The Way Home
by Pirate Turner
"Miranda? Miranda? Wake up, sweetheart!"
An urgent voice called to her through the pitch black darkness, and suddenly Miranda felt herself being violently shaken. Slowly, her eyes fluttered open, and a single name breathed questioningly forth from her lips. "Sebastian?"
"'Fraid not, sweetie." It was her father's worried face that filled her vision instead of the handsome face of her beloved that she had hoped to see. "Miranda? Thank Gods!" her father cried aloud as his eldest daughter slowly came to. He gathered her to him in a tight hug even as he demanded, "What in the world are you doing down here? You had us worried sick!"
Miranda wrapped her arms around her father and returned his hug even as she buried her face into his shoulder. She sobbed against him, and he lovingly stroked her hair. "Miranda?" called the tentative voice of her baby sister. Miranda looked up at Cassie over her father's shoulder, and the younger girl's heart caught at the sight of the tears streaking down her beloved sister's face. "What is it?" she asked in a quiet, small whisper. "What's wrong?"
"Sebastian," Miranda finally admitted in a whimpering cry. "I miss him," she explained when Cassie looked at her in confusion.
"I miss them, too," Cassie told her, "but we can't go back."
"I know," Miranda agreed even as she laid her head against her father's shoulder. "Believe me. I've tried so many times! If there was a way, I would have found it! But it hurts so much . . ." Her words trailed off into a heartbreaking sob.
Alan Ainsling had been comfortingly stroking his daughter's back until then. He sighed as he lowered his head in shame. "I'm sorry, girls. I should have known that things could never be the same back here after everything we experienced in the Realm of Imagination. I should have known that we would only think we wanted to return until we actually had to leave the others. I should have made us stay. I'm so sorry."
"Daddy, it's not your fault!" Cassie exclaimed, throwing her arms around her father's back and hugging him reassuringly.
"She's right," Miranda agreed with a small sniff. "Any of us could have refused to leave, and the rest of us would have stayed rather than leave them there. If we'd just told you, Daddy, you wouldn't have made us leave."
"It was the Trolls," Cassie added, "and all the misery they caused. Our experiences with them is what made us think we wanted to leave, but we should have known better. We should have known that our friendships with the others were more important, meant so much more." The girl shook her head. "But we didn't."
"It's not too late." The quiet voice startled the Ainslings, causing each to look up and Alan and Cassie to look behind them. Medusa stood only a couple of steps behind the family, the soft breezes pulling at her flowing clothes.
"What do you mean?" Alan asked.
"It is not too late, Alan, for you all to return. You still have the power." When she spoke the last sentence, however, her dark eyes focused solely on Miranda.
Miranda's brow creased with confusion, but then she felt the urge to sing begin to build in her throat. "But I've tried before," she told Medusa, shaking her head, "other songs."
"They were not the right one, Miranda," Medusa gently informed the girl. "Sing from your heart, and your heart's desire will be granted."
Miranda felt herself move away from her father and sister as a song broke from her lips. Her words before had merely been weak whispers and she had thought that her throat was too hoarse to produce anything louder, but now she found her voice filling the night air. As her song grew, she stood erect, and her feet began to tap the wooden planks of the dock. The wind rose with her song, wrapping around her and lifting her from the dock. She danced in the air, closing her eyes and moving in time with her song as she felt the intense magic flow through her. The wind whipped at her long, blonde hair and clothes, but Miranda continued to sing, her beautiful voice carrying further out than any of the Ainslings dared believe.
Alan's eyes grew as round as saucers as he watched his beloved daughter dancing in the air. His breath caught in his throat, and fear for her well being pounded in his blood. He began to reach out to her, but Medusa caught his arm and held it firmly in her gentle grasp. "Let her do this," her eyes spoke to him though no words left her lips. "For her own sake, Alan, let Miranda do what she must to be happy." He nodded, and then felt Cassie slip her tiny hand into his. He glanced down at his baby girl and saw that she was watching her sister with awe-struck wonder. Her expression eased his fears and brought a smile to his lips, and he looked back up at Miranda with the shared wonder of a child.
The wind's raging howl turned to a song that joined Miranda's, providing her with natural backup. Her face lifted, and the stars shone their brilliant light down upon her fair skin. She continued to sing, her confident, vibrant voice calling far out to sea. No one knew if it was minutes or hours that Alan, Cassie, and Medusa stood there, watching Miranda, and Miranda sang before, in the far distance, a yellow light began to appear. Then sails of brilliant white exuded from the darkness, and a majestic ship pulled into view. A squeal broke from Cassie's lips as she squeezed her father's hand and jumped repeatedly up and down with eager excitement. Brilliant smiles grew on those faces whose eyes witnessed the ship pulling in to dock.
Slowly, Miranda began to descend, but even before her song finished, Cassie released her father's hand and ran up the plank into the ship. The familiar Minotaur and Dwarves stood there to welcome her, and she leapt right into the Minotaur's waiting arms. His strong arms wrapped gently around her fragile figure, and he hugged her tightly even as his eyes closed against the joyful tears that swelled in them. Medusa squeezed Alan's hand, and they shared a smile even as Malachi pushed the stunned Sebastian down onto the dock.
The Dwarf stumbled forward, unable to tear his eyes away from Miranda. His breath was frozen in his throat, and his heart thundered his ears like a rampaging dragon as he watched her slowly lower before him. His fingers, aching to caress her silky, blonde hair, curled slightly, and his palms sweated with the need to touch her soft skin. Tears sprang to his eyes. He dared not believe what he was seeing, and yet he had no choice. After all, believing is seeing.
When Miranda's feet finally touched down upon the dock, her blue eyes fluttered open . . . and her heart nearly stopped at the shocking thrill that spread through her at the sight of the handsome being she was faced with. "Sebastian!" She threw herself into his waiting arms, and he eagerly caught her. Brilliant smiles lit both faces. He opened his mouth to speak his wonder that she had cared enough to call them, but she silenced him as her lips touched his. He returned her kiss in full, and as his lips parted underneath hers, his tongue slid welcomingly into her mouth. They clung tightly to each other, neither daring to relinquish their hold. Tears of sheer, utter, and complete happiness spread down both faces and slipped into their passionate kiss.
Finally, when Sebastian and Miranda were forced to break their heated mouths apart in order to gasp for oxygen, they found that they were alone on the boardwalk. They turned as one to look questioningly up at the ship and found Malachi grinning down at them. "Well, are you two lovebirds coming or not?" he asked them with an impish sparkle in dancing eyes. "Everybody else is already on board!"
Sebastian surprised Miranda then. She would have never thought that he would be able to do it because he was so much shorter than she, but his strength far surpassed his height. As he lifted her into his arms, she let out shrill but ecstatic giggles. Her left arm wrapped around his shoulders, and her right hand rested on his chest. He rushed up the plank, still holding her tightly. Malachi winked at his best friend as the couple hurried on board.
It was only as Malachi and Alan set sail that Sebastian finally spoke to Miranda. "I'm surprised you returned," he admitted to her in a hushed voice. "Delighted but surprised."
"I've been trying for what feels like a lifetime," Miranda admitted to him. "I've been missing you ever since even before we left!"
"Why?" The word slipped from him before he could stop it, and she looked at him in shock.
"Because I love you!" she exclaimed. "Isn't that obvious?!"
Neither had thought it possible, but Sebastian's smile grew even bigger and more brilliant at those words that he had dreamed of hearing for so long. He didn't know how he had came to be so blessed to have her look past his physical appearance, but he didn't want to question it. "Now it is," he told her.
"Why didn't you see it before?" She had to know.
Sebastian was silent for a long moment, but then he finally admitted his answer in another question, "Why would you love me, Miranda? You're so beautiful, so sweet, so brave, and I . . . I'm . . . " His gaze fell from hers, and he lowered his head in shame.
She gently lifted his chin with a single finger. Gazing into his charming eyes, she told him both firmly and truthfully, "You're incredible, Sebastian. You're handsome, kind, gentle when you can be but tough as nails when you have to be, brave, funny, loyal. You've got the cutest ears . . . " His eyes widened in obvious shock. " . . . and the soul that I've searched for all my life without ever knowing what exactly it was that I was looking for. You're the man I love, Sebastian, and never ever doubt yourself again!" Her eyes searched his as she waited for his response.
He could find no words to describe the feelings that her words and love set coursing through his very soul, so instead of speaking, he kissed her again long, deep, and full of all of the love that he had been saving for her alone through his entire life. As the ship sailed back into the Land of Imagination, Sebastian and Miranda continued to kiss, the Minotaur whirled Cassie around the ship, and Alan and Medusa stood entwined in a loving embrace as they watched their surroundings pass by. Malachi, at the wheel, grinned the biggest grin he ever had. The family he had always wanted but had never dared to think that he would indeed one day be blessed with was together again at long last, and he knew that nothing would part them again. Alan, too, shared his friend's thoughts; his family was home again at last.