"If all else perished, and he remained, I should still continue to be; and if all else remained, and he were annihilated, the universe would turn to a mighty stranger." – Wuthering Heights
As Sheena is flying, she thinks briefly of the dreams she still has of him.
In her dreams there are flashes of his golden skin stretching toward the sun, gossamer curtains, three words that change everything, determination flashing in wide brown eyes, the idealism within his mind…
And now it will all become reality. The wind plays with her loose hair and the light rain stings her face as she flies in the silent night to Lake Umacy, knowing that it can't be too difficult to find the new home that Lloyd constructed. And it isn't – it's right there, a simple home by the smooth, dark glass surface of the lake.
No thoughts, no hesitation. She goes to his door and she pounds on it, and then she realizes that it's midnight and maybe he's asleep.
The door opens and brown eyes are looking at her – brown eyes looking years older than she remembers them – with the utmost surprise and curiosity. He's silent as he towers above her and she can't breathe.
"Lloyd," she whispers, and he doesn't move. He doesn't even invite her inside. "Lloyd, I know. I finally know what happened. And I'm here to tell you that none of it matters. I'm here to tell you that I still need you." Please tell me you need me too. "I know that you want to protect me, but—"
His hand reaches out to touch her face delicately, and she forgets how to speak. She sees layers of pain in his eyes, layers that have built over time, and she wants to erase them. She wants him to go back to the boy he was long ago, the one who wasn't damaged because of her.
His silence kills her. It stretches as he caresses her cheek, tucks her hair behind her ear, but makes no motion toward her.
"Say something," she whispers. "Say anything."
"But what is there to say?" She recognizes that voice – and it's not Lloyd's. It comes from behind her.
Sheena turns around to see someone walking toward them from the shadows; in a moment's notice Lloyd presses a button from within his home and lanterns decorate the sky for a great distance all around the home, and Sheena sees none other than Derek in front of them. There is a figure floating behind him in the air, unconscious, head drooping…
"Derek? What's going on?" Sheena asks, confused, taking a step toward him.
"I'd ask you the same, but let's skip the formalities, shall we? Enough is enough. Tonight it ends." Derek's voice is so dark and so menacing that Sheena doubts for a moment that this is really her husband. She hears Lloyd's voice behind her and something rectangular pressed in her hand-
"Don't be stupid, Sheena, on your guard," he whispers, and her mind awakens. The part of her mind that was constantly in use during her travels of the world kicks into gear – rusty – and there's old adrenaline kicking in her system.
"Why is grandfather floating like this?" Sheena asks her husband, and she notices that he is carrying a long, dark rod that she has never seen before. Its end is sharp and should sink into the ground, but it doesn't. It hovers perfectly an inch above the grass. Sheena begins to walk toward him, but when she is ten feet away, she doubles over in pain – everything hurts – her skin is stinging- she stumbles back and the sensation leaves, other than the fact that her ears are still ringing from the pain. "Derek, Derek…"
Rivalry with the family.
His family is a long line of powerful wizards.
But he is her husband.
The light in his eyes is one she's never seen before, and his golden aura is amplified. The look on his face is so sinister that she can't recognize him. She recognizes the vengeance on his face from enemies past.
He tilts his head and smiles at her cruelly. "And you thought I didn't know." He chuckles mirthlessly, and there is a flash of dark light beside him; Adeline's body appears, hanging in the air like Igaguri's, unconscious, and Sheena's body shakes with fear.
"Why are you doing this?" Lloyd's voice, finally. "We spoke before I left Mizuho, remember? In exchange for me leaving Sheena's life completely, you would keep her safe. The family rivalry would end. Although she is here, I did not call her to me." Lloyd is beside her, and she sees his swords gleaming in his hands.
Derek smirks. "Do you think that matters to me? Even when I made that promise to you, I did not mean it. I have been waiting for this moment. Waiting to get rid of the act." With an almost bored attitude, he twists his fingers and out of nowhere, Igaguri screams in pain, doubled over in the air, clutching at his stomach.
"Stop! Please!" Sheena yells, anger surging within her body. "Why do you have to hurt them? Hurt me instead!"
"Oh, I will. Don't worry. Tonight I will rid the world of you all, and my family will rightly repossess leadership of Mizuho. Igaguri never told you that, now did he? The reason for the rivalry stems to long ago, when our leadership was stolen from us – given to the eldest brother rather than the one who truly deserved it, my ancestor. Why should you be the chief, Sheena, when you are not even a descendent of that ancient lineage? No, no. All of you will die tonight, and I will return to Mizuho with your bodies – a terrible accident, I'll say – and I will restore what is rightfully mine by becoming the chief. For a moment, I will admit, I did believe in trying to rule through you and allowing you to live. But allowing you to assume the role as chief and simply be a bystander was just too unappealing." He shakes his head. "Your infidelity is simply, how do they say it… icing on the cake."
Her body tenses as she listens to this. "But you can't, at the very least, kill your own daughter." Lloyd's body is flexing beside her, and hers does too as she reads his body – attack soon.
"But this isn't my daughter. And we all know it-" Without another word, the battle begins. Sheena and Lloyd rush into Derek's barrier, fighting against the blistering pain. Lloyd rushes for Derek but Sheena can't bring herself to do it, she still can't imagine destroying the man that is – was?- her husband, and she heads to Igaguri first. If she gets him out of the barrier, she can maybe bring him to consciousness. She runs to her grandfather's floating body as Lloyd engages Derek in battle, and it's a flurry of swords and Derek's rod and the elements that he musters to fight. Sheena pushes her grandfather's body to the edge of the barrier – struggles – a final push- and the old man collapses into a heap at the perimeter. He is barely breathing, but he is alive – he looks asleep- Sheena drags his body underneath a tree and heads to Adeline to do the same process. It is easier. Sheena holds her in her arms once outside the field of pain and places her beside Igaguri, before turning and looking at the cards that Lloyd gave her. It's time. She rushes into the fray.
It's been a long time since she has battled, and it is evident. The cards are barely doing damage – Lloyd is the one taking care of things as well as the majority of the blows. Sheena curses at herself, wishing that she had not lost her heart to summon.
It all happens so fast. Derek turns away from Lloyd and looks at her with a gleam in his eyes, and she knows what he's thinking. Before she knows it she is running and catching the flames that he has sent in the direction of her family with her family, and she screams – but nothing is louder than Lloyd's scream. She forces her eyes open to see his body shoot in the air and slide on the ground, throwing earth everywhere, before he hits the tree nearby. He slumps to the ground and doesn't move.
"Lloyd? Lloyd!" Sheena shouts, and she sees Derek walking slowly over to them, his laughs filling her ears. He stops several feet away from her.
"Let's see. Who first?" He points his rod at each of them, and finally it settles on Adeline. "Let's start with the least important. I want you to watch me kill her."
There is light slowly gathering within Sheena's soul as she watches him walk to her daughter, and he raises the rod in the air, the sharp end hovering above the child's skull. Something is building, building, building within her for the first time in ages, and she holds her breath because she doesn't want to lose this forgotten energy although she wants to scream.
She knows this feeling. Her soul builds and builds and fills with light, with mana, with energy, with a pact. She breathes in, overlimit, calm, control –
She sees Lloyd run out of nowhere, his body covers Adeline's and the sharp end begins to descend, and Sheena can feel the pressure within her exploding when she realizes that everything she needs is right here, Lloyd is here, and she cannot lose him – she explodes -
The lightning surrounds her. It surrounds them. It blinds them, and there is nothing.
There is nothing.
When Sheena wakes up, it takes her a few moments to understand where she is. She's in a makeshift hospital of some sort; there are murmuring voices nearby; it smells like Mizuho; Raine's staff is near her.
Her heart quickens when she remembers everything. Her heart aches, she sits up, her head spins and she yells out Adeline's name before vomiting. There are footsteps, and Raine steps in followed by some visitors.
"Calm down and I'll explain everything," Raine says immediately, and Sheena's never been so glad to see her face in her life. "Adeline is fine. No damage whatsoever, she's been running around like nothing's happened. Lloyd was out for two days; Derek's staff had begun its decent into his body before Volt was summoned, some inches deep, so he will have a scar, but other than that I managed to heal him. When Lloyd awoke, he told us everything. The commotion and strange flashes of thunder were noticed by Colette, who was in Luin that night, so she was able to get to you all within an hour after it was all over. You have been out for five days, we were so worried… When you summoned Volt, because it had been a while, the lightning was uncontrolled. Volt knew not to attack Lloyd – he recognized his mana – but the release from within you was really hard on your body. All that pent-up energy, you were out cold."
Something flickered in Raine's face. "Derek is dead. Word will most likely reach his family soon, if it has not already."
Sheena closed her eyes, torn between letting out a relieved sigh that Lloyd and her child were okay, and wanting to cry for the sake of what had been a lie of a marriage. And then she realized something – Raine had not mentioned Igaguri.
Raine's eyes were conflicted. "Derek did internal damage to him when he tortured him in the air. He is struggling. We don't know yet."
"I need to see him – I need to see him now –"Sheena struggled to get up; her head spun again, and she grabbed a cup of water near her and gulped it down to prevent herself from throwing up again. There was a murmur among the three villagers behind Raine, and they broke apart to let someone in: Lloyd.
"Could you leave us for a few?" He requested of the others, and they obliged, including Raine. Lloyd sat beside Sheena on the bed and looked at her worriedly.
"I'm so glad you're okay," he managed to say before taking her in his arms gently, and he hugged her for several long moments. She basked in his embrace. He pulled away and touched her cheek, and without hesitation, he continued to speak.
"I never gave you my response at the Lake – I'm sorry." He breathed, looking at her sincerely. "I'm glad you found your way back to me, Sheena. I'm so glad… I never wanted to let you go. And I never will let you go again. I promise you. I will never leave you again."
And with that, he kissed her, and all the dreams of the past few years circled around her head and vanished into his mouth. He had found her again. She was home. His touch could only be described as beautiful, this kiss was sweet and caring and true, and she felt love surge in her chest. She didn't know how long he kissed her for, and she didn't care. She didn't want him to stop, and she held his forearms so tightly she mildly wondered if she would hurt him. Eventually he pulled away and Sheena smiled at him, lacing her hands with his.
Adeline came toddling in, yelling, "Mama! Finally!" She scrambled onto Lloyd's lap and placed her hands on top of their entwined ones. "N-Not fair! Mama, Lloyd is my friend! He played with me all day when you were asleep, and he gave me candy and food and told me stories every night!"
"That's wonderful, Addy," Sheena responded, caressing her daughter's cheek. She watched with amazement as Lloyd pressed his lips to the top of Adeline's brown hair, and she admired for a moment at how identical the shade of her hair was to his. The way he looked at Adeline… all of Sheena's worries disappeared as she realized that her daughter's father accepted and loved her. And for a moment, Sheena felt complete; she felt that this was truer than any moment she had ever known.
The summer breeze rustles the leaves of the trees behind Sheena's head as she looks over Mizuho, at the villagers who are knelt before her, heads bowed.
In the audience of her inauguration as chief she sees her friends in the crowd; she sees her daughter looking at her with big dark eyes, the only one without a bowed head, confused, wondering why she couldn't be with her mother onstage; she sees Lloyd in the front row, his head bowed the deepest - no wait - he looks up for a split second and winks at her encouragingly.
She thinks of her grandfather's words before he passed away a few weeks ago, and she feels his presence with her now.
"Sheena, if only there were a way I could turn back time. I would take back all the pain I caused you – I would take back everything. You are my granddaughter, and I will always be proud of you. I give you and Lloyd my blessing. I give your happiness my blessing. I only wish I had time to be as good to you as you were to me."
"Thank you so much, Mizuho," Sheena calls out, her voice strong. "I pledge to take care of you as your Chief. I pledge to take care of you and honor you. We will face challenges, but we will face them as a community. I will not let you down."
And later on, as night falls, Sheena realizes how complete she is in Lloyd's arms as they chattered with their old friends late into the night in the brightly lit backyard of their home, Adeline sleeping in the chair beside Lloyd's since she refuses to ever leave his side. And when they retire later and Sheena falls in his arms for the night, and he kisses her for hours on end to make up for lost time, she knows she could stay there forever.
Sheena finally, for the first time in her life, is complete.
Author's Note: Better late than never? Forgive me.