Zhane watched out of the corner of his eye as Andros and Ashley said goodbye. *I envy him. I can't help it. Even when this is ripping his heart apart he's still got it better than me. At least Ashley knows how much he loves her.* He risked a glance over at the blond that held his heart. *I can't do anything about it either. I have to give her time to adjust. I knew there was something good in her the first time I saw her.* He risked another glance and frowned as he thought he saw tears in her well up in her eyes.
He walked over to her and put an arm around her shoulders. "Wanna talk about it?" He asked. She looked up at him and then gave her head a small shake. "Come on." He said guiding her away from the growing crowd around the Megaship. "They won't miss us for a few minutes."
Karone nodded a bit and tried to hold back her tears. She did not want Zhane to see her cry. She was being idiotic and she knew it, but she could not help remembering that night at the campfire. She had been so horrible to him.
Zhane led her to a secluded part of the park. He sighed and then sat on the grass. After a minute, Karone followed him. "So what's wrong?" He asked.
Karone looked down at her hands. "I-it's nothing really. I just couldn't help but think that if it hadn't been for me, then Andros and Ashley wouldn't have to say goodbye."
"Karone, if it wasn't for you, Andros and Ashley would never have met." Zhane argued.
Karone nodded. "Exactly. Then they wouldn't have fallen in love and wouldn't have to say goodbye. It's all my fault." She told him.
Zhane frowned at her logic, and reached out and pulled her into a hug. "I'll bet if you asked them, they wouldn't blame you for that. Andros is the happiest I've ever seen him when he's with Ashley. I'll bet he wouldn't change a thing if he had a chance. Well, except maybe to ask Ash out sooner."
Karone nodded against his chest; feeling secure for the first time since she had come back from the dead. She shivered as she remembered going back onto the Dark Fortress with Andros and seeing the pile of sand that was Ecliptor, her guardian.
"What are you thinking about?" Zhane asked quietly. He could feel her trembling against him.
"Ecliptor. That could have been me. If-if Andros hadn't deflected that blast right at me...I would have been like Ecliptor."
Zhane felt his blood freeze. She could not honestly believe that? "Karone. You were born good. The circuitry would have blown and you would've been free. That's what would've happened. Zedd, Rita, even Divatox were changed into their true selves; we didn't even know that they had good in them. We did know you had good in you." He told her firmly. "I knew you were good." He added softly.
Karone looked up at him. "You did?" She asked in a small voice.
Zhane nodded, gazing into her green eyes. "I knew it when I first saw you. That's why I figured you wouldn't kill me after I rescued you. It was a huge gamble, but I knew it was worth it." He smiled down at her, and fought the urge to kiss her. The last thing she needed was him forcing himself on her.
"I was so horrible to you." She whispered, dropping her gaze.
Zhane shrugged, still holding her. "I guess you had a reason to be. I was late. You had every right to be mad, but I wish you would have listened. You ruined my favorite shirt." He declared with a grin.
Karone nodded. "And the roses you gave me."
"Remind me not to get you anymore long stem roses."
Karone giggled a little then sobered. "The worst part was when I found out that you were telling the truth. I felt horrible, and I didn't know why. I couldn't ask Ecliptor without explaining what I was doing...I was so confused. Dark Spectre told me to destroy you and Andros and I couldn't do it."
Zhane gave her a little squeeze. "That was the real you coming out. You were brainwashed for so many years, but the good couldn't be totally driven out of you, Karone. That's what you were feeling, and that's what made you listen to Andros and not dismiss it as a trick. It's what led you back to us."
"You really think so?"
Zhane nodded. "Yeah, I do. We wouldn't have gotten through to you if you hadn't come some of the way yourself."
Karone bit her lip as she digested that. "I want to believe that so badly. I'm so scared that the others were right. That I am evil and that Astronema will come back. I don't sleep much. I remember everything I did as Astronema, and I can't believe I did all those horrible things. How can you ever forgive me? How can you trust me?" Karone demanded staring up at him.
"Because I love you." He told her quietly. He mentally cringed. He did not want to say that. Not yet. She needed time to figure out who she was on her own.
"Really?" She asked, breathlessly.
Zhane looked down at her and slowly nodded. "I have every since I first saw you. Andros gave me heat about it too when he found out." He smiled ruefully at her. "It was worth it though. I won't force myself on you. I know...I know you have to figure yourself out before I can hope for anything at all, and maybe you won't even want me anymore...but I'm willing to wait."
Karone smiled and then leaned up and brushed her lips against his. "Maybe I want to figure out who I am with you helping me out?"