Author's Note: This is it. The last chapter. I wrote this out sitting inside a plane while flying out to DC (starting my first job!), and I tried my hardest to end it well. Some people expressed concerns that Tanya was not well-characterized in previous entries. Well, I wrote the entire chapter (sans the first part) from Tanya's point of view in case the last chapter wasn't enough. I really hope you enjoyed everything up to now, and so read on and enjoy.
January 6th, 1943
The New Year had come and gone, without much celebration. Why should there be? Nothing had changed. A world war still dragged on with no end in sight. A continent still lay crushed beneath the heels of the fascist jackboot. Two allies had yet to open a second front, make a sizable impact and relieve pressure off his and his comrades' shoulders. And in Stalingrad, both sides fought on ferociously with no letup. The Red Army's only objective: make the Germans surrender in disgrace. But that was the last thing on his mind.
In the mind of this sergeant, huddled beside a small bonfire out in the middle of the night, one thing stuck in his mind as he gazed into the dancing orange flames: a boy and a girl, whose fates had remained in question since his last contact with the NKVD. They promised him they would find the boy, and kill him if necessary, ridding him of a thorn in his side. The swore they would return the girl to Stalingrad, and hand her over to his justice. That was how it was supposed to go, because that was how it always turned out with criminals in this country.
The eyes were everywhere, all-seeing and all-knowing. No one could hope to escape a crime without due punishment. Even in times of war, the laws were not silent. That was what he passionately believed, and that was what he was sure would happen here.
He rolled around in his head the thoughts of what he could do with Tanya if things went according to plan, and she was captured. It wasn't long ago when he looked to her fondly, seeing a charming young lady who, despite not attracting much attention from others in school, caught his eye. He never did much in the way of seeking her out and trying to win her favor, but there was something to be had, he felt.
Until the American came.
She fell for him, head over heels, and was inseparable from him since the day he entered the city. From that moment he hated him, and her as well for falling for his wiles. The hate had only intensified with his departure, as even in absentia, he managed to garner the attention of everyone around him, like a magnet drawing shards of scrap metal to it. What was so special about him? What about that bourgeois kulak made him steal the spotlight he once had? And why, on this green earth, did she still fawn over and pine for him?
Now the American had taken the center stage in his entire country, put on a pedestal and called a hero when the only reason he came was for a girl who he had not seen in years. If he was a hero like everyone claimed, he would have done it to help the people who had given him a home, who had opened their arms to him. Why would he even take part in the fighting if it was over a girl? He could have simply avoided the calls to arms and gone straight to her, with the snap of his fingers!
The sergeant's decadent chocolate brown eyes gazed into the fire and in an instant saw the images of the American and Tanya, laughing amidst the flames. The couple walked hand in hand, trudging through the snow of the great expansive Siberian plains. The sound of their laughter echoed in his head like a bully taunting him in a schoolyard. The image of them together made his teeth grind in anger as he wiped them away from his sight with a sharp wave of the gloved hand. Just as quickly the laughter dissipated and was replaced only by the crackling of the bonfire.
At that moment, a voice spoke from behind him.
He turned and saw his subordinate, Alekseev. He carried an enveloped message in one hand, and held something tightly in the other he couldn't make out. Chertov only blinked at the sight of him, expressing neither displeasure nor delight at the sight of him.
"What brings you here, Alekseev? Isn't this the time of your nightly watch?"
"Yes sir, but a message came for you."
"Well, let's have it then."
Alekseev handed him the envelope, and Chertov saw immediately it had the seal of the NKVD on it. Just what he was hoping for. Smiling in anticipation, he tore open the envelope and read the message enclosed inside. It was in the form of a short telegram.
To Senior Sergeant Ilya P. Chertov:
Made contact with American and girl in Vladivostok. Engaged in firefight. Was unable to pin down either American or girl. They boarded freighter Rusalka. Inflicted heavy casualties on us. No contact with ship's crew. Awaiting further instructions.
- Junior officer Dmitry F. Danilov
His teeth ground again, but this time he suppressed an urge to lash out in front of Alekseev; he was not at fault, at least not this time. What he wanted to know was how in blazes the American managed to escape them? Did he simply cut a swath through the docks to their ship? They couldn't have just let him escape surely? How, then? How could he possibly have escaped so easily, even when he was outnumbered, and the entire police district was looking for him and the girl?
Chertov sighed angrily, knowing this mystery would not be solved in one night. He turned again to Alekseev and asked what more of him he wanted.
"Is that all, Alekseev?"
"No, sir. Captain Pavlenko wanted me to give these to you."
He outstretched his hand to reveal new insignia, designating the rank of a junior lieutenant: a single star placed over a thin red stripe on gold epaulettes.
"Your promotion came through…comrade lieutenant."
Chertov smiled and gladly took the symbols of his new status, shoving them into his pocket. At least the army was made up of enough competent people to see who was worthy of a field promotion.
"The captain also wanted me to tell you we have a new regiment commander. We are to report to him after this battle is concluded."
"Ya vizhu1. Tell Pavlenko I'm humbled by this promotion. And I am currently awaiting his new orders."
Alekseev saluted him and promptly left him alone again, staring into the fire. The flames mimicked his growing rage, burning hotter and hotter until his entire soul was scorched, consumed by this irrepressible desire to see revenge brought upon the American who had always outshone him, always displaced him, and always stole away what was rightfully his. Chertov crumpled the telegram in his hands, rolling it up into a ball of anger, the defeat stinging him harder than any battle wound could.
"This isn't over. Daniels…you haven't seen the last of me."
He stood up and cursed both his and the girl's name as he through the telegram into the bonfire, adding impromptu kindling.
"You will pay. Both of you will! I'll find you…I'll find you if I have to burn down the entire world!"
The smoke carried a stifling pall as it traveled up into the atmosphere, past the clouds and dissipating among the stars that hid behind them. He carried that promise with him as the fire burned until it left only dimly glowing embers. Even then, he would still vow to have his vengeance. The bonfire burned out, but the fire of hatred still burned strong in his soul. He kept repeating it on into the night, long when he should have been asleep, as if it was his only means of comfort in a world where no man spoke of it.
January 7th, 1943
Somewhere in the Pacific Ocean
How long was it? Weeks? Months? Years? Decades?
Only two days. That was how much time had passed since they had finally escaped the clutches of Soviet authorities. At last it seemed the running, the escaping, and the madness had come to an end. Even when it was only two days, it felt like so much longer, and who's to say either of them would be wrong to think that? What else could one feel after being on the run, a prisoner in one's own country, betrayed by the nation one placed so much trust in?
Such was how she felt, since the day the battle began. Since she witnessed the horrors of soldiers being mowed down in the streets mere blocks away from her home. Since the first shell landed, and her family was shattered forever. Each night the only consolation she found was with him beside her, cradled, huddled for warmth, as if he was the only bastion of comfort the world could provide. He silently accepted it all, as she needed his care now more than she ever did before. And in his heart, he knew it was much better like this with her.
She woke up that day, the only sound being the gentle muffled ocean waves that crashed against the ship as they sailed on through the Pacific. She knew little of what went on outside of their tiny passenger's cabin on their freighter. All she did know was the country she left behind was still in turmoil, still recovering from an invasion, still struggling to hold the Germans back. She had no country now, as far as she was concerned. At least not for a few more days.
Parting away a few strands of her dark wavy locks, she found she was alone in the cabin. Peter had already gotten up and left, presumably to find something to fill his stomach; they spent the last of his rations yesterday. What he had to give her was rather different compared to what she usually got in the way of rations.
He split a small loaf of bread with her, and the bread was unlike anything she ever had in Russia. It had a slightly sour taste to it, that left her craving for more. She ate up her half with great delight, gnawing away at it as a squirrel would eat nuts. The sight of her ravenously eating bread he could get any day from any market was all too amusing for him.
"It's called sourdough," he told her as she finished up her half. "It's a special bread in my area."
"Eta ochen' vkusna2!" she exclaimed in excitement as she downed the last bit. "I've never had bread that tastes that good! At home, you always need something to top rye to give it taste."
"I'm glad you like it. There's plenty more of it when we get to America."
"There is?!" she asked, grey eyes bright with anticipation.
"Sure there is," he laughed. "It's a staple where I come from. There's even a restaurant in my town that specializes solely in sourdough bread."
"Will you take me there some time? I love to try more of this!"
"Sure, I'll take you there."
Such was the first promise he made for her future life in America. Just the name seemed to conjure up romantic images that were better placed in novels and fantasy than in the grounded reality. She imagined a bright town where the sun always shone, hidden beneath the mountains. She saw pristine white beaches where people laughed and played all day and all night. She sat atop rolling hills overlooking cities, roads, rivers, and the wide open ocean. She ran across long stretches of pastures, meeting horse riders and cattle ranchers. Knowing she was heading to that place far across the Pacific, that place that was so distant and unknown, that place Peter called home, felt more of a dream than a reality.
Yet it was all too real.
By God, was she happy it was.
Outstretching her arms as she sat up from her bunk, she took in her surroundings for a moment. The compartment was a small one, designed only for four people maximum, not surprising for a freighter carrying vital war supplies. There were two bunk beds on either side, bolted to the wrought iron walls. Peter insisted on taking the bunk on the right, although Tanya always managed to coax him into sleeping with her on her side, on the left. Next to her bunk, there was a door that led to a small bathroom complete with a sink, shower, and toilet. It was a meager addition, but one welcomed by her, as it actually had heated water, a necessity she had since lost in the siege that had dragged her home to Hell.
Fully awake, Tanya quickly set to the business of bathing and preparing for the day. It was such a refreshing feeling, as she couldn't remember the last time she had such a soothing and relaxing bath. The hot water pelting her seemed to melt away every fear and trouble in her body, leaving only a sense of refreshed optimism, like her best years were still ahead of her.
Once out and dried, she found some suitable clothes for the day, although they were still old and scarred by battle. The weather out on the Pacific always managed to be chilly, but nothing compared to the harsh winters she experienced in the Motherland. With that in mind, she clothed lightly: a lively baby blue dress with long white frilled sleeves, a cream-colored shawl she draped over her shoulders, and plain black Mary Jane shoes. Old relics of the past, of an age when the sun could always be counted upon to shine again.
Tanya carried herself out the door, and clambered up the metal gangway stairs to the upper decks. One door she passed was open to the outside, to the crashing waves and cold stiff breezes of the Pacific winds. A sailor stumbled past, soaked through to the skin as Tanya quickly shuffled past, searching for her friend.
"Izvinitye3, sir," she meekly inquired, "but could you direct me to the mess hall?"
"Go down the corridor and it's your first right."
Nodding, she did as the sailor told her, and found an open iron door. There was a great loud clamor from within. If she knew anything about Peter, she knew that his agenda in the morning was always the same: a full stomach and a clear mind. She smiled to herself, remembering how he always took the opportunity to sample the cuisine of her country. Tanya delighted at preparing the food herself, and having him be her critic for her culinary skill. His scores for her were always favorable, she recalled.
If she knew him as well as she did, it was a guarantee he'd be in the mess hall, searching for breakfast.
One entrance filled her nostrils with the smell of fresh eggs being cooked on a skillet, of oatmeal simmering in a pot of boiling water, and of fresh blini4 prepared in a pan. Tanya reached for a small tray and joined the queue, while scanning the place for her American friend. She didn't have to search far for him; he stuck out like a sore thumb among the muscular, lively, and dynamic crew members. He and she were the only passengers on this vessel, after all.
He sat quietly in a corner, eating away at what looked to be fried eggs and sausage. His heavy black coat did not serve well to hide his thin frame; it looked two sizes too large for him. His piercing green eyes were wandering, glassy, and tired from the weeks spent searching, fighting and killing to find her. The hair was unkempt, hanging in his face like a curtain to hide himself from the world. His posture was one of distance and reticence, much how he always was when he first came to her country.
Even when they spent the best, happiest days of their lives together, there was still something about him he hid from her, and everyone. Try as she might to coax him, lead him out of the shell he had created, he still held on to some secrets of which he swore to her and to everyone else around him he could never breathe a word. She resolved now that would end, the moment they set foot ashore again. He was her guide now. Her one anchor and guardian in this world that had forsaken all human kindness. She was determined to get him out into the open, one way or another, however long it took.
It was with that purpose that she strode over to him in the corner, greeting him with the brightest and most exuberant smile she could muster.
"Dobroye utro," she greeted.
"Dobroye utro. I was starting to think you would never get up," he laughed.
"You could have woken me up, you know."
"It would have taken forever," he said smiling knowingly. "Besides, you looked so peaceful; I wouldn't dare disturb you."
Tanya's cheeks turned a light shade of pink at that comment. Her bad sleeping habits were known to everyone, even him.
"I rest my case."
"And you don't sleep in from time to time?" she shot back at him.
"Definitely not all the time, like you."
"You're so difficult sometimes," she muttered, turning away from him.
Peter reached a hand over and gently placed it on her shoulder, laughing quietly at her small pout.
"I'll let you sleep as long as you want when we get home."
Tanya smiled. Another promise added to the list for him to keep. She'll be sure to remind him of it continuously if there is ever a day when he is desperate to wake her up for something.
"Is there anything fun to do in your town? I don't want to just be sleeping every day away."
"There are some things to do in town…"
He trailed off, looking down at his food, as if ashamed to admit he didn't have a good answer.
"What's the matter? Don't you know?"
"It's not that. I just can't remember the last time I did do anything extraordinary back home. It's rather funny: you live in a place for so long that you forget what makes it unique."
Tanya shrugged the thought. Maybe he'd rather her find that out on her own; it was a prospect she was all too excited for. But it did leave her with burning questions about her new home.
"Do you have any friends back home?"
Peter sighed, as if hinting at something dark and gloomy, something he would rather she didn't know. He drank deeply from a cup of coffee that sat next to him, his green eyes never breaking away from her grey ones.
"I do. Not many, though."
"I don't need friends…I can get along fine without them."
Tanya frowned. Why did he even bother with her, if he didn't need her?
"Would you put me in that category, as well, Petroshka? I consider myself your friend."
His eyes looked to her sincerely.
"If all my friends were like you, Tanyusha, things would be a lot different for me. But as it stands, I don't have many friends. I'm not the kind of person who sticks out among his community."
"Does everyone else hate you, then?"
"I don't think so. They just see me in a neutral light, or as 'that kid who always talks in Russian,' or 'that kid who went to Europe that one time.' I'm rather alone, in that sense. None of them know me. At least none know me like you do."
Tanya smiled, feeling a degree of privilege with him for being his friend and his one confidante. To be spoken of so highly by such a reticent and reserved boy like him must mean something. For as long as she knew him, she always had to earn his trust, and she did it easily from the day they met, even if he still kept some personal secrets to himself. How happy she was, knowing she had him in her corner. She took his free hand and held it in hers, gripping it tightly yet gently, as if to link them interminably as lifelong friends.
"If that's how they all see you, then they're blind, Peter. I know you to be a dynamic and caring person and a valuable friend. If they can't see that, then it's their loss."
"I'm glad there are still people like you left in this world, Tanya."
Tanya's cheeks grew into a deeper shade of red, and smiled. At that thought, she had an idea to tease him. Although kind and quiet, she had a mean, wild streak to her, although she was by no means sadistic. Nonetheless it brought her great joy to see him flustered and frustrated, as it reminded her of their days as youth when she always pried at him, seeking to make him feel out of place.
"Peter…are there girls in your town?"
His green eyes lit up, not with excitement but with bewilderment at such a question.
"Why do you ask?"
"I just want to know. Are there?"
"…there are," he said, as if admitting to that was like admitting to some cardinal sin. "Still don't know why you're so interested…"
"Are any of them your friends?"
He paused, giving it serious thought.
"There is one girl…"
Tanya smirked with this knowledge placed in her mental arsenal.
"Is she your girlfriend?"
Peter's eyes widened to the size of dinner plates, taken aback by her surprisingly forward question. It was obvious the idea of an intimate relationship was not something he was comfortable with. She couldn't contain her laughter as he stammered, faltered, and stumbled over his words, trying to explain things to her.
"EHH?! What?! NO! W-what kind of q-question is that?!"
"If you're getting that upset," she said smirking, "there is something between you and her…"
"I'm telling you: she's a friend! Why do you even want to know this?!"
"A woman has to know if she has competition…"
Peter's jaw dropped at that, and Tanya almost fell off her seat in hysterics, having caught him in her trap he couldn't get out of. He could be so gullible and so naive despite being a year and a half older than her, yet it was endearing to find someone she could easily level with, joke with, and laugh with. In many ways he was her first true friend, someone who treated her like an equal rather than as the youngest and only daughter of a prestigious family. Even when her family had been stripped of power, and her luxuries quickly vanished with the coming of war, Peter still showed signs he cared, with every letter he wrote her filled with kind words that gave her comfort in a world that offered none.
"Tanya, tell me you're not honestly thinking that…" he asked, fearing the answer before trailing off.
Tanya smiled brightly and tapped his nose with her delicate finger.
"That's for me to know and for you to find out."
Peter sighed with an exhausted smile. He knew to expect this from her by now, since the day they met and played together.
January 8th, 1943
Time moved slowly on the open sea. Even when they had made a steady pace of 23 knots, very fast for a freighter, the feeling was one of life moving one day at a time. Tanya was late to waking up, as usual, and found Peter had gone off somewhere. Yet again. She wondered to herself what he constantly looked for in their trip. Was it simply a weariness that came after a long and hard-fought battle that made him seek closure and recovery? Whatever his reasons for wandering the ship like a restless spirit in search of a body, she went off in search of him.
This time, she scoured the outside decks, becoming slowly accustomed to the chilly yet mild zephyr of the Pacific. It was a welcome change from the countless below-freezing winters she spent in Mother Russia. Dressed once again in a light garb that shielded her from the cold, she fully expected him to be wrapped up in his oversized black coat. Yet when she did find him, it was not as she expected.
She found him leaning on the railings of the deck, overlooking the vast and infinite seas. He stared intently outward, as if the ocean had thousands of tales to tell to a weary traveler. Instead of being wrapped up in a coat, he was dressed in what she could only guess were his normal street clothes. They seemed rather foolish for someone to be wearing in this day and age.
Over his long-sleeved white dress shirt was a grey wool sweater vest, evidently old and worn from the patches of mismatching colors that were scattered about it. He had belted a pair of grey knickerbockers with a brass-buckled black belt, evidently a hand-me-down from happier times. To complete his costume were a pair of black socks and brown oxford shoes. Peter seemed better placed a decade or so prior to this, his clothes were so unfashionable.
She smiled, seeing an old quality of his shining through his outdated wardrobe, something she had been familiar with since the day they met. He always played with her and her brothers so vigorously, so energetically, as if he wanted the days of happiness to last his whole life, and to never have to see her go. Sadly time only moves forward, as much as she wanted to go back to those more innocent times.
Tanya approached Peter, and he looked to her, the wind sending his ash blonde hair into a frenzy.
"Aren't you cold Peter?" she asked, concerned.
"Not really," he replied casually. "This kind of weather is common where I live. You grow used to it after a while."
"Is that why you're wearing all of that?" she pried, smirking.
Peter looked down at his attire, as if there was nothing wrong with what he had on.
"Nu shto ty? These are my normal everyday clothes. I wear them all the time."
"They are a bit dated for someone like you, Peter."
"I don't know what you mean, really. I've never heard anyone say it to me before."
"I'm the first one who's honest with you, then," she said, giggling.
"Well, I'm not planning on changing my look, if that's what you're getting at," he said, crossing his arms defiantly.
Her smirk grew wider, into a mischievous grin, foreshadowing at something with an intent in her eyes unlike any Peter had seen before.
"Just wait until you see what I have planned for you. You'll be looking modern whether you like it or not."
"Posmotrim5," he answered, turning his eyes outward to the sea again.
Tanya sighed and leaned on the railing with him, trying to find what it is that so captivated him to look on into the unknown, and stare into the infinite abyss of the ocean. Even if he was always thinking and contemplating, he still found the time to cherish her presence, to smile at her and laugh with her. Even in the aftermath of finding each other again, and in the long arduous journey back that had brought them to here, something still tugged at his heart. What was it?
"Peter, what's wrong?" she asked, getting straight to the point. "You've been acting so strange ever since we left Stalingrad."
Peter closed his eyes, as if searching through a catalog of manufactured answers to satisfy her.
"I'm just thinking about everything that's happened. I still can't get over it all."
Tanya rested her gloved hand on his bare one, entreating him to turn to her.
"Get over what? Tell me, please, Petroshka."
She felt his hand grip her tightly, and he turned to her with downhearted, misty green eyes.
"I can't get over everything I've done to find you!"
Tanya's grey eyes widened, as now he brought another hand to her shoulder, clinging to the sleeve of her dress as if she was an angel about to depart from the mortal world. Never before in her years of knowing him had she ever seen him so distraught, so lost, so hopeless. Only in his last letter to her before travelling did she ever have any hint that he was so emotionally distressed. He looked to be on the verge of collapsing right then and there, like a man who knew his death was nigh.
"I never wanted any of this to happen…the war, the invasion, the siege, all of it. I never wanted to fight in the Red Army. I never wanted to take so many lives, Germans and Russians. I never wanted the medals, the honors, the fanfare, the hero's appraisals. None of it I ever wanted! All I wanted this whole time…"
His hand moved to her cheek and gently ran down her soft face. It was pale like porcelain, and smooth like marble.
"…I just wanted to see you again," he breathed, his trembling voice barely above a whisper. "I just wanted to see you…and go back to the way things were."
She smiled and took his hand. That desire to return to the past, to have things the way they once were in 1938, before the war, before so many innocent lives were lost and so many people had been swept away by the firestorm that engulfed the world, was something she had come to expect about him. Always in his letters he poured out his heart, yearning to turn back the pages of time and find a way to relive their youths. Always in his actions and deeds, he carried a sense of disappointment that innocent times had been left behind. Always in his words, there was a yearning to go back, back to when there was nothing but the Volga, Stalingrad, and her.
"I'm sorry this had to happen, Tanyusha. You deserved none of it. I just hope I'm able to give you the life you deserve back home."
"It's not that, Petroshka. You shouldn't apologize for something you had no control over. In a way, I'm glad things turned out like this."
Peter sniffed, and tilted his head in confusion.
"You are? Why?"
"I'm glad we grew up. It's because you grew up that you came to search for me. And it's because I grew up that I…"
She blushed, inching towards him.
"…that I want to go on living. Even if it's a new life in a completely foreign land, I still want to live. With you."
Peter breathed heavily, and took her in a deep embrace, crying his heart out to her. She deserved none of what had happened to her, but she was right. Time could not stand still. He couldn't go back now. Russia was behind him, along with everything it held of significance to him. He could only move forward, and carry on with the life he had now. He had done his duty, performed every deed asked of him, received honors for it, deserved or not. All that was left for him and for her was to create new memories with the lives that stretched out ahead of them.
"There's nothing more I want than to go back to those days," Tanya whispered, "but it's just not possible anymore, Peter. The Stalingrad we knew and grew up in is gone. All of our old friends are gone. Even my family is gone. We can't live in the past anymore. I came with you because I wanted a new life…and I know you can give it to me."
"Ya obeschayu," he swore silently. "You'll have a new life, I swear it. One much better than what you had when this war began."
She looked up to him, and cupping his scarred face in her gentle velvety gloved hands, pulled him into a soft sweet kiss. In one instant, everything that caused her pain in the past evaporated like water underneath the blazing summer sun. No, she could not go back to her past. No, she did not intend to. Her family wouldn't want her to live that way. She promised Vasili to not take one look back, to only look forward and forge a new existence. It would be a long time, but she would regain what she lost. She would rebuild herself, and she would help to rebuild him. They were together now, just as they had wanted to be for four years; now their questions were geared to the future.
"I don't want to think about war anymore, Peter," she whispered on his lips. "I just want to think of home. Our home."
"Yeah," he nodded, resting his head against hers. "We can start over now, Tanya."
Their lips touched again, and the dark and harrowing past faded with their kiss. What of the war? What of fascism? What of a German who, in his insane ambitions, seeks to rule all? What of a country that treats its citizens like prisoners? What of a city whose future remains in question? What of men like Chertov who scoff at all gentler and kinder things in the world, and toss aside humanity in exchange for fighting for some temporal, vain victory? What of it all? It mattered not. As long as Peter was in Tanya's world, and Tanya was in Peter's world, everything else was of secondary importance. Nothing else mattered in that moment. Nothing else but each other.
END OF PART ONE
1 I see.
2 It's very delicious/tasty!
3 Excuse me
4 Blini: Thin pancakes popular in Russia and the former Soviet Union made from yeasted wheat batter. Similar to the French crepe, they can be topped with butter, caviar, or a variety of fruit jams.
5 We'll see.
Author's Note: Well, that's it, for the first part anyway. In case readers couldn't tell from the title of the story, yes, there will be a sequel to this, and it's halfway finished. I plan to expand this into a series, as I posted in the description. That will be posted on here as well, but it won't be for some time. My first priority right now is to get this story published, and then all else will follow. I hope you all had fun enjoying this trip back in time, and rest assured, we will be joining Peter, Tanya, and the others again. In the meantime, please read, review, and give me any feedback you can. I greatly appreciate all the critiques given to me from the time I started to the time I finished, as it helped me greatly improve on this. It's a much different animal than what it was when I began this, and I could not have gotten this far without your help.
Many thanks to everyone who wrote me, pointed me in the right direction, and gave me the necessary drive to complete the story.
Until the next story is posted on here, I will see you all next time.