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. . . . .

 

On the day that Crono and Marle marry, Janus watches the ceremony, unseen, unheard, and unknown. The shadows are his cloak; silence his cowl. Marle wears her usual white, but now she reminds Janus of the mountain peaks jutting from the oceans of his birth time. She is the promise of firm, fertile land in a cold, unfriendly ocean. Crono lifts her veil to plant a not-quite-chaste kiss on her lips. He whispers something in her ear, audible only to her. He never offers words to anyone else.

Crono and Marle turn and wave, now King and Queen of Guardia. They walk out amongst their people, smiling as the crowd cheers and tosses flower petals at them. Janus did not know what young love looked like until this moment. It appears delicate and soft, much like the flower petals fluttering to the ground.

Janus finds their fairy tale ending disingenuous. Life is not about smiles and joy and perfect union. Life is about loss and pain and death. But Crono and Marle do not understand death. How can they? Marle twisted time itself to bring back Crono, denying death's claim to him. Neither she nor Crono understand that life and death exist on the same cycle, spinning in a circle, chasing each other's tails--to deny it is merely to delay it.

Once, when Janus still thought of himself as Magus, he would have delighted in gliding through the doorway and forcing the young couple to draw up short. He could have sent Mystics crashing through the windows of their church to rip and tear and bite at the happy people. He would have taught them, as his mother once taught him, that life is merely death's bridal veil--lifting it for the marital kiss only hastens one's end.

But Janus remains in the shadows. He is no longer Magus, the leader of the Mystics. He is weak now, because he does not know if he still believes that life is naught but suffering. He will not instruct Crono and Marle about harsh reality. Someone else will be their teacher. Instead, he watches them walk to their wedding carriage and hopes their conjugal union will be fruitful.

. . . . .

 

A snot bubble snaps, and the old man speaks. "Hey. I hope you're enjoying that key that the girl with the glasses gave you."

Janus says nothing as he refreshes himself on the old man's lamplit platform. He pauses by the twinkling bucket that leads to 1999 A.D. It stills shines, though he and the fools had destroyed it. It chills him to pass by it, for he can still hear the black winds howling. But what is left of Lavos must wait, just as he does. The woman who can truly end its existence has not returned yet.

"Ah, youth. You never appreciate life while you still have it."

Janus pauses and glances at the old man. Beneath the dull bowler hat and dusty coat lies a hint of the Guru of Time, in once-familiar robes that peek out from behind collars and hems. "Are you telling me that you are dead?"

"If only it were that simple." Gaspar smiles beneath his hat and nods at the bucket. "You're waiting for your sister, aren't you?"

"You're wasting my time, old man."

A chuckle. "You're the same as you ever were, Janus. You never properly grew up. As for time, well, I have plenty of it to waste. All the time that ever was, in fact."

"Hmph." Janus has no more patience for Gaspar's vague riddles. He steps into the prehistoric gate to collect more Dreamstone. He only hopes he will not meet that ridiculous cavewoman again. If she asks him one more time if he wears his cloak in order to resemble a dactyl, he might be forced to cast Dark Matter on her.

Back by the eternally glowing lamp, Gaspar starts to snore.

. . . . .

 

Every now and then, Janus wonders what it would be like to live as a human. He does not allow the emotion to last long, but it passes him by every so often, a bird flying high in the sky. He wonders most during his shadowy visits to Guardia Castle, when he sees the way Crono and Marle look at each other. The way they smile and bump hands in the throne room before making their excuses to head upstairs. Few in the castle are ignorant of why they retire to their royal bedchambers so frequently. Even Marle's retired father chuckles and waits for his royal grandchildren.

Janus marvels over Crono and Marle's ability to produce children. Even the most beautiful of his Mystic companions were incompatible with his kind. He treated the Mystics as tools, and despite the Mystics' adulation of his power, they treated him the same way. His closest Mystic companions, Ozzie, Slash, and Flea, turned on him without hesitation. Janus destroyed them without hesitation for the same reason they betrayed him: they stood in his way. He does not regret their destruction.

But sometimes, when Crono and Marle appear back in their throne room, flushed and smug, Janus regrets that he has never lived as a human--not even when he was still amongst humans.

. . . . .

 

"Hey. You should find someone nice to settle down with. What about that purple-haired cutie with the glasses?"

Janus shoots a glare at the old man as he refreshes himself.

"No? You don't like purple? How about green? What about that polite green-haired boy from the Middle Ages? The one who turned into a frog?"

"I was the one who turned him into a frog," Janus says in disgust.

"Oh. Oh, right. Yeah, I see a conflict of interest there." A pause. "Are you really going to waste your whole life waiting for her?"

Janus walks towards the gates, ignoring the twinkling bucket that reminded him of his failure. He sweeps his cape over a shoulder and does not bother glancing back at Gaspar. He approaches the beam of light that will take him to the future and to the ridiculous talking hunk of metal who will doubtlessly prove useful in upgrading his time key.

Gaspar speaks again before Janus steps through the time gate. "Such a shame. Melchior probably shouldn't have told you about your sister's fate. Then maybe you'd settle down and be happy."

Janus pauses. "I've never been happy." He steps through the gate.

. . . . .

 

The baby nestling in Marle's arms does not have blue hair, much to Janus's disappointment. Instead, she has a shock of golden blond hair just like her mother's. Her eyes are wide and blue, much like her father's. Crono beams at everyone who gathers around mother and babe, saying nothing--but then, he does not have to. Marle does enough talking for both of them.

Janus waits in the shadows. Eventually, his silent patience is rewarded when Marle tucks her infant daughter into a cradle and lies down for a nap. When he draws close, the baby laughs. He peers down at her, surprised to find a smile on an infant so young. But he recognizes the smile, just as he recognizes the soul inside the girl's body.

"Hello, Schala," he murmurs. "Welcome back."

Death is the point of life. He knows this. But after every death, there is rebirth. As both the Beginning and Ending of Time lead to the same lamplit gateway where Gaspar waits, life frames both the beginning and ending of death. Schala died, only to be reborn as Crono and Marle's child. When she is older and stronger, she will end the nightmare that is Lavos, strengthened by the suffering that Lavos created in its wake.

Janus gently examines the baby that was once his beloved sister. Her tiny hand curls around his index finger, and for the first time in his life, he feels an inner glow that he suspects to be happiness. Even the howl of the black winds will grow hoarse and quiet soon. He withdraws, his finger still warm from the infant's touch, and heads out.

The shadows fail him this time, and Lucca steps out to greet him the hallway. She adjusts her glasses, her expression solemn. "Hello, Magus. So, the baby is Schala's reincarnation. We all thought so, but since you're here, that confirms it."

Janus does not respond to her, this girl who mixed magic with machines and gave him the power to travel through time on his own with a key. He owes her a favor, not conversation. Instead, he sweeps his cloak over his shoulder.

Lucca studies him. "Who told you?"

Janus glares at her.

"I'll bet it was Melchior." Lucca smiles. "Do you want to know the baby's name?"

Janus steps around Lucca and heads down the stairs. He need not bother with the shadows any longer--Crono and Marle must soon accept that he will be a part of their daughter's life. He searched long and hard for his sister, and now that he has found her, he will not stray far from her side.

"It's Kid! Crono named her, you can tell!" Lucca calls after him.

Kid. Janus will not forget her name.

. . . . .

 

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