Okay, this is the last chapter. I had a lot of fun writing this one especially the dialog between Ax, Marco, and Rachel, lol. I hope you enjoy. Also there are a few side notes, but I'm putting them at the top, so you don't see any spoilers when scrolling down to the bottom :)
(1)(AN: We`re going to pretend this was like in the 90`s when not many kids had cell phones. :) Or watches, apparently :p yes I realize the flaw with that, but for this story just pretend they're all conveniently forgetful lol.)
(2) Also, Ax is in human morph the whole time, except when he demorphs and remorphs occasionally.
(3) They didn't need to worry about getting lost because they had a built in sense of direction.
"Ax no way am I going against you in a smore eating contest."
An hour and a half later the Animorphs, Ax, Erek, and Jenny were all gathered in front of a large bonfire that crackled and smoked. They were in a clearing a little ways away from Cassie`s barn.
"But Marco, on these messages they depicted a group of humans participating in a ritual to consume as many burgers as their stomach capacity could hold. Is this not a normal human activity? Or is it a sacred ritual where smores can not serve as a substitute?"
Marco just shook his head in amusement.
"I think I can explain Ax." Jake said as he blew out the flame on his marshmallow, revealing a charred glob, "What you saw was an eating contest. And it wasn`t really a ritual or anything, it was just for fun. And maybe the winner, the person who eats the most without barfing, gets a prize."
"Thank you Prince Jake," Ax said graciously, "I understand now. Although I must admit that sounds a little strange. No offense off course, but you humans sometimes have an odd sense of `fun`"
Jake laughed, "None taken... oh and don`t call me `Prince`."
"Yes," Ax blinked, "Prince Jake."
It was Jake`s turn to shake his head.
Cassie laughed lightly and Jake turned to smile at her.
The two just kind of smiled at each other for a moment in comfortable silence.
Rachel could just see the wisecrack ideas turning in Marco`s brain, so she spoke up before he could interrupt her cousin and her best friend`s `moment`"
"Yeah Ax and the reason Marco doesn`t want to compete against you in an eating contest is because he knows he`ll lose."
Marco looked at Rachel, "That so Xena?"
Rachel nodded, "Yup. And not just lose. But lose shamefully."
Erek joined in, "Ooo and that`s the worst kind of losing too."
Jenny laughed and playfully hit his shoulder.
Ax just nodded seriously, "It`s true."
"Hey," Marco said, "Has anyone stopped to consider maybe I`m not some wimpy weenie boy?"
"Nope, thought never occurred to us," Rachel said, winking up at Tobias.
Marco almost laughed at himself for giving her that opening. But then growled in frustration, "I mean maybe, just maybe, I`m simply trying to look out for Ax. I mean, I don`t want him eating himself into a coma."
"I have more control then that, Marco," Ax said curtly, barley concealing his obvious offense.
"Right, course you do. So I guess the whole ordeal with the food court and the cinnabon and the paramedics never happened then?"
Jenny laughed incredulously, "What?"
She turned to Erek, "Did I just hear that right?"
He grinned, "It`s a funny story, I`ll tell you later."
"At that time I was not aware of the limitations of the human stomach. Now that I am more informed, I won`t make that misjudgment again."
Marco lifted his hands up, "Okay okay, fair enough."
(Hey), Tobias said from his spot on a nearby tree branch, (Anyone know what time it is?)
"It`s about two of your earth hours until midnight," he said, stressing the word `your` as he looked at Marco.
"They`re everybody`s hours Ax," he said automatically.
Ax smiled smugly.
(Okay), Tobias said, (Thanks Ax-man.)
Rachel looked up at him, "Are you going to morph?"
"Okay," she smiled.
Cassie and Jake finished talking.
"So how are we going to count down to the New Year?" Cassie asked, "We didn`t bring a tv or a radio out here or anything." (1)
"I can naturally sense time, so I will know when the New Year arrives," Ax said.
"Me two!" Erek announced.
"Me three!" Jenny pipped.
"And down to an exact fraction of a second!" Erek added.
"Show offs," Marco called good naturedly, "So which one of you wants to lead the countdown?"
"Um..." they all three looked at each other.
"I can only give an approximation very close to the actual time, but not exact. Perhaps either Erek or Jenny should lead the count?" Ax suggested.
Erek and Jenny looked at each other.
"Well," Jenny said, "Why don`t we both count together?"
Erek smiled, "Sure. Sounds better than the idea I had to help us decide."
"And what was that?" she asked curiously.
He shrugged, "Rock paper scissors."
She smiled sweetly.
"It was better than my idea too," Marco said, cutting in.
Erek raised an eyebrow, "What was your idea Marco?"
Jenny threw an empty soda can at him, careful to miss, "I`ll give you an `Android battle.`"
Erek laughed, amused.
"Hey!" Marco said laughing, "I thought you were incapable of violence."
Jenny raised an eyebrow, "Anything that`s lost can be found, Marco."
That made him gulp audibly.
Jenny laughed, "I`m just kidding Marco. I thought it was funny too."
"Yeah." she said smiling, "Sorry if I scared you."
Marco shrugged, "It's okay. You can just go on a date with me and we'll call it even."
She shook her head, "Marco. I'm not human."
"Yeah but the other kid's at school don't have to know that."
She looked at him in amazement, "What?"
"Once the ladies think I'm taken, they'll all finally realize how amazing I really am."
He winked at Rachel who was chatting with Cassie. Rachel gagged, and Cassie laughed loudly, which he chose to ignore.
"Oh so you were just planning on using me?" Jenny said in mock anger.
"Well yeah," Marco held up his hands suddenly in defense, "No! I mean no! I would never, I mean I just-"
Jenny cut him off, "It's okay Marco. I'm not mad. Besides I like you, but you're not really my type."
"Ouch," Marco said, faking a wounded heart, "rejected."
Erek sighed, "Marco if I set you up with someone will you stop flirting with every girl you meet?"
"You'd do that for me buddy old pal?"
"I'll see what can be done..."
"Alright! Okay I'll leave you two lovebirds alone," he said breezily before walking over to where Jake was teaching Ax how to make a proper s`more.
Erek and Jenny suddenly looked at each other, confusion etched in their expressions, before they both laughed softly.
"That was weird," Jenny said, amused.
"Nah, that was just Marco."
They both laughed.
"So, you want to help me set up the food and stuff?"
"Sure," she said brightly.
Together, they set out the food that everyone had brought; assorted chicken from Jake, fried, baked, and rotisserie style, potato chips from Marco, assorted veggies and dip from Cassie, macaroni salad from Rachel (and Tobias), chocolate chip cookies and Lemon bars from Ax (although he had eaten most of them already), apple pie from Jenny, and Erek had brought his specialty, pre-packaged Oreos and Mountain Dew.
When all of the food was set out, the two of them admired the feast.
"You know," Erek said, "It's times like this when I wonder what it would be like to be human and actually need to eat."
Jenny nodded, "Me too. But it looks delicious doesn't it?"
"Yeah it does."
"But you're right, I guess it's more for the others than for us huh?"
He hugged a liter of Mountain Dew protectively, "Jenny, what are you talking about?"
She laughed at his antics, "Erek you know it's not cool to not share."
He sighed, placing the bottle back down, "I know."
"Hey don't forget about the fireworks," she said to cheer him up.
He grinned, "How could I?"
She chuckled, and he smiled again at hearing her laugh.
She called the others over, "Hey guys! Food's ready! Let's eat!"
The others all came and settled onto a spot on the picnic blanket to enjoy the delicious meal.
Several empty containers latter, all of them were chatting and energetic despite eating their fill.
After a content silence settled over them, Cassie spoke up, "Hey guys before we leave we have to clean this stuff up please or my parents will have a cow."
Jake nodded, "Of course. Thanks for letting us use your place for the picnic Cassie."
She blushed, "No problem. My parents didn't actually mind and it was such a nice idea that Jenny had."
Jake smiled slowly in agreement.
Erek looked at Jenny,
"I'm really glad you thought of all this, Jenny. I probably would have spent the New Year cleaning out the basement or something lame."
"Thanks Erek. Even though I seriously doubt you would have cleaned out the basement. You always save that for your 'Dad'."
He grinned sheepishly. She continued, shrugging.
"It's New Years Eve and it's also a blue moon, I don't know. Just seemed special I guess."
"It is," he nodded, "And I'm glad we get to spend it together this time."
"Me too," she said softly.
Erek smiled back at her before biting into an Oreo.
"I'm glad you're my friend Jenny. I'd be so hopelessly bored without you," he answered with his mouth full.
Jenny's eyes twinkled with mirth before answering, "Yeah it's true you would be."
She snagged the Oreo out of his hand.
He just grinned, "Admit it, you'd be kind of bored without me too."
"Eh..." she said, then grinned, "You're right."
Suddenly, their eyes widened, it was almost time for the countdown!
They quickly gathered the others before beginning.
Erek and Jenny started the count in perfect synchronization.
Ax started counting with them.
The others all joined in.
Rachel noticed Tobias standing beside her. He reached for her hand, and they smiled at each other.
Cassie looked at them and "awwed" silently in her head. Then she and Jake exchanged meaningful glances.
The group's voice grew louder in anticipation of the New Year. They were all looking at each other, smiling.
Marco had a lit a match and was prepared to set off a bottle rocket, but it kept tipping over. Ax eyed the human invention warily, and even stepped away from it slightly.
Jenny felt something touch her hand and she saw that it was Erek. She accepted his hand with a warm smile.
Jenny stopped counting as she looked over at her friend.
Erek noticed her voice vanish from the countdown so he looked at her curiously. She smiled at him and he smiled back.
Jenny pulled Erek closer and kissed him lightly on the cheek just before screaming like a celebratory maniac, "HAPPY NEW YEAR!" He stared back at her in surprise briefly before joining in the "Happy New Year!" cheers.
"Alright!" Marco announced, "Time for FIREWORKS!"
"Marco you're such a pyro."
"Hey, Tobias has flying, you have adrenaline, Ax has Z-space funfacts, and Jake and Cassie have each other. Can't you just let me enjoy things that explode but in a generally non-threatening way?"
She laughed, lightheartedly for the occasion, "Yeah, I suppose."
They all joined and starting lighting off various fireworks. Eventually the night grew later and the bonfire started to shrink down to merely glowing embers.
When it was time to go, Erek and Jenny headed off together in the woods. (3)
Before they parted ways, Jenny hugged Erek. She smiled before heading in the direction of her house.
She stopped and turned around to see Erek still standing there, hesitant to leave just yet. She tilted her head in question.
"Jenny... wait." They both walked back to each other. Erek paused before kissing her softly. He smiled warmly and whispered, "Happy New Year."
Jenny looked up and smiled, a faint bluish appearing on her cheeks. But Erek knew that was simply her hologram and that came from years of automatically responding to mimic other humans in typical situations. What he was concerned with was the way her eyes shone with affection. It was such an odd thing to do really, for them to kiss. It was such a human thing to do. But it represented love and trust and that was something they shared for each other.
He had been disappointed left and right by humans for their violence and even towards Pemalites for their lack of violence at such a crucial moment. It was a crazy, mixed up, irrational world. But it was one that he belonged to and had to contend with.
There were many wonderful things in this world too, he realized, with a dawning hope.
Jenny smiled at him, curiosity emanating from her hologram, "What are you thinking about Erek?"
He smiled the trueist smile he could, "That we should do this again every New Year."
She grinned, "Me too."
And that you and I should spend forever together, he added silently.