Where is that boy?"

The camera angle turned, quickly. "Heh. Right. Anyway, here's the new ceiling we'll be putting up, complete with mag-generating shields. It's Ceres' idea, so 'course I have no idea what the hell it's gonna be, but it sure sounds cool, doesn't it?" The angle twisted, showing several students waving from their perches on the ceiling. "Hey! I know! Let's go ask her!"

The camera moved through the crowd, displaying several waving students.

The angle then swiveled down to a lower point in the floor, a gaping hole where the elevator had once been. A young woman dangled from a rope connected to the first level, her body position nearly horizontal as she dug her hands into a group of wires. Her body was strapped in by several belts and cables, and a bunch of flashlights were taped to the stairwells to light the dork hole. She appeared to be humming to herself.

"Hey!" shouted Zell. "Who's down there?"

The figure glanced up at his voice, pushing a pair of plastic goggles up onto her forehead. Black soot stained Ceres' cheeks and tank top, and her hands were nearly black from digging in the wiring for the elevator. The short, dark hair that poked out from her bandana was also covered in a layer of carbon dust.

"Ugh, Zell! Get that camera out of here! I look terrible!"

"Naw! You look great! Hey, Garden gonna fly again, babe?"

The young woman shook her head, gazing up at him from the dark depths of the basement. "Nope!" The young woman spread her hands, face lighting up in an impish grin. "When I get done with her, she'll soar!"

"That's the spirit! Hey, why doncha explain this new mag-shield generator thing for posterier!"

"It's posterity, Zell," said his girlfriend, grinning. "And the technical side of it is pretty boring."

"Aw come on, you know it turns me on when you talk all technical."

The young woman just shook her head, blushing. "Will you go away if I explain it?"

"Maybe…"

"All right. Recent develops in chemical engineering have rendered specific metal alloys capable of conducting a weak mag current," began the young woman, separating a bunch of mult-colored wires in her hands. "However, since magic thrives only in living tissue and is conducted through biotic synapses in the body, a bio-medium was needed. The poison isolated from the Neo-Sorceress Adel is actually a living tissue heavily affected by magical radiation, so much so that the Neo-Sorceress Adel was nearly magic herself. Combined with a basic preservative, this tissue can be combined with the metal to conduct a very, very strong magic current, over twice the amount that a human body is capable of. We're running these new cables up to Garden's northern and southern poles, where we can generate a shield twice as powerful as even Rinoa is capable of. Seven stations, powered by adept magic users, will provide the magic current necessary to generate these shields, which can be held over an extended period of time."

Zell cleared his throat. "So, uh, basically, B. Garden's gonna kick ass?"

Arya smiled. "Virtually indestructible, and we have Adel to thank. If everything goes as planned, Garden will be, in effect, impregnable as long as the shields are sustained."

"That's good, right?"

Arya laughed, giving Zell a thumbs-up sign. "Awesome, in fact."

Chuckling from behind the camera. "Now you're speaking my language!"

Smirking, the young woman blew him a kiss. "Now get out of here!" she yelled, laughing. "You're distracting me!"

"Nooooo friggin' idea what she just said," muttered the camera as the angle once again focused on the ground level. "Hey, let's go pester someone else."

"Gimme that."

"Hey, no way, man! Aren't you supposed to be painting?"

"Got tired of painting."

"Well, me too. Gimme that back!"

A struggle occurred off camera, causing the audio to rumble. Suddenly Irvine's face came onscreen, grinning like the devil himself. "Hey ladies, you're now experiencing Irvine-vision." The angle panned back around, sunlight blinding the lens for a moment before Garden's familiar walls came back into view. "As y'all can see, Balamb-renovation stage one is in full swing. We even had nice weather for a change." The camera angle panned up, once again focusing on the sunlight. "Zell's had to take a break from filming, seein' as he's currently being chased by one of the cafeteria ladies."

The camera once again spun around to focus on the grinning cowboy. "And now, for me, on camera! What more could y'all want!"

Irvine glanced off camera for a moment, then the angle lurched again before the picture went black.

"Get off me, man!"

"Get your fist out of my spleen, Zell!"

"Don't expect me to take it easy on you 'cause you're a damned cripple!"

'Cripple? This from the gimp-master himself! I'll break yer friggin' nose-"

"You're worse than a pack of Moombas! Gimme that!" Selphie's voice sounded off camera, then the audio rattled again. "My poor camera. Did the barbarians hurt you?" A rattle was recorded on the audio, and then Selphie's paint-streaked face once again came into view. "There. All fixed. Now, if you'll direct your attention to the far ceiling," The angle panned up once again, to show a bunch of blue and white colored streamers affixed to the ceiling and sloping down in shining cords. "This is the beginning of the Garden Festival, which will commence as soon as the renovations are complete. I, Selphie Tilmitt, am, of course, once again director of activities and head of the planning committee, and-"

"Hey, Miss Tilmitt? There's a problem with wiring over by the Infirmary, and both Ceres and Xyrxis are in the sub-basement still."

The camera angle was still on the streamers. "All right, I'll be there in a minute. Hey, you, take this."

"What the hell do I want this for?" came the caustic reply. "Do I not look busy to you?"

"Just take it, Mr. Crabby-pants." snapped Selphie's voice, the camera angle swerving as it changed hands. "I'll be back in a minute. Try not to tape anything inappropriate."

"Yeah, right." The picture swerved, and turned in a circle. "How the hell- oh, I get it." The camera began bouncing as the figure behind it walked, the audio picking up the sound of music, laughter, and pounding, an echo that had filled Garden all day.

A group of girls passed the camera by, both carrying paint buckets. Both glanced at the camera, and giggled.

"Ladies." The camera angle bowed, then straightened as the operator continued to weave through the crowd. The camera then focused on Squall, who was now covered in paint.

"The hell happened to you?" Squall just glared at the camera before stalking away, trying to run the paint out of his hair with one hand.

The camera angle changed back to the sunlit floors of B. Garden's main floor before the picture fuzzed. "The hell's wrong with this thing? Piece of shit." The picture jolted as several loud noises filled up the audio, sounding suspiciously like someone was beating the hapless device. Dead air followed for two minutes, along with a constant string of cussing.

"Fucking camera. Hey, there she is." The picture once again came into focus, this time on a young woman in front of a window. She was crouching on a paint-spattered tarp, dressed in an old white tank top and a pair of faded jeans covered in paint and sawdust. Cerberus bounded up, a mess of fur and paint, and smiling, she reached over to pet the large dog between the ears. Suddenly, the massive mongrel looked up, and darted off just as quickly, apparently nearly running over the cameraman, because the picture wobbled violently.

"Damned dog! Hey, gorgeous!"

No response. Not even a look, although several other women around her looked up and giggled. The cameraman sighed.

The young woman examined a cross of wires, and, biting her lip, connected two of them. The light overhead burst into a buzzing sound before plinking on, drowning the woman in a sea of florescent lights. She looked up, smiling as brilliantly as the lights as she squinted.

It was then that she noticed the camera. She waved. A band could be seen around her finger, glinting silver in the light. "Where'd you steal that camera from?"

"Some crazy chick threw it at me," came the reply.

She smiled and shook her head. "I can't believe Selphie trusted you with that thing."

"Me either. The chick really is nuts." The angle grew steadily closer, until all that was visible was an eye and a cheek.

"Stop that!" she laughed. "Don't you have better things to film?"

"None that I can think of." The angle panned back, the operator chuckling.

She stuck out her tongue and lifted one of the buckets. "Fine. Don't you have more important things to do?"

A wry chuckle. "I can think of a few. But you said, 'later'."

She rolled her eyes, covering her eyes with her hand. "I can't believe you said that on camera."

"Of course you can."

She laughed, once again trying to dodge the camera.

"Come on. Say a little something into the camera."

"A little something into the camera," she replied exasperatedly, trying to shield the camera's view with her hand as she attempted to get around him.

"Very original. I see film in your future. Low-budget, tawdry numbers…the wardrobe is minimal-"

The young woman responded with a single finger, attempting to move past him and looking humorously vexed.

Laughter. "Is that a promise?"

Now she was positively glaring at him. "Turn it off!"

"What's in it for me?"

The woman looked at the camera, exasperated, hiding her face with her hand and peeking out between her fingers. Giving up, she put her hands on her hips and leaned forward, just slightly. "You'll never know unless you turn it off."

"Eh…"

"Seifer! Turn it off!"

"What? And miss filming this crucial moment in history?

Beyond exasperated, Quistis held up a dripping roller, insinuating him with it.

"Too late. Rin already got me."

The camera picture then grew closer, her image increasing in size until her hand was pressed up against the screen. "Stop!" came the laughing response as she kept her other paint-smeared hand up, in front of her face. "Selphie! Help!"

"Give me that, you barbarian! I leave you alone for a minute…" The camera angle once again jerked as the camera changed hands, only to reveal the two young people locked in an amorous embrace. "Oh! You two! Can't you go somewhere else and do that?"

Quistis pulled away, blushing. Seifer, however, wearing plaster in his scar and a holochip that made him look a little (eerily) like Laguna Loire, was shameless, and grinned like the devil himself. Quistis buried her face in his neck to hide herself from the camera view.

Seifer winked. "What, Tilmitt? You wanna make this a pay-per-view?"

Selphie tut-tutted. "Hyne, this place is going downhill. Sickos, all of you!" Just then, the camera lurched. "Zell! You give me back my camera, you big meanie!"

"Hey, Dinct!" The camera angled whirled around to see Irvine sporting a brushful of paint and wearing a devious expression.

"Hey guys, you wouldn't!"

"Hey Squall, is it just me, or does Zell seem awfully…clean…to you?" asked Irvine, grinning wickedly.

"Yep." The normally stoic leader was holding a can of paint. "Too clean."

"I agree!" Came Rinoa's voice from somewhere behind him, sounding particularly devious.

The camera panned around to focus on Irvine and Ceres, (still wearing her goggles), both sporting a dripping paintbrush. "Definitely." Echoed the two.

"Quistis? A little help here?" the camera turned again to reveal both Quistis and Squall, each holding a can of paint, and Seifer with a dripping roller, grinning wickedly. "Guys? Guys, come on, guys!"

Thus began the Second Paint War, which would go down in history as the messiest, most irresponsible waste of paint that Headmistress Xu had ever seen in her life.

Laughter filled the audio as the screen went white…literally.

After a few seconds of darkness on the film, the picture once again faded in, revealing a large group of people, all covered in paint, standing in the middle of the quad. In the center of the large group, the infamous (if painted) faces of Irvine Kinneas, Selphie Tilmitt, Zell Dinct, Ceres Morlisius, Squall Leonheart, Rinoa Heartilly, Quistis Trepe and the disguised face of Seifer Almasy all crowded onto the bronze platform, smashed in against one another and laughing as the other cadets crowded below, cheering. For an instant, they were not the Fated Children. They were not soldiers. They were a happy, paint-splattered family, basking in the glow of happier times.

The video ended with the group piled onto a bronze statue of a distinguished looking Cid Kramer, looking handsome and hopeful as his bronze eyes stared into the distance...into the future.

Balamb Garden loomed in the distance, its blue and copper hues shining in the sun, restored to its former glory…and its children, laughing and waving, as the picture faded.

Epilogue…

It is twilight, and the sun is setting over the ocean in a splash of color. The sands are bathed in a mixture of sunlight and shadow, still glimmering with a crimson splash of light. It's still one of his favorite things to watch….well, second-favorite now.

He leans on the doorframe, looking out to sea. He's wearing a pair of old pants and a thin white t-shirt, enjoying the feel of the sea breeze on his skin and the feel of the wooden floorboards beneath his bare feet. It's his favorite time of day- back from a long mission and looking forward to a quiet evening of relaxation.

Cerberus is running loose- chasing seagulls and barking up the beach. Glyph is sitting on the cooling sands, his head craned towards the fading sunlight as he keeps watch over the backyard.

He smiles, folding his arms.

She hasn't seen him yet.

She's standing at the shore, barefoot, wearing a white cotton dress. Her hair is down around her shoulders, and with every gust of wind, it whips behind her.

As he watches, transfixed, she tilts her head back, spreads her arms, and spins on some unspoken cue- the dress and her hair whip around in a flash of ivory and ochre. She spins and spins, her skirt twirling, the salt breeze in her hair and the waves lapping around her ankles, and the look on her face- she's smiling a little with her eyes closed- and suddenly he wants to catch her up, to steal that soft smile off her lips and keep it forever. Her skirt ribbons with every circle, offering a tantalizing glimpse of her bronzed legs.

She is dancing….for whom, he isn't sure, but the look on her face is enough for him. If he squints, he can catch the glint around her finger- a thin flash of silver that comforts him somehow…that tells him she'll stay.

Mid-twirl, she catches him watching her, and her cheeks color a little as she realizes he's been watching her all this time. The lip of her skirt flares, and her hair is windswept, wild, as daring and careless as her smile. She holds out her hand, her smile inviting and a little mischievous.

Dance with me.

He drops his jacket on the porch, and walks out to meet her.

He's home…finally.

END.

(ungodly long) author's Notes:

I suppose an ungodly long fic (what is it now 300,000+ words?) deserves an ungodly long author's note, right?

Well, I'm finally finished with Fire and Ice. Is there room for improvement? Certainly…and going through this piece again has been great practice for me. However, I can't, and won't, let myself go over it again. I hope you've enjoyed the new chapters and the other subtle changes. Thank you for all your suggestions, comments, and criticisms- I hope I put them to good use. Do realize that although I may not have followed all suggestions, I certainly took them all into account. Many didn't like the length, for example, or the positions of the climaxes….but…I must say I grew rather attached to my little plotbunnies, and though I agree a lot of them weren't necessary, I left them in for the hell of it.

I'd also like to add that Fire and Ice was the result of a writing challenge from a good friend of mine while I was 500 miles away from home and bored out of my mind. My writing challenge was as follows: reinvent the FF8 universe (with my VERY limited initial knowledge), with as many Seifer/Quistis clichés as possible. To her, that included: Seifer returning to Garden, Galbadia being the bad guy, the return of at least one sorceress, copious amounts of Seifer angst, Quistis as an Ice Queen, two troubled pasts, Seifer's redemption, and most importantly, a Seifer/Quistis plot. My challenge was to pull them off…and I'll admit, it turned out to be a lot longer than the 13 chapters I originally planned and was a lot harder than I thought! All in all, I tried my best. Thanks to all of you, I think my writing has come a long way…but it still has a long way to go! As you can probably tell by now, I'm never satisfied with my writing, but I'm as satisfied with this as I'm going to be, and it's time to move on. I think the goal of any good writer should be to re-invent the human condition- make it new, exciting, and captivating. I'm still working on it, obviously.

What can I say? I'm sad that Fire and Ice is at an end. Throughout writing it, I've come to love the characters, and in the end, amidst possibilities of poignant angst and delectable irony, I found that all I really wanted for them was a happy ending. So, I hope you'll all forgive me my fairy-tale whimsy and enjoy the end as much as I enjoyed writing it. This story has provided an outlet for me through many difficult times…and all of your reviews, e-mails, artwork, and messages have really motivated, helped, and enriched my existence during the past few years (wow, that long?). Anyway, I'm both baffled and honored that so many have read this story, and honored by every e-mail, picture, IM, and journal messages that you all have sent me.

A sequel may be in the works for Fire and Ice, depending on reader interest and my own available time. (A/N: Gods and Gardens is in progress, and will be updated when I have time.)

Dedications: Let me say first that I will probably forget someone in this long little list, and for that I apologize in advance as I am compiling this thing at one in the morning and am running entirely on caffeine fumes.

First and foremost, to my first reviewer, Meg. To Renoa Heartilly, for her artwork and her support. To Liz and Jes, my two favorite online 'little sisters', for all their messages, artwork, and support, MadHattess and the CatMint, for all their support and our interesting late-night chats- I love our conversations! Mibi_chan, for all of our conversations and her help especially for my 'love scenes'. Xahra99 and her sister, two talented girls who honored me by sharing their artwork and writing with me, turpentineshine, for all our great online conversations and support, Akewataru, whose artistic talent I really envy and who drew the most beautiful 'fire and ice memories' picture- massively talented! To Death By Eclipse, Nesza, and Lost_Witness, for their wonderful fanart up on my host's sites. For all who have e-mailed me…I love all your e-mails! To my webmistresses, Kari and LostWitness…a million thank you's to these talented ladies who deemed my story worthy of their time and bandwidth- I love you gals! Thanks also to Aesriella, a truly awesome beta that helped me a TON this time around!

I should also probably dedicate this chapter to the countless professors whose classes I completely ignored to work on this story. Thanks to all in my livejournal community, you guys have been great inspirations and counselors when needed, especially this year.

This story is dedicated to all my readers, those who were kind enough to recommend my story to others and put me on their favorite lists- I'm honored and humbled by all your support. This is for all who took the time to review, to give me pointers or encouragement. A million thank you's for deeming this story worthy of your attention. And finally, if you enjoyed this story, or if you didn't, thank you for reading it anyway!

When I first began this story, my only goals were to improve my writing and to see if, maybe, it could attract over 100 reviews for feedback…I didn't plan on it being any longer than 13-16 chapters and I didn't really plan on getting over 100 reviews. What wound up happening is still a surprise to me, every time I added a chapter or received a review. At any rate, I think I've improved my writing along the way, and I have all of you to thank!

So, anyway….thanks for reading!

The following quote is stolen from Shakespeare, and mangled by me:

"If we shadows have offended, think but this, and all is mended. That you have but slumbered here, while these visions did appear, and this weak and idle theme, no more yielding but a dream. Gentles, do not reprehend. If you pardon, we will mend. Else [altol] a liar call. And so good night unto you all."

Thank you.

Sincerely yours,

altol