Finally, it's here. The final chapter of Eternal Family. It's been one hell of a ride, you guys! I began this project over a year and three months ago as something simple to keep my tremulous mind off of the real world. Everything around me looked dark and I turned to this little project that had popped up. Never did I expect this to turn into a year-long journey of exploring my talents and maturing in my writing. As you may know, this was supposed to be a substitute for The Savior Returns as I'd had to take it down due to a threat of stealing.

Now I like to view it as a companion piece. As most of you know, Savior is back up in the 9 archives and is aching to be read and refurbished. Now I can focus on new projects and my personal novel (which is going spectacular, by the way). Now, I'd like to turn my attention to you, my avid readers.

You guys stayed with me through thick and thin. Through my fright and troubles with the Waldo Canyon Fire and the Black Forest Fire. You stayed with me when I had a tragic death in my family. You stayed with me when the writer's block got so bad I wanted to cry, thinking I was never going to write again. You stayed with me even though I dragged this poor story to the 'inth degree. Yes, I agree it shouldn't have been this long, but I've grown up a bit and my writing's matured. It's time for the new!

Now I have to take a moment to give thanks. I wish I could thank every one of you, but then the list would be so long you'd never get to read the chapter! I'd like to give my greatest thanks to the following authors: Burton Lover 4Ever, for always being cheerful and bubbly. 27's Fury, for never failing to put a smile on my face. SkullWitch57 for never failing to act in your crazily wonderful way. Thomas Holmes II for always keeping up an invigorating conversation. Bow Ties And Hail Gel for being insanely crazy and pestering me for updates – it may never have gotten done without you! Star's Snowflake for always giving the constructive criticism I need. PoppyECM.6-13 for being a great friend. And lastly, the woman who is always there for a kind word of encouragement and never letting me down, Frieda Right.

Again, thanks to all my avid readers, and keep on reading!

~Raindrops to all, Cel Rainstorm

Part Twenty-One: The Brother

The sky was soft and grey the next morning, the air moist and cool. Tiny droplets of condensation covered the city landscape, dripping into puddles accumulating in the craters of the street. Long, soft curtains of dark rain coated the Barrens far off in the distance. The direction the breeze was going signified that the rainstorm would soon be over the home of the stitchpunks. For the time being, however, 9 was content to watch the storm from afar, sitting on the shackled roof of the cabin. His worn body was almost completely healed and he felt revitalized with a young, carefree energy he had never had before. The young stitchpunk was blissfully content as he watched the white bands of lightning streak across the clouds.

"Hey, what are you doing out here? A storm's coming." A familiar voice said from behind him. 9 looked over his shoulder to see 5 walking across the roof towards him. The other burlap stitchpunk was healing as well. His limp was barely noticeable now and his energy was nearly completely replenished. He sat beside 9, swinging his legs over the edge of the roof.

"I'm just watching the rain for awhile. I was coming back inside in a few moments anyway." 9 replied, giving a gentle smile to his brother. 5 smiled back and for a few minutes the two watched the approaching storm. Thunder rumbled deeply through the clouds, bringing with it a cool gust of wind. 9 closed his eyes and lifted his chin, a peaceful smile on his face as he felt the wind touch his fabric skin. He sighed softly, finally at ease with the world. 5 looked at his best friend and grinned.

"So…" he began casually, a bit teasingly, "you and Sev, huh?" 9 opened his eyes and looked over to 5, seeming a bit annoyed. However, he grin on his face betrayed his sheepishness. Of course the entire coven found out about the newly-appointed couple. There was plenty of good-natured teasing, as was expected.

"Yes, yes." 9 replied with a roll of his eyes. 5 chuckled and patted his brother on the back.

"I'm really happy for you both. Y'know, while I was still in the World Beyond, I kept waiting and waiting for you two to…y'know, espouse. It was almost getting painful for me and the others to watch." 5 said. 9 looked over at his friend with a slightly pained look and a crooked smile.

"Was it really that obvious?" He asked and 5 nodded vigorously. 9 sighed, but nevertheless smiled even wider as he thought of his new mate. 5 chuckled and put an arm around his younger brother's shoulders. 9's crippled shoulder, however, seemed stronger than ever. It hardly ever pained him and he moved his arm with no restraint. He had never felt better, or happier. He looked up at 5, the older burlap stitchpunk gazing at him with tenderness.

"She needed you, 9. We all needed you. You came when we needed saving, and you were there to do it. You saved us, and now we are finally a family." 5 said softly. 9 blinked then turned his gaze towards the quickly-approaching curtains of rain He sighed quietly to himself, folding his hands in his lap. 9 couldn't help but think of what it had taken for them to get this far, at what costs. It had gone so far as to cost him his life. However, as 9 thought about it, he realized that it was all nothing but a memory now. A bad dream. He had woken from the nightmare and looked into the bright sun of his future. Awaiting for him was his new family, their bonds unbreakable, and a world waiting for him.

"I finally found my purpose." He said, looking back at 5. "I found my purpose in helping my friends become a family, like Alan meant us to be. It…it feels good, no – it feels fulfilling to finally have a purpose. I know...I know what it took for me to get there, but I know I'm there now." 9 blinked, pausing for a moment. He studied his brother's face for a moment before murmuring, "Thank you, 5. Thank you for everything." 5 blinked and slightly tilted his head in curiosity, confused.

"What do you mean, 9?" He asked curiously. 9 smiled slightly then, reaching up and clasping 5's hand that rested on his right shoulder.

"You freed my very soul. You forgave me, and in turn, allowed me to forgive myself. I'm able to really live now. You, and the others, gave me my purpose. Thank you." 9 said softly. 5 blinked in surprise, then grinned widely, his single black eye gleaming.

"9, you foolish man. You had a purpose all along. You were meant to save us. You did so – twice. You protected Sev and the twins all those months. You came after us all, no matter what got in your way, all the while you were injured. You wouldn't stop at anything until we were safe. That kind of bravery is what a real hero is. Alan and the Others sure thought so – they brought you back to us when we thought we'd lost you forever.

Y'know, when you came to us, I had never felt lonelier. 2 had been gone for a long time, and so had 7 and the twins. 1 had locked up 6, because he was so tired of him, and you know fully well I could never befriend 1 or 8 at that time. I didn't have a friend at all, and the loneliness was painful. And then you came along, trying to find 2 without any consideration to your own life, and I got a new best friend. I got a brother, 9. That has been your purpose. To be my little brother." 5 said gently to the younger male. 9 smiled widely back and the two enveloped each other in a tight embrace.

Suddenly, a clap of thunder rumbled through the sky, the clouds darkening even further. The two boys withdrew as they simultaneously looked up at the sky. The rain was even closer now, soaking the outer rim of the city. Thin streaks of violet lightning flitted and danced across the clouds, illuminating up the dark world. The two stitchpunks took it as their cue to head inside before the storm hit. They got to their feet (albeit a bit shakily) and began walking to the chimney they now used as an elevator. 9 then stopped walking for a moment and 5 turned around, concerned.

"9? Are you alright?" He asked his friend, walking back to him. 9 smiled reassuringly at 5, waving a calming hand.

"Yeah, I'm fine. It's just…I never expected to be someone's brother. And now…" 9 trailed off, lost in his thoughts. 5 walked back across the roof to the younger burlap stitchpunk and placed his hands on his shoulders.

"Of course. You're my brother, 9." 5 said softly, smiling gently. 9 returned the smile, then reached up and cupped 5's face between his large, warm hands.

"I'll always be your brother." 9 spoke softly. The younger male stitchpunk tilted 5's head down a bit, and leaned forward. He pressed his lips gently to the top of 5's forehead, kissing him softly. 5 closed his eye, knowing that this sign was a gesture of ultimate trust and love. He placed his hands upon 9's shoulders, and for a moment, the two stood like this, the only noises being the rumbling thunder, pattering rain, and wind whistling through the city. 9 then withdrew, and looked 5 deep in the eye. 5 offered his brother a warm grin.

"And I'll always be yours." He replied softly. Together, the two brothers turned away, stepping lightly into the elevator. For now, their journey was over. 9 had finally found the purpose he had been endlessly searching for since the day he was born. He had gone through things many men wouldn't have the courage or strength to. Yet, finally, he had found his purpose and his home. He was finally at peace with himself and the world, taking heart in the fact that he was going to live out the rest of his peaceful, adventurous life with his eternal family.

The end.