My name is Jake.
You don’t know what a relief it is to be able to tell you that.
Such a simple thing. To tell you my last name. To not have to hide where I go to school, or where I live. To tell you that my best friends name is Marco. And the girl I love’s name is Cassie.
To be able to say this and not have to worry that we would be found. And killed.
But it was over.
It all began one night two years ago when my best friend and that girl I love, along with my cousin Rachel, and a boy, Tobias, who once none of us knew too well; walked through a construction site of half-constructed buildings one night on the way home from an ordinary day at the mall. It was the last ordinary day we would have for the next two years.
It was that night we discovered that there was life on others planets. It was that night we came face to face with it. And the invasion of our planet. An alien by the name of Elfangor crashed on earth that night, and told us all this; through his words, and his very presence. It was that night he gave us more than this revelation though - he gave us the ability to fight back. The ability to morph into any animal we touched and to stop the invasion of the Yeerks. Yeerks; a deadly parasite. Deadly by the fact that they crawled into people’s brains and took them over, making them into slaves. Or controllers - that is what we called someone who had been enslaved. It didn’t start with us - there were other races that had fallen under the Yeerk enslavement, such as the Hork Bajiir - but it would end with us. Since that night, we spent two long years fighting and risking our lives in battle after battle to ensure it.
And last night, it did.
Everything was different now. To everyone else, everything looked the same, but to us - the Animorphs, everything was different. The war was over. But would we ever be who we were? After everything that had happened, after everything we’d been through; could we ever go back? Could we go forward?
Every part of my body was tired as I walked down the hall of my high school. It was a week before graduation; the hall was filled with decorations, and there was a buzz coming from the other sophomores. I was too tired to notice, too tired and too awe-struck. I didn’t get home until a couple of hours before I had to leave for school, and had gotten even less sleep, but the day was finally over, and as I lifted my eyes as I walked toward my locker, there she was, walking toward me. Cassie. My mind flashed to the night before, the battle.
For the last time, we had squared off in a battle against Visser Three. Rachel, Marco, Ax, Tobias, Cassie and I. Broken, and bleeding, much like almost every battle before, we fought, unsure if we were going to make it out of another battle alive.
I turned my tiger head to face the wolf that stood, bleeding and panting next to me.
“Cassie…I love you.”
The wolf’s panting froze as it turned to face me.
“I love you, Jake.”
“Jake”, her voice broke through my reverie.
Cassie stood in front of me, her lips pulled slightly up to one side; a tentative, almost questioning expression on her face. Maybe she thought I only told her I loved her because I thought we were going to die last night.
I looked into her eyes for a moment. There was no more hesitation. I lifted my hands to Cassie’s face, and there, in the middle of the hall, in the middle of everyone, I kissed her. I didn’t care that everyone was watching.
It was over.
And I loved Cassie.
My jaw literally dropped. Literally. My boy Jake was standing there in the middle of the hall kissing Cassie. Very un-Jake like.
But I guess he was feeling the way we must all have been feeling right about now.
Relief. Joy. Freedom.
What was the point anyways? After everything we had been through. Kissing the girl he had obviously loved for the past, what, 5 years or so in front of practically the whole school? That was nothing compared to what we had been through the past couple of years. Nothing.
My agape expression turned into a smile.
“‘Bout time”, Rachel said, walking up next to me, smiling.
That tired, fierce expression that had been in her eyes for so long was gone, replaced by a lightness. A lightness we all felt. Like a million pound weight had been lifted off of our shoulders. Or the world. Yeah, I swear I had felt like Atlas for the past two years. Yes, I know who Atlas is - I actually passed that class with a b -, which is good considering my day job was saving the world. Not anymore.
“So, Xena,” I smiled turning to her, “what are you going to do now that the world doesn’t need saving?”
“With you around, it will always need saving Marco”.
We both laughed.
The bell rang, signalling the end of the day.
Jake and Cassie walked over, holding hands.
“Hey guys”, Jake said.
“Hey! We still going to meet at the usual spot after school?” I asked, as we walked together toward the doors that led out of this God-forsaken place called school.
“You know, we can call it Cassie’s barn now”, Rachel said with a wink.
“Nah, I was thinking more like going to the beach,” Jake said.
Suddenly, the silhouette of a bird flew overhead. We looked up and saw a tinge of red in the feathers.
“That’s my cue.” Rachel. “See you guys at the beach!” She said, giving us a wave and walking off toward the forest that faced the school.
“Say hi to your boyfriend!” I called after her.
“I will meet you guys at the beach too”, I said, turning back to Jake and Cassie. “I want to go home first”.
“See you there”, Cassie said, smilingly that warm, knowing smile of hers.
And I walked off toward my house, as Jake and Cassie walked off, holding hands and nuzzling like two wolves in love. Err, people.
I walked through the long grass of the meadow that separated the school and the forest, leaving my friends behind. The silhouette of the bird flew ahead of me and disappeared. As I got closer to the forest, a boy with dirty blond hair and brown eyes emerged from the shadows of the forest, waiting for me. He smiled as I walked up to him.
“Hi”, he said, smiling, something I hadn’t seen in a long time.
“Hi”, I said, smiling back, and walking right up to him, I lifted one hand to his face, and pulled his lips into mine.
He grabbed my free hand and laced his fingers with mine, pulling me closer to him.
“Ready?” I said, pulling away and smiling.
We turned and walked into the forest.
“I can’t believe it’s really over,” he said.
After we had defeated Visser Three, the yeerk invasion was finally ended.
“Are you going to miss it?” He asked.
I knew exactly what he meant. Would I miss the fight?
“Are you going to miss it?”
Tobias was quiet for a minute. He had decided to give up being a hawk. Give up his ability to morph. It would be easier for us to be together that way. To have a life together.
Suddenly, he stopped and turned to me, but kept his head down, looking at the ground.
“Rachel…being a hawk was one of the best things that has ever happened to me. Thinking about giving it up…it scares me.”
He looked up at me with that same hawk ferocity that we had all grown to know, that had become a part of him due to his life as a red-tailed hawk.
“But losing you, not being with you, that scares me more. You are the best thing that has ever happened to me. I can live without being a hawk, but I can’t imagine living without you.”
Now, I’m not one for feeling a bunch of heartfelt emotions, but when it came to Tobias, I couldn’t help it.
“I love you, Tobias.”
“I have always loved you, Rachel. And I always will.”
Jake sat on top of a hale bale as I tried to work a large pill down the throat of a fox that had come into the clinic a couple of days ago after being caught in a hunters trap. It’s front paw had been badly lacerated and it needed heavy painkillers; unfortunately, fox are pretty smart, so I couldn’t mix the meds in, (medication), with it’s food because it ate around it. Some animals do that. Like horses. I also had to change the bandage on it’s foot, but it was much easier to do when he had had his painkillers. You know when you take morphine and you don’t care what else is going on? Kind of like that.
So anyways, that’s what I was doing.
“You know, Cassie, we could do this.”
“Do what, Jake?” I asked distractedly.
“You know, this.” He jumped down off the hay bale and made an arc with his arms, motioning to everything around him.
“I think you’re going to have to give me a hint, Jake,” I said, not paying much attention as I closed the fox’s mouth with my hand, and elevated his head to make sure he swallowed the pill.
Jake came up behind me and wove his hands around my waist.
“I mean,” he said, whispering into my ear, “you run the clinic and I teach.”
I let go of the fox and smiled, closing and locking the cage, and then turning around in his arms to face him.
“You want to teach?” I asked.
“Yeah. I think I do.”
He smiled and pressed his lips softly to mine, sending a warm, tingling sensation up my body, and then pulled away.
“You know what else I want to do?”
“What?” I asked, smiling, still in his arms.
Suddenly my heart stopped.
He bent down on one knee in front of me. My heart responded by pounding wildly against my chest.
“Cassie, will you marry me?”
THUD. THUD. THUD.
But the answer was so clear. A huge grin spread across my face.
“Yes. Yes! Yes, I’ll marry you Jake!”
He grinned and jumped up, wrapping me in his arms and kissing me so passionately I forgot where I was. I forgot everything, but the feel of his lips against mine, and that it would be that way forever.
“Mom, I’m home!”
Man, it felt so good to say that. You have no idea. For years, I thought my mom had died, drowned in a storm. And then, I found out she had in fact not died, but had become a slave to the yeerks. A very important slave. Leader of the yeerk invasion, in fact. Visser One.
But that was over now.
She was free. And alive.
“Hi, honey,” she said, a huge smile lighting up her beautiful eyes as she walked into the room. It felt so good to look into those eyes and not think about a yeerk sitting behind them. See that smile and not think about a yeerk forcing her face muscles to move into that specific expression. Hear her say those words and know that it wasn’t a yeerk saying it.
I dropped my backpack on the ground, walked up to her, and hugged her, breathing in the scent of her hair, relishing in the feel of her embrace, knowing it was her hugging me.
She pulled back and we looked at each other.
It was over, finally. She was free, and home. And it was over.
“Hey, Marco”, my dad said, walking into the room from behind her.
My dad had suffered just as much as I had over the apparent loss of my mother. When she had “died” he had lost himself, gone into a deep depression and I lost him too. But everything was different now. We were back together. Back to normal. As normal as could be, anyway.
“I made dinner; hamburgers, your favourite,” my mom said.
“Great, I’m starving!”
“I bet,” my Dad said, smiling. He knew everything now. Everything.
I sat at the table with my mom and dad as we ate hamburgers. I watched them laugh, and smile, and hold hands.
I had my mother back. I had my family back.
I looked around at my scoop. My home for the past two years, and three days. It was approximately three and a half human hours in what they call the afternoon, which meant it was close to the time I was to meet my friends. I had been away from my home planet for so long; it was odd to think that I would be returning their shortly. Odd to think that the humans who had become the only friends, only family I now knew; who I had fought beside, and risked my life with each day, who had risked their lives for me, would now be left behind as I returned there. It created a strange feeling inside me; one I had once only felt when thinking of my family back on my own planet. I did not enjoy it.
I heard the flutter of Tobias’s wings as he flew to a branch a few feet above my scoop and sunk his talons into the soft wood of the branch. I would miss him, Tobias, the most.
Rachel was not far behind him, walking through the forest towards us. I had heard her for several minutes before she arrived. Humans are not very quite creatures. Not that any animal could evade the hearing of an andalite.
“Hey Ax-Man, ready to go?”
“Hi, Ax,” Rachel said, as she walked up to us.
“Yes, Tobias,” I said, a hint of nostalgia in my voice as I glanced one more time at my scoop.
“We may leave now.”
It was odd; as I walked away, I felt both as though I was returning home and leaving home.
The sun was high in the sky as Ax, Tobias and I walked across the sand toward the others already waiting.
It was a perfect day; warm, but not too warm, sunny, with not a lot of clouds, and it wasn’t too windy, which tends to happen when you are at the beach.
Ax and Tobias had of course morphed into their human counterparts so that we could all meet together on the beach. It was much better than meeting in our usual place - Cassie’s barn. That was where we usually met to talk about upcoming missions. But we didn’t have any of those anymore.
“These feet do not work well on this surface,” Ax complained.
“I will be glad when I no longer have to use them,” he said, but there was a sad drawl at the end. I think Ax was partly sad about leaving, even if he didn’t admit it to the rest of us. Although, maybe he did to Tobias - he had always been closer to Tobias than the rest of us, especially since they had found out that Elfangor was Tobias’s real father, making Ax his uncle.
Tobias grabbed my hand and held it in his as we walked towards the others.
“Hey guys”, I waved with my free hand.
“Hey Rachel!” Cassie said, sitting on the beach next to Jake. Marco sat angled toward them.
The three of us came and sat down next to them in the warm sand.
“Well, apparently Jake and Cassie have something they can only tell us when we are all together,” Marco said.
“Oh no, please don’t tell me there has been another yeerk invasion,” Tobias said.
“Don’t do it, Rachel!” Marco said.
“Do what?” I asked.
“Say let’s do it!”
“There is no mission!” Jake laughed.
“Phew! Thought I was going to have to take my superman costume back out of retirement!”
For once, we all laughed at Marco’s joke.
“So what’s the big news, guys?” Tobias asked.
“We’re getting married!” Cassie beamed.
Four jaws dropped.
“Mare-eed? What is mare-eed? Eed?”
“It means, Ax-man, that I am going to have to buy a tux!”
My eyes lit up.
“Shopping! This is going to be so much fun!"
“Oh no,” Cassie groaned, laughing.
Could we ever go back? No. But that afternoon, on the beach, we all knew this was just the beginning.