What Lies Beyond: Chapter 46

It would have been easy to lie there forever, wrapped around the one she loved, basking in the warmth of the intimacy they had shared. For a long time, this was all she had ever desired, but she had grown since then, and she found that she couldn't rest just yet. Sister was her friend too, and she had done so much to help them. “I have to let her know how things turned out”, she thought. She lifted Pack's paw off of her side, slipped out of the bed, and started getting ready to go out.
Pack stirred a bit and reached over for her. “Is something the matter?” he asked, not finding her.
She reached down and touched his paw. “Sorry, but I have to get up. There's a few things I still have to do tonight.”
“My, you really have changed”, he chuckled, looking up at her.
She gave his paw a little squeeze. “I keep telling you that I did. You're welcome to stay here if you want, it won't take too long.”
He sat up in bed. “No, I should probably head back to my ship for a bit. I can't leave my crew alone all night, they'd be lost without me”.
“Well, If you want to clean yourself up a bit first, you can use the counter over there. It's probably not as much as you're used to, I never did care much about that.”
“Maybe just a little bit” he shrugged, “I'm not too concerned about that anymore.”
She gave him a sideways glance. “Now you're just trying to pretend that you've changed as well.”
He laughed. “Hey, I'm being serious here, I don't care if people know we've been together.”
“That's sweet, but the untamed look isn't for everyone.” She pressed her paw against the door to her cabin. “I'll be right back.”

She hopped along the railing to the helm of her ship, peering out over the edge for Sister's ship. She knew she would be waiting somewhere nearby, waiting for the good news, or to console her if she needed it. She smiled. It was nice to have a friend. She had only ever had Pack, and there had always been some things she couldn't really talk to him about. She could hardly believe the good fortune she'd had lately, things had finally started to turn around.

“There, back to normal”, Pack said, appearing behind her. His fur was almost back to its regular level of tidiness, and his whiskers were as straight and pointy as ever. He definitely looked better that way.
“I need to head out for a bit”, she said. “I'll try to be back by sunrise. That is, if you still want to go with me again this morning.”
“Of course”, he said, pulling her into a tight embrace. “From now on we can spend the mornings together whenever you want to.”
“Thanks”, she said, kissing him. “I'll be back as soon as I can.”
She kissed him again and he returned to his ship, but this time she didn't feel at all lonely, she finally knew that her love was returned and that they'd be together again soon. She set her ship's course and set out to find Sister.


Things were pretty quiet back on Pack's ship. “Again?” he thought. Perhaps his crew had started to worry because he'd been gone so long. He climbed down the stairs to his cabin. “A little longer won't hurt them.”

He sat down at his desk and opened his drawer, taking out his pen and a new notebook. He flipped toward the back and began to write:

“Lapse and I visited a park today. We went walking together, not to go anywhere in particular, but just to spend time together. She showed me all kinds of plants and compared me to grass, which I believe is not wholly a compliment. Then we sat down in front of a lake and watched the sun set, which turned the entire scene a magnificent orange. A stranger also drew our picture and he claimed it looked right that way, and I had to agree with him. It really felt wonderful to share that with her.”

He put the pen down and closed the book. “I may not understand everything you show me, but I don't want to forget our time together.” He put them away, closed the drawer, and clasped his paws together. “I hope we'll have many more days like today, and I hope that Corsair will come back to us so we can all be together again.” Satisfied, he stood up from his desk and headed back to the deck.

It was still totally quiet. He sighed: “They worry too much”. He lifted the hatch and climbed down below deck. This time, though, even as he approached the common room, it was totally quiet. He found himself growing a bit concerned as he reached for the door.
“You did it, boss!”
Snag nearly bowled him over, giving Pack a big hug.
“How did you know?” he asked, surprised.
“I could tell just by looking at you, boss. You have that look in your eyes again, just like you used always did before.”
There was a cheer from the rest of his crew.
“You guys...”
And so they spent the rest of that evening laughing and telling old stories. Pack wasn't even concerned that there were odd jobs going undone. There was always tomorrow. Tonight was for celebration.


Even though she had been on her own for a little while now, Lapse was still in high spirits. She knew Pack would be there for her when she returned, so being on her own didn't bother her anymore. It was the first time in a long time she hadn't felt anxious or worried, and it let her concentrate on the task at hand.

She came upon Sister's ship before long. She hopped over to the deck of Sister's ship.
“How did it go-” she started to say, but Lapse tackled her with a big hug.
“I guess that answers my question”, she said, putting her paws around her back.
“I can't thank you enough”, she squeezed her. “I've never been so happy.”
“I'm really glad everything went well.”
“I owe it all to you. Without you, I wouldn't have gone back. I would have just wallowed in my own sadness forever.”
“So what happened after you went to talk to him?”
“Oh yes”, she said, releasing her, “I should tell you all about it. Why don't we go back to my ship and talk?”

They both sat down on the couch inside Lapse's cabin.
“So you both went to the same place this morning?” Sister asked after she had finished her explanation.
“Yes, that was always my dream. It always made me sad, you know, I'd go to all these wonderful places and then the sun would go down and they'd be gone, and try as I might I could never explain them to anyone else. That's why I wanted to share them with someone special.”
“This park sounds nice. I wish I could have seen it.”
“Well, maybe when Mr Corsair is back we can all go together.”
“That would be nice... but...” her expression saddened.
“Don't worry”, Lapse said, hugging her. “That's part of why I'm here. You're my friend, so now I'm going to help you. Together, I'm sure we can find him.”
She smiled a little. “Thanks.” She looked around the room. “Did you remember anything else about what happened when you were gone, or how you came back?”
“I didn't really think about it”, she admitted, feeling a little guilty. “I still can't remember much of anything.”
“That's all right”, Sister sighed.
“I do remember why I left, though”, she added. “I never forgot that. Maybe that's important.” She paused a moment. “Why did Mr Corsair leave?”
“I don't really know”.
“Well, why don't you tell me everything that happened, and we'll see if we can figure it out.”

She took a moment to collect her thoughts.
“I guess it all started when I got stuck”.
“You got stuck? Like me?”
“I don't think so”, she said. “I got stuck with a stranger for a long time, but I still remembered it all, and I don't think it was for nearly as long as you were gone for. But anyway, that's not the important part. The thing is, the stranger realized that I didn't belong there. I think I told her a little about who I really was.”
“Oh, that's no big deal, I've done that lots of times.”
“You have?!” Sister reeled back, shocked.
“Oh, sure. Sometimes in the mornings I would meet people who were nice to me, but then when the sun went down, I'd never see them again. So I asked a few of them if they'd come back with me. I told them that I came from a ship and I was always by myself, but none of them ever came to see me.”
“That's so dangerous, you shouldn't have done that”, Sister said, still surprised. “The strangers aren't like us.”
Lapse sighed. “Pack said that too, so I stopped. But I really wanted to have a friend who would stay with me. It was so lonely being all by myself.” Sister hugged her.
“That's in the past now”, Lapse continued, “I'll be okay. So what happened next?”
“Anyway, the stranger asked me to deliver a message to someone. Another stranger. I didn't think that could be possible, but she seemed to be in trouble. So I told Corsair and the others. Corsair was really eager to help. He had always wanted to know more about the strangers.”
“Did you ever find the other stranger?”
“It wasn't easy, but somehow, we did. It was Corsair who actually gave him the message, but I was there. It was an amazing day for us, everyone was so happy that we helped them.”
“That sounds like fun”, she smiled.
“It wasn't. Somehow, things just started getting worse after that. We all started arguing all the time. I started to feel very sad and lonely, and Corsair didn't want to spend much time with me. He was spending a lot of time with another one of our friends, and that made me feel worse. Oh, and Pack was very upset, too, because he'd been trying so hard to find you and he'd been having no luck. I thought our problems might have started when I showed the others some things I had learned from the strangers when I got stuck.”
“What kind of things were those?”
“When I met the stranger, everyone was dancing.”
Lapse's ears perked up “That sounds like fun, for everyone to dance together. I wish I could have been there.”
“I only danced with the stranger, and I was very nervous.” She paused for a moment, “the strangers taught me about kissing, too.”
“Well, kissing someone you love is one of the best things there is”, she said, dreamily.
“Lay thought so too. She thought that I was in love with Corsair, but I wasn't sure about that.”
“Oh, you definitely are.” Lapse said, smiling at her. “I can tell from the way you talk about him. Did he not return your love? That's what happened to me.”
“Lay believes that he did. Something happened between them, too, but I'm not sure what it was. All I know is that Corsair thought the strangers had been trying to warn him about something and he became obsessed with learning more about them. Then one night, Sabre warned me that she thought Corsair was going to get himself lost, and so we pleaded with him, but it didn't work. That night was the last time I saw him.”
“Why did this Sabre think he would get lost?”
“I don't know”, she said, “Sabre and everyone else who was on Corsair's ship is gone too. And as you can see, so much was happening that I really don't know what drove him away.”
“Don't you at least have a theory?”
“I think it was my fault”, she said, sadly.
“Pack thought it was his fault when I went away, too. But I didn't go away because of him. I blamed myself for losing him, that's why I felt so terrible.” She closed her eyes. “To do something so drastic, Corsair probably felt like the things that went wrong were his fault.”
“But it wasn't his fault!” Sister protested.
“How can you be so sure?”
“Because he did try to help me. He just didn't understand why I was so upset.”
“I bet he wished he did.”
Suddenly Sister didn't feel like talking anymore. “You don't think... he left because he wanted to help me?” She could feel tears welling up in her eyes.
Lapse put her paws around her and squeezed her.
“Oh Corsair!” she sobbed, overcome by guilt and grief.


Lapse stood on the railing, watching intently as the other ship came into view. The sun was already starting to peek over the horizon, there wasn't much time left. She wished reaching out towards the other ship would make it get there faster.
“Come on, come on, make it”, she pleaded, hopping back and forth on the railing.

“Maybe she is going to make it”, Pack said, watching her through a spyglass from his own ship. “Goodness, I hope she doesn't fall”. He put it down, unable to keep watching.
“I'm glad, boss.” Snag said. “It would be really sad if she didn't, after all you went through.”
“I wonder where she went off to for all this time?”

She did make it, if not by much, the water was already starting to turn orange when her ship got close enough for him to lay the board down and walk over to her deck. She leapt into his arms as soon as he came across.
“Ready to go again?”, he asked, wrapping his paws around her.
She shook her head and released him from her arms. “Change of plans.” He looked at her, surprised. She turned towards her cabin.
An equally surprised Sister emerged from the stairs. “It's so late, I should have gone back ages ago!” she exclaimed, looking at the sun.
“I thought you should see the good you did.” Lapse smiled. “Come on, hurry, hurry!”
Still not knowing exactly what was going on, Sister hurried to join them.
Lapse took one of Sister's paws in one paw, and one of Pack's in the other. They linked their other paws to complete the circle.
“Look at us”, she said, “I was always alone, yet here I have a friend in one paw, and my loved one in the other. We did this. Lots of times, things looked bad, but in the end we came through.”
Pack nodded and squeezed her paw. “I thought I'd never see Lapse again, and in the end I gave up hope, but you reminded me of how much I still cared, and look at us now.”
“I understand now”, Sister said, closing her eyes. “Lapse is right. We did this. We can solve our own problems, no matter how bad they might seem. Now, let's go find Corsair.”
“Yay yay!” Lapse exclaimed happily as the sun washed over them.

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