Chapter 1

The pillar of light touched down on the grass just outside the Kanzaki residence. Hitomi crouched in front of her family's house as the light retreated back into the sky. She slowly stood up and shouldered her duffle bag. She heaved a sigh, began to walk towards her door, and stopped dead. Her stomach was turning into knots, and her throat closed up in anguish. She was back. Why was she back? She had wanted to come home so much. She had wanted to come back to her life on Earth despite everything she had gained on Gaea. Now she was in uncontrollable anguish. Her heart wrenched. She had the distinct feeling that she was feeling Van's pain as well. She hoped he couldn't feel hers. As tears began to squeeze themselves from the corners of her green eyes, she made the decision to keep going. She would be okay. This was her home. Earth. This is where she belonged... at least that's what she had been saying all the while she was on Gaea.

Hitomi collected herself, wiped her eyes with the back of her wrist, and started out again for her front door. This life would have to do. There was no going back to Gaea now. She had given Van her grandmother's pendant, her only connection to the Draconian world. She made her decision to come back, and now she would just have to live with it. Van said they would be close as long as their thoughts could reach each other right? She hoped he was right anyway. They had no way of knowing how the magic between their worlds worked. She could be completely cut off now... But no... she was feeling Van's pain right? That meant she still had some connection to Gaea, at least through Van.

Hitomi reached her front door. She turned the handle and opened the door. The front hallway was dark. Hitomi wondered what time it was. Time moved differently on Earth than it did on Gaea. Just because it had been dusk on Gaea, didn't mean it would be dusk on Earth, or even the same day... or year. The last time she had returned to Earth, briefly, she had arrived home before the point at which she had left.

The house was completely quiet. Hitomi caught site of a clock in the other room. It said it was just after 3. Hitomi walked up the stairs to the second floor, being as quiet as possible. Her name was still on her bedroom door. Good, than she had either returned not long before or not long after her departure. She wondered if Amano had left the country yet. Her feelings for him had waned over the course of her adventures on Gaea, due in more than a small part to Van. Even Allen didn't hold onto her heart in quite the same way. She really had never felt anything like it. Now that she was back on Earth she felt like a piece of herself was missing. She hadn't expected that.

She entered her room. Everything was as it had always been. She kicked off her shoes and sank onto her bed, tossing her duffle bag on the floor in the corner. The knot in the middle of her chest twisted. She would be strong. She would have to be. It would hurt less with time... and besides... as long as their thoughts could reach each other... She thought she heard a question in the back of her mind. It wasn't her question. It was more the feeling of a question than anything, and it didn't feel like it was her own mind. That must be Van. They really could reach each other! The knot it Hitomi's chest rose and flared with excitement. This would be okay. She would be okay.

Van, I am okay. I have returned. I am in my own room and I am well. Tell the others that I am well. She thought it as hard as she could, and put as much emotion behind it as possible. That wasn't hard, there was a lot of emotion to be put behind it. She felt a flood of a feeling like relief that was not hers alone. She could also feel sadness, but she couldn't be sure if that was all her own or not. She could feel a calm washing over her.

The clock on her side table now read 3:30. She should try and get some sleep. Her mother would be waking her up soon enough for breakfast. She turned over and pulled herself under the covers; the image of Van doing the same was in her mind. That's a funny thought, she would never have thought of Van as someone to sleep in a fluffy bed...

"Hitomi!" Hitomi was shaken awake by being wrapped in her mother's arms. "Hitomi, you're back, you're back!" Her mother was crying and rocking her back and forth like she was a small child, pressed closely to her mother's chest.

"Mother... I can't breath."

"Oh!" Her mother let her go and held her at arms length to get a good look at her. Her mother's eyes were streaming with tears. The clock said it was 7 in the morning.

"Mother..." Hitomi really didn't know what to say. She didn't know how long she had been gone, and certainly didn't know how to tell her mother where she had been.

"I was so worried..." Her mother pulled her close again. "I never thought you were coming back. I came up here every morning because I missed you so..."

Hitomi was being suffocated again by her mother's strength. "Well... I'm back now... and I'm not going anywhere... you can let go..."

Her mother let her go slowly. "Where have you been all this time? I was so worried..."

"I was... away. How long has it been?"

"It has been three months. It will be exactly three months tomorrow." So she hadn't missed much. That's good. She could still go back to school. Restart her normal life.

"Three months... What day is it today?"

"It's Wednesday honey. Would you like some breakfast?" Her mother began to cry again, and grabbed Hitomi. "Oh, I'm just so glad you're home!"

"Yes, I would like some breakfast... could I go to school today?" Hitomi asked slowly. She was hopeful that she hadn't been removed from the school because of her absence.

"I think so... You were reported missing. It should be alright if you go to the Principals office first. Yukari is going to be happy to see you. She was incredibly worried. She helped me out a great deal, along with that nice boy, Amano." Hitomi's mother suddenly looked much more cheerful. "Well, I supposed I should go make breakfast, if you will be heading off to school." Her mother got up and headed downstairs to begin.

Hitomi nodded. Yes, things were going to be okay. Yukari. She had missed Yukari. She had almost forgotten that going to school meant seeing Yukari. Maybe she could even run again. That would be good.

Hitomi reached out with her feelings. She couldn't feel Van at the moment. There were no feelings that were not hers. He was probably still asleep. That's okay, he should get to sleep. She climbed out of bed and changed into her school uniform. She checked herself in the mirror. Everything was in place. She felt weird not seeing the pendant hanging around her neck, but remembering who was wearing it now made her feel better.

Downstairs Hitomi's mother was busy making breakfast. Hitomi could hear her working. Hitomi picked up her duffle bag from the corner and started going through it to find anything she might need for school. Her tarot cards fell out on the floor. The Fool was the only card which fell face up. Hitomi stared at it for a moment. The image of a man walking backwards off of a cliff was not currently a settling one. Walking in the wrong direction... No. She wasn't telling fortunes anymore. That was just a coincidence. She packed up the cards and put them away in her desk drawer.

She continued to rifle through her bag, but wasn't finding anything. Just as she was about to put the bag away a white feather fell out. "Van..." She reached to pick it up and it disappeared under her fingers. The knot in her chest tightened. Wouldn't it ever go away? She knew she could feel Van and she knew he could feel her as well. Everything was okay...wasn't it? She would just have to be strong.

Hitomi grabbed her things for school and went downstairs for breakfast.

Her mother had made a huge breakfast. There were fruit, and pancakes, and muffins. How had her mom fixed all this so quick?

"I hope you're hungry, dear." Her mother said with a smile.

Hitomi smiled back. She sat down and began to eat. When she finished as much as she could she said goodbye to her mother and headed out the door. She thought her mother looked sad as she left.