» Τ ђ ε – Vίσιετ – Яσσм «
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Ŧεмρσ – đ ί – Ęρίłσġσ :
Τ ђ ε – Vίσιετ – Яσσм
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She opened the door into the dim room and slipped inside, the long-unused hermetic lock whispering back into life behind her. Its red light had dimmed; it no longer pulsed to a regular rhythm.
The room smelled like clean tile and unused sheets, air not used to circulation. If her footsteps made any sound, she couldn't hear it. The low pull of her breath made no noise either, but it did send spirals of dust in the first morning light dancing away and around her.
Gathering her pink skirt in one hand, she drifted through the empty room, a ghost's touch against the arm of the cold teal chair, one palm making shapes in the gathered-up grit on the pressed, even blankets, like words being written on a page.
The early dawn light through the half-closed blinds washed her skin with gold and shadow and detritus, miniature specks or worlds settling on her skin.
She pressed her dust-streaked hand high on one wall, where words she could still remember had long been painted over.
Brushing wandering hair back over her shoulder, Aerith reached into her pocket and took out a marker. She twisted the cap free, pressed the dark tip to the wall, and began to write.
It's been two years since you were last in this room. No one has come in to fill it. I hope no one ever will… because I met you in this room Ienzo, and I watched you grow here—not just into bigger clothes, but into a bigger person too. I've always believed in destiny. If this is just one of many lives we have to live, I hope that even if you lose the memories you wrote on these walls, you will never forget the things you learned to feel here.
None of us are born with sympathy or tact. We aren't even born knowing how to smile. The world teaches us these things, just like other people teach us love and loyalty. What is the heart, Ienzo? It's not something you can hold or hear or see. You can't weigh it or measure it. If you have it or you lose it, you may never know. The heart is made of a hundred thousand pieces, one from everyone you've met and everything you've seen, or touched, or wished for, built up inside you for years and years, all the sorrows and joys you've ever known aligned with infinite care, like a great stained glass window, shining even in the dark.
And who says we only get one? You'd tell me there's no answer to that Ienzo, but I think differently. When it comes to the heart, there are an infinite number of answers, like the infinite number of stars in the sky.
But lately, the stars have been blinking out, one by one.
What's going on in the universe? I feel as if I'm holding my breath, locked tightly and waiting. More and more, the patients talk about Sora.
And Kairi… Kairi is gone. She vanished recently as if she'd never been here at all. Yen Sid and I are the only ones who even remember her name. I should be worried, but I'm not. For some reason… I feel like Kairi has taken the first step toward realizing her wish. Once upon a time, she told me, when the worlds began to fall into Darkness, there was a boy and a key and a kingdom, and it all ends happily ever after.
What about you, Ienzo? Are you happy?
Are you wandering the stars even now, still looking for that thing you can't define? No, I think you of all people will have realized it by now—that you can't find a heart, only make one.
Take care, Ienzo. Of yourself, and the memories you cherish.
I know that we'll all see each other again someday. Dawn or dusk, I'm certain that our hearts share a single destiny, under the same endless sky.
Aerith laid the marker down.
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Myde's flip-flops spilled sand all over the flagstones as he unrepentantly danced down the road, kicking up his heels and spinning in quick, dizzy circles. His grocery bags swung crazily and every vegetable he'd been instructed to bring home was now most assuredly bruised. Just down the beach to his right, the nearest waves jumped and sprayed in time to the bopping of his head, so enthusiastic he almost lost an ear bud.
The tropical sun beat down without a cloud in the sky to break it, but the clean salt breeze coming off the ocean made it a steady, tolerable heat on his bare shoulders and calves below his board shorts. He wasn't tan yet, but he would be soon. Shifting all the bags to one strained arm, Myde surreptitiously reached up near their neighbor's front yard fence to nick a Paopu fruit from a low-hanging tree. Though perhaps he should have checked if said neighbor was outside…
"Cut that out, you damn hooligan!" the old woman sweeping sand off her porch shouted, shaking her broom after him as he dashed away, laughing. "Grow your own!"
But her yard was full of the trees, and she'd tied up her destiny long years in the past, so when he waved the fruit back and called, "Thanks for the seeds then!" she let him go with a grumble and something almost like a smile at one corner of her mouth. It was like that here, easy and ageless and everyone close. He meant to stay a while. One of his ear buds did fall, and he didn't bother to replace it. He could listen to the surf instead.
It was only because of this that he was he able to hear the ruckus coming a few seconds later, and pull his groceries up clear of the oncoming tornado.
A very familiar boy all in primary colors, in shoes three times too big for his feet, raced past, having swung off the very same Paopu branch Myde plucked at seconds before, launching himself forward like gravity meant nothing. Myde was not at all afraid, okay? He was definitely not having flashbacks to—you know—dying at the end of a Keyblade or anything.
Sora shrugged in a way that shook his incomprehensible hair and looked back past Myde (not at him at all) with eyes so blue they hurt to look at, fondly exasperated or maybe just actually exasperated at this point. "Can't I be both you guys' best friend?" he was saying, a complaint that sounded old and tired.
The silver-haired boy who passed Myde next insisted, "No" in answer, even as a third voice, sparking a hundred memories in Myde's head, drawled, "Sure."
The hair wasn't the same and a third of his height was gone, but the red-headed boy who strolled past last, long-legged enough to keep up without even running, was Axel, beyond any shadow of a doubt. Or it was his Other, at least. He was chewing on a popsicle stick, arms folded behind his head, carefree and careless, and someone really ought to tell him that yellow and beige weren't his colors.
"See!" Sora declared, heedless of their eavesdropper, hands on his hips. "Lea's fine with it! It's just you being weird, Riku!"
"It's not weird!" the other boy argued, throwing up a hand in a half-glove. "What's the point of a 'best friend' if everyone you know's your best friend?"
"Fine!" Sora stuck out his tongue. "When we find Kairi, she'll be my best friend!"
"We'll never find her if you keep falling asleep while we're trying to gather supplies, lazy bum."
Lea scoffed. "If I remember right, your last contribution was two twigs, Riku. I still have battle wounds from that demon seagull!"
"Hurry up!" Sora called, distant already, racing down to the docks where their boats were waiting. Riku took off too.
"Last person there has to do the fishing!" he shouted behind him.
"Tch!" Lea got three steps away before Myde thought he might as well try.
"Axel!" he called.
The boy stopped. He turned halfway, head tipped back to look over his shoulder with one cat's eye as acid green as Demyx remembered. Axel, or not, or whoever actually looked at Myde for the first time and, "It's Lea now," he said, a boy's voice but the intonation of someone who had seen a thousand things more. He knew. He remembered. The boy waited a second for something before he said, "I guess I'll just call you Number Nine then."
"You can still call me Demyx." Ienzo still did, after all, like an incurable bad habit no one was actually trying to kick.
"Whatever floats your boat," Lea laughed, shrugging around his garish yellow bandana.
"What are you doing here, Axel?"
The boy rolled his eyes, and something in his smile, in the slant of his half-closed eyes was desperately wicked or alight or just the right side of ominous. "We're building a raft," he intoned, heavy with everything he knew for certain and Sora most certainly did not. "So we can travel to other worlds." His smile guttered out like wet kindling, too soon, and Axel—Lea—frowned. "The door is already open. We haven't heard from Kairi in a while."
Yes, Myde knew what that meant. He'd known what it all meant from the moment they'd stopped in Radiant Garden and found Hollow Bastion instead. (That's part of why they'd come here, wasn't it? They meant to live it out this time, and that took warning in advance.)
"What are you doing here, though?" Lea said, and no matter what life he was in, there was that same bladed edge, that same slow-ember desire to know more than anyone else—the safe ground from which to watch the world burn.
Myde shook his head, gave a half-laugh. "We just moved in, actually." He pointed to their house, the slightly ramshackle beach bungalow on the top of the low rise before them, with its huge salt-crusted bay window overlooking the sea. "Seems like we came at a bad time."
"Ienzo—Zexion and me."
Lea considered the quaint little house on the hill and the Paopu fruit in Myde's hand. "Well, well," he purred. "You married up."
"Ha, I know, right?" Myde couldn't help but grin.
"Lea!" Sora's voice carried back on the sea wind. "You're the laziest one of us all!" Myde didn't think he was supposed to see it, when every one of Axel's sharp edges went soft.
"My science project last year proved that false!" Lea shouted back.
"You failed science last year and I had to tutor you through summer school!" Riku griped, hands cupped around his mouth to be heard. He was already standing in his boat, more than ready to go. Sora laughed with perfect unworried abandon. "And you can't talk, Sora! You failed even after I tutored you!"
Myde watched the future chosen of the Keyblade stick his nose in the air and stomp imperiously. "I—" he declared, "—and destined for bigger things!"
"Too damn true," Lea growled, quiet enough that even Myde barely heard him. Lea turned away, toward where the friends of this life were waiting. "It's going to be bad for a while," he said, soberly, not looking back. "But don't worry. We'll put it right soon enough. All of it."
"Careful. You're starting to sound like a Keyblade Master yourself."
"I know," Lea replied, the smug frolicking flame of someone who knew something no one else did.
"Come on!" Sora shouted one more time, rowed ten feet from the dock already.
Lea went without another word to Myde, without a moment's hesitation. "Yeah, yeah," he called ahead of himself. "The island isn't goin' anywhere!"
Myde thought maybe it was time he got home too.
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"I'm back!" he called, kicking his still sandy shoes off just inside the door instead of out because the apoplectic look of rage of Ienzo's face when he saw all the mess was really, really funny.
Instead of "Welcome home," what Myde got, from somewhere that sounded like the kitchen, was: "You'd better open up that door again and put those shoes right back out if you don't want to die today."
Myde fumbled to get the door back open and toed his shoes out over the sill. (Of course, he very intentionally left all the sand.) Their living room was mostly empty, two chairs he'd found at a garage sale set up near the window. They were in the market for a couch and—well, just about everything else too. The hotel rooms in Traverse Town were furnished, and so were the inns in Port Royal, and the summer they'd spent in the Pridelands all they'd needed was feather and fur (or the illusion of them, at least—Ienzo had stuck Myde with ostrich again and taken the honey badger for himself).
Swinging into the kitchen, Myde dumped his burden at last on the waxed driftwood kitchen island. Ienzo had wanted the surfboard-wannabe countertops gone before they'd even moved in, but Myde had offered to knock down the wall between the two spare rooms to make one giant library, and after that Ienzo suddenly found a deep-seated appreciation for Destiny Islands' maritime aesthetic. With a happy groan, Myde stretched his worn out errand-boy arms in a smooth motion that somehow carried him all the way across the small kitchen to where Ienzo was standing near the breadboard, staring out the side window that over-looked the main island mountain which Myde was ninety percent sure was a volcano and only thirty percent sure was dormant.
He caught a belt loop on Ienzo's jeans with two fingers and pulled him back into something like a hug, trapped between the countertop and Myde's body and settling in with the ease of everyday routine, the warm, comforting press of presence and the whispering notes of Ienzo's magic curled cat-content now beneath his skin.
"Welcome home," Ienzo hummed at last.
Myde brandished the Paopu. "Look what I got!" he teased, a lilt that turned into a sad little sob when Ienzo picked up the butter knife he'd been using to make a sandwich, stabbed the Paopu, and flung it, knife and all, out the open window.
"What did I say last time?" And Ienzo's voice was so dark Myde had to check to make sure he wasn't summoning any Heartless. What had he said last time anyway? Ah. Yes.
In his very best Ienzo impersonation, Myde drypanned: "'I don't have to try it; I can smell the diabetes from here. Is it a fruit or a star-shaped sack of sugar and black cavities? Get that foul abomination out of my kitchen.' You know," Myde lamented, "you don't have a romantic bone in your body."
Ienzo didn't make any effort to refute that remark in the slightest, but he did insist, "I did not say it like that" (which they both knew was a big fat lie), as he made some cursory attempt to escape. Myde knew him better than that, and clung on, tenacious as a koala bear (which they'd met not that long ago, in a hot, dusty world called The Outback).
"You'll never guess who I ran into today," Myde murmured, watching a flock of seagulls circle in the blue sky above the mountain, over the different blue nest of Ienzo's hair.
And "Axel," Ienzo answered, just like that.
"Would it kill you to pretend to not know everything for even one day?"
"Possibly," Ienzo admitted. "But I happened to see him down at the beach yesterday afternoon."
"Gee, thanks for the heads up."
Ienzo shrugged back against Myde. "The less said about him, the better." Even after all these years, Axel's name could still turn Ienzo saltier than Destiny's sea.
Myde hmm'd. "We might have to pack up and ship out before we even get settled."
"They're building a raft."
Ienzo was quiet for a long time. Finally, he said, "I'm not worried. We can take a trip to Olympus and then come right back. It won't be long before Sora gets this world in the right order again."
"That's exactly what Axel said."
"Hmph," Ienzo replied, and then, for emphasis, he picked up his perfectly toasted sandwich from the breadboard and bit it fiercely.
"Research snack?" Myde leaned forward to pilfer a bite of his own, nipping at Ienzo's fingers as he went.
"If interior design can pass as research of mine today."
Myde rested his head on Ienzo's shoulder. "Hmm, what were you trying to do?"
"Decide on what color to paint the bedroom."
Myde felt the ripple of Ienzo's power before he saw it, the fine hairs on the back of his arm standing on end from proximity to Ienzo's cool electric-tingling illusions. Before Myde's eyes, the kitchen walls flashed through a giddy array of colors and shades, a hundred different blues, a dark mulberry red, light greens and dark greens and blue-greens and even a pale country-butter yellow before a host of coffee brows and camel beige. Some of the colors could surely never be found in a can; some of the colors, he suspected, didn't exist until Ienzo dreamed them up and made imagination figments into something almost but not quite like reality.
"Any suggestions in particular?" Myde begged, if only to stop the dizzying swirl of hues. A single sample color settled over the kitchen walls. Myde groaned. He felt the illusionist's smirk rather than saw it, pressed impish and heated against his cheek.
"Perhaps," Ienzo said, "a violet."
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Τ ђ ε – Vίσιετ – Яσσм : Ғίηίŧσ
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1) I am extremely sorry for the unexpected two-year silence. Real life is something that you can't turn off, and the last two years of my life have been excruciatingly complicated and both mentally and physically exhausting. I am so sorry to everyone who waited so patiently for this ending; honestly, more than that, I'm very happy I survived to see it to its end. I hope that this ending is at least a little of what you have been hoping for.
2) I am overwhelmingly grateful to everyone who has supported me from day one on this project, including my lovely beta-reader for the first half of the story, DistortedGaze, and every single person who so much as glanced at the chapters, but especially Secretie, Ronsard, and Goldpanner, who made my life better by being in it, despite the fact that I'm a terrible conversationalist and drop off the face of the earth without warning. Knowing that people were waiting (Gamma Cavy, your polite prodding was very, very necessary and very much appreciated) was probably the only thing that made this fic possible over so many years, and the continued support this story has received over so long still staggers me. It's been almost nine years, and in that time my life has changed in so many unpredictable ways. I grew up. I hope maybe it feels like my characters did too. Thank you all so, so much for being a part of that with me.
3) If you want to keep an eye on other projects I might start in the future, or you just want to yell at me or send me weird memes or something, check out my tumblr: username echodrops. Asks are always open if you have any lingering questions. :)
4) Yes, I'm still planning to migrate to AO3. I just need the time and energy to try to revise. D;
5) Thank you again. Forever. Really.