"All right, we've settled this out. Time to go back, Brigadier."
Death glared reproachfully over at the Major General. He wasn't ready to leave yet, and made no motion at all to do so.
The big officer hefted what looked to be a vaccination gun. "Like it or not, she's going to be visible in two seconds, and you invisible."
No! I don't want to stay behind…! Evita cried desperately in her mind.
A hard prick on her arm later, and suddenly, there was nothing holding her. She looked left and right wildly, as if her companion had only moved some feet away. Then she saw Gerardo, and she felt anger rise up upon seeing him. She rushed at him in her fury and slapped him in fine womanly fashion.
"You! Why are you still here?" she demanded in spite of his hurt look. "How dare you…Ugh!" she turned away from him in frustrated disgust.
"I'll take you to the camp. They know me there, and you'll go back without being charged for desertion."
"I don't want to go to camp. I don't care about desertion." She said sourly, not even turning to look at him.
"You can't just stay here in the woods, Evita."
The quickly scratched out the compass rose and stood on it, waiting. She didn't move.
"I'm sorry, Evita, but that won't work anymore."
She rounded on him again, though she didn't slap him or even get close enough to. "You work for Sensitivity. You take me back!"
"I can't. Only Death can bring people with him."
"I don't believe that!" she cried, on the verge of hysteria. Gerardo looked to her with such pity. It really was cruel to just dump her back on Earth without so much as a by-your-leave. He couldn't do a thing about it.
So, she was back in her motherland, back to leading her group of men into battle against the French. There were a few who had known her before going to MOHL, and they all said how she'd lost some fervor, some zest that she'd had before.
Now, they were to beset the French in a location between San Sebastian and Pamplona. It was ever a somber Evita that outlined the plan to those under her, giving the same speech to her command: the next world is a good place. They started to wonder if she'd lost her mind in the months she had disappeared. Surely, they thought, she wasn't human anymore. The way she threw herself into the battles, she was like the witch the French labeled her as.
The Partisan leader motioned her men into place among the trees, watched the retreating back of the scout going to tell his French companions that the coast was clear. She looked left and right with cold eyes, calculating, making sure everything was right. Whatever this war was about, she'd see her country through it.
The first of the columns of cautious soldiers crashed through the undergrowth. Poor souls. She thought. You should never have run afoul of me today. Not that day, a year after leaving MOHL for good.
She let a good many more rows pass her before she held up a hand and signaled. Four...three…two…one…Execute.
The partisans leapt up from the forest floor and let off their rifles, scarcely letting the gunpowder clear before the other half of the company charged in out of no where, sabers brandished. Evita was among them, venting her mental anguish on her enemy. She dodged the bayonet of her first victim – he'd discharged his bullet beforehand – and cut him down. She caught sight of the leader of this small group, a man on foot and dressed in a more flashy manner than the soldiers. Remembering the weight of the musket at her hip, she made her way to a good point from which to shoot him.
Three more Frenchmen fell to her blade before she thought herself safe for long enough to do the deed. She quickly pulled out the musket, clicked back the loader, and held up the weapon to take aim. She squinted one eye, blade held limply at her side, clenched her teeth, and sighted the flashy officer down the barrel. She pulled the trigger, temporarily blinded by the gunpowder. She didn't even know if she'd hit her target when some other person certainly hit theirs.
The pain to her breast certainly came as a surprise. She looked down to see a growing shiny patch on her shirt. It was starting to hurt, and not an ache, either. A flame seemed to be spreading from the spot. She coughed – and up came blood. Damn. Her lung was the casualty here. She coughed again and fell to one knee, holding the wound with one hand while the other tried to catch the attention of one of her men. It was about time for them to fall back, and she didn't want to stay here among the French dead, as would inevitably happen.
How odd that she was thinking practically. There were no memories of her life flashing before her eyes, no regrets, and not even grief. She didn't feel that she was leaving her men; she didn't care if they mourned her or not. At that moment, she just didn't care…except about where she was headed.
Two pairs of hands scooped her up; she couldn't identify them, with her vision blurring. The loud putters of gunshots still rang through the air, and the clash of steel on steel.
Gods, that lung hurt. Evita groaned and shut her eyes tightly, clenching her teeth again. The men holding her were saying something, but she couldn't catch what. Probably that she would make it. Ha. She was waiting for this day for a year. She wasn't interested in making it through the day. She just hoped she'd hit the French officer.
They had her on a stretcher now, no doubt rushing her back to the medic. Already her hearing was fading, and it took too much effort to keep her eyes open, and they closed. She was only vaguely aware of being jounced along as her men tried to get her to safety.
They reached the medic; it took only one glance at her for him to say that this was it; there was nothing he could do. He removed the bullet at the cloth that came through with it (taking hours to do that much), and that was it. They let her alone in her tent to take her last breaths of life.
It was quiet now. The sounds of the men died off, and the cricket chirruped in the evening air. A cool breeze snaked itself into the tent, briefly cooling her feverish skin. God, just let me die. She prayed. This is existence is empty…She took another slow, tortured breath. The minutes dragged on.
She would have thought death would be different. This seemed so…mundane, so anti-climactic.
A whisper carried on the breeze.
She could just imagine the faces of them men who died that day, meeting her in the next world. The French would curse her, her men would welcome her. But there was one, one in particular she wanted to see…
A hazy shape started to form; if she'd opened her eyes, she would have seen it, though anyone else entering the tent would have missed it. A man materialized there, an at peace expression on his face. Death strode to her bedside, looking down at her. Her sides stopped heaving; the sounds of her ragged breath ceased. Still, she was beautiful in death, as if just slipping into a long sleep. He brushed aside a lock of her hair, muttering into the silence.
"Its time, Evita."
He took a blue jewel out from his coat and held it over her mouth. A silvery wisp floated up lazily and into the object. He tucked the jewel away. He scooped up her body, too, and walked out from the tent. No one would see them. It was merely a shadow of her body he held, to become whole once in MOHL.
He drew the compass rose and stood still upon it. Before he had time to notice being in flight, the little elevator materialized around him. He punched the button marked with a large M. Charity and Kindness were waiting.
"Prosperous evening?" the former inquired cordially.
"Very. You have the machine set up?"
"Of course. Kindness, go start it up, if you please."
Death followed Kindness into a room set aside from the rest of the medical ward. It was smallish and dark, the walls painted a midnight blue. A podium of controls stood at one end of the room, while there was an open glass box tilted at an angle on the other. The shadow of Evita was laid in this box, as if she were almost standing up. He walked over to where Kindness was, at the podium. He handed her the blue jewel, which she set into a little hole beside a big red button. Death held his breath as she pushed it.
Death glared at Kindness, who shrugged sheepishly.
"Er, ha-ha, I think it's broken."
"Stop fooling around before I have Charity inject you with enough phosphorus to glow."
Grumbling, Kindness pushed the appropriate button, selected Evita's soul, and hit the red button again.
It was as if the whirring sound of the machine awoke her. She gasped, her eyelids shooting open, and she fairly fell forward. There was someone there to catch her.
For a moment, Evita actually thought she was dreaming, as if she hadn't died at all. But there was her proof, Death helping her out of the box, Charity standing by. She looked down to the wound, surprised to see it was still there. She looked up at Death anxiously.
"You're fine. Charity will take care of it." He replied calmly.
The woman came over holding a device similar to what Sensitivity used on her a year ago. "This will do some funky stuff with your cells, and that body will live forever. Hold still while I give you immortality, eh?" she said with a smile.
The same pinprick of pain, and then it was done. Evita was still unclear as to why she was even there in the first place.
"You don't give everyone a body who comes through her." She said, looking up at the three people in the room. "Why me?"
"You're an officer now, Evita." Death said, a hint of a smile tugging at the corners of his mouth. "You'll be at Sacrifice's desk from now on."
He took her by the hand and they went back to the elevator. In short order, they appeared again on the floor of the main office. The room erupted in sound as she stepped out. Scarcely before she could breath, Lust and Malevolence had flanked her, Death's double effectively shoving the man out of his way.
"Our pretty little Spanish bird has returned! Good job, Death."
"Yes, most excellent. Now, amuse yourself while we get reacquainted." Lust said, waving at her superior. Death's protests were lost in the revelry.
"Oh, he was so depressed while you were gone." Lust said, rolling her eyes girlishly. "I'd have thought he'd kill himself if he wasn't already dead."
Evita looked to her in alarm; as a good little Catholic girl, suicide was…well…suicidal for the soul.
"Alas, he wasn't the only one." Malevolence reiterated. "I never had time to ask you for a drink…"
She couldn't help but smile at that.
"Yes…" Lust mused. "Fortunate is the woman whom Death loves…"
Her smile broadened at Evita's look then. "Oh, it's quite obvious. He just doesn't know it yet!"
"What – How -"
"Well, see," Lust started matter-of-factly, "everything went to hell after you left. The emotional inhibitors – would you believe emotions to be a biological thing? – stopped working. Our bodies just started making them again, and here we are. Actually, we've started to remember our lives a little, too."
Evita's face fell at hearing the last sentence. Did that mean that Death knew who he was, then?
Lust sighed heavily. "He remembers the least amount of us all. He's been here an awful long time, after all."
"So, how much does he know?"
"We're not sure, but we're worried." Malevolence said. "If he decides to go psycho on us, we're in a bad place."
"He's not a psycho!" Evita shrilled, suddenly wishing to be free of her companions.
"Of course not." Malevolence quickly remedied unconvincingly.
The ex-partisan wiggled from their grasp and slipped past Denial. All she wanted to do now was talk to Death. Managing to flit by others wanting her attention, she was once again standing before Death's office. Looking behind her, at Sacrifice's cubicle, she saw a saber and black jacket adorned with Hungarian Knots sitting there on the desk, crisply folded.
She was home.
Looking back to the door, she turned the knob quietly, admitting herself inside. Death knew her well; he was leaning against his desk, arms crossed, facing the door.
"Took you long enough." He sniffed.
Evita grinned. "Sorry. I got a little caught up when I died."
AN: Thanks to Narc for the review – the last before the end! A big thanks to everyone who read through my masterpiece, and I hope you enjoyed the ride. Please take a look at my other fine works.