With all the things wrong with the world, he was surprised he could still find the strength to smile.

"Aw, c'mon now Luke! I need that back..."

The sound of cheerful laughter, dainty and sweet, resounded throughout the room, followed by the pitter-patter of tiny footsteps and the creak of wood; the tiny figure skittered behind his large white bed, clutching in his arms an object that may or may not have been sacred depending upon who asked the question and who they were asking.

Gailardia knew he wasn't making any particular effort to get his glove back from the tiny redhead; to put it simply, it was fun, very much cathartic, to chase the small child and dive after him into the various nooks and crannies of his room, and if the boy was feeling very energetic, the entirety of Baticul Manor. Never did he find the act tiresome or annoying; though he would be the first to admit that he would have never suspected Luke fon Fabre of all children to take delight in such a game, he also would have never suspected that the child would go missing for so long, nor did he ever think he would miss him so much.

It was almost comical to him; if, in the dark of night when no one was looking, when smiles were extinguished like the sun and starlights were just a myth, one were to ask Gailardia "what is it you hate?", he would have responded simply with cryptic words that only those who honestly knew who he was and where he came from would understand; words that equated to "this house", "these people", nearly everyone. Of course, those days, while not totally over, had died in intensity. At least, towards the child who learned to smile through and through despite the pain life seemed to shower abundantly onto him.

The blonde gave a laugh of his own as he slowly stalked over to the white woodworking, a smile creeping over his face as he saw Luke crouch behind his headboard quickly, as if in an attempt to seem invisible. He lifted his hands, making it obvious to Luke that he was going on the attack, and let off another round of joyous laughter when the boy squealed and scampered off to hide once more, this time on the other side of the bed. As he turned to chase after the child once more, Gailardia caught a glance that soon lingered into a full-on stare of the world outside the boy's window; the sun was fading away. The once cheerful afternoon of yellows and blues and every other cheerful color underneath Rem were slowly ebbing away; disappearing was the wrong word for it, Gailardia thought darkly to himself, for the darkness of night had always existed, it was just the sun only chose now to expose its mysteries to the world.

"Just like you," a dry voice in the back of his mind said and it only made the teen sigh deeply, a hint of bitterness in his voice as the sepia-toned images of fire, the sound of clanging metal and a voice, tender and sweet but undeniably frightened rattling instructions meant to serve as final words in its hysteria, and a giant, sunless hole where he knew more memories should have been but were not flooding his head. "You're just like that sunset."

Whether it was out impatience (it was a trait the boy seemed to have no trouble expressing despite being nearly mute; when Luke returned, he seemed to have lost the ability to not just speak, but walk and even think properly as well. His mother found the silver lining in the menacing cloud by saying "It's like having him as a baby again!", but Gailardia was more than familiar with the infantile Luke fon Fabre; this child... did not seem like Luke fon Fabre, as strange as the notion seemed to him), or because he noticed the nostalgic melancholy cast over the blonde's gaze, Luke uttered a soft noise, a squeak but not quite, before scrambling gracelessly out of his less-than clever hiding spot behind his headboard and approached Gailardia slowly, still clinging to the black and brown glove with the tentative possessiveness only a child could ever know.

Gailardia's green eyes only glanced at the boy briefly before returning to the now magenta-gradient sky, his tender but lost expression deepening in sadness. This seemed to displease Luke; the redhead frowned strongly, almost comically, before making another sound, this one much louder than the last one; his short arms bolted upwards, Gailardia's glove held between his tiny hands.

The whining became impossible to ignore and Gailardia tore his eyes away from the eternal sky and looked down at the boy. There was a brief pause and Luke's silent demand to cease dancing through the fading past and relish the fleeting snapshots of the current could do nothing to Gailardia but make him smile; smile and laugh quietly, seemingly to himself, at the ghosts whose faces would never leave him, and to the silent child's articulate little heart. Luke fon Fabre did not need words; the babysitter realized this as the mandarin-haired boy deepened his pout, began bouncing in a manner akin to a suppressed spring, which was followed by him emitting a series of sharp noises much too agitated in tone to be called whimpers.

"Well thanks, Luke," the blonde said this with a smile so bountiful in sunshine that it seemed to expel the caliginous shadows for a brief moment, before stooping to the boy's level and accepting the glove without hesitation. Luke's intensely annoyed features quickly melted into an exponentially more pleased expression; he beamed right back up to Gailardia and even reinforced his approval with a soft round of laughter.

The extinguished sun seemed to brighten the room considerably, and for the first time in a long while, Gailardia actually felt warmed by the existential beams of light. Luke's smile, while it died in intensity for a brief moment in time, never faltered as Gailardia placed a bare hand atop the boy's head and gave his already unruly hair a gentle ruffle.

x x x

"So he's finally learned to speak? Excellent."

"Yeah, he can say a few words now. Our names, Mom, Dad-- basic kid stuff," Guy returned Van's small smile. It wasn't unusual; Luke was a very interesting topic of conversation, especially nowadays when he was beginning to exercise his ability to start functioning like a regular human being once more.

He was speaking and walking (just barely; Guy could hardly keep track of how many times the boy tripped over his own two feet, lost balance or simply fell over), though to Guy, the most noteworthy step forward was within his personality; Luke fon Fabre was, long ago, the most serious ten year old Guy had ever met. That boy had long since died the day he returned home from Choral Castle, he thinks (though a melancholy something says 'died' is a dreadful word to use despite it being the only way to describe the end result of the metamorphose) as Van spoke of his recent visit to his sister, a woman by the name of Legretta's promotion to Major, and other trivial nothings that almost seemed normal for friends to talk of.

"Killed in war, you say? That's tragic."

Van only nodded in regards to Guy's absent-sounding words, though the Commandant knew very well those weren't the words Guy wanted to hear; Van's tone was dark as he added, "Yes... As foretold by the Score, unfortunately."

Like the sound of glass breaking, paper tearing or the simple snap of fingers, an abrupt something settled in Guy's chest and he knew he wouldn't be able to shake it off for some time beyond that day. The Score, once more. The reason he stood where he was, even if it was indirectly related, and the cause for so much misery not just for himself, but for countless others who he could never expel from his heart as well. A world ruled by the dictation of another; a country so heartless and brutal that they would uproot the everything of an innocent child; people who cared only for themselves and global conquest, not of the smaller people caught in the upset of it all... Guy blinked before casting a glance upwards to the sunset-hued sky.

The atmosphere looked as if it were ablaze, and the fleeting thought of "Wouldn't it be convenient to incinerate--" drifted by but he cut himself off before he could finish the thought. How cruel this world was, he would always tell himself, for a tyrant's victim to be forced under his roof and to feign (was that even the case anymore?) kindness to him, but as kind as Guy's heart could genuinely be, vindictiveness was not out of his nature, for karma's judgment is holdfast, and soon enough, that very tyrant who set his's everything ablaze would know the pain just as well as he did.

"Guy! Guy!"

Van and Guy ceased their idle-minded banter when a familiar, overly youthful voice, followed by the slamming of a door drew their attention; the young master had fought his way out of his doting mother's clutches and had his sights set on his two most beloved companions. The two smiled slightly and Guy turned to face Luke as the boy waved from his bedroom door before rushing down the small steps of his courtyard and charging toward his best friend.

Despite how fond he had become of the child, the blonde still couldn't shake off those feelings of hatred, nor could he force himself to forget (not that he would ever want to; Mary's sacrifice as well as that of his kinsman could not and would never be forgotten) the familiar settling in his chest caused by the child's own father. Although he oftentimes found himself muttering something along the lines of "It's not his fault," in regards to boy, for it was the Score and Crimson Fabre himself that signed the death warrant to his and Van's paradisal home, in the end his heart could not be moved by logic and it did nothing to suppress that strong desire to wrap his hands around Luke's tiny little neck and squeeze just enough to silence him forever.

"Luke, slow down or you'll trip!" Guy warned as his smile took on a slightly worried look; his warning did nothing but urge the boy to run faster, and within moments, just feet away from the commandant and babysitter, Luke stumbled before falling forward, flat onto the paved walkway.

Van shook his head and sighed good-naturedly and followed Guy at a much slower pace as the blonde quickly approached the fallen child.

"I told you not to run! You okay, Luke?" the man kneeled down as the redheaded child looked up, eyes beginning to water and his bottom lip quivering just slightly as he uttered a soft whimper. Guy couldn't resist the face; his smile softened and he picked the child up, standing up to his full height and balancing Luke against his hip as he turned to face Van once more.

"Didn't Duke Fabre say not to pick him up when he falls?" as though he were aware of the illogic and foolishness of the Duke's teaching techniques, Van asked his question in a tone laced with bemusement.

"Well yeah, but if no one picks him, how will he ever get back up?" Guy looked to Luke's face, which was draining of its puerile redness from his bout of threatening tears and was greeted with an abundantly cheerful grin, as if to convey his gratitude despite being unable to speak fully.

Guy thought nothing of his taking the time to step down and help Luke get back up; he was honestly amazed the boy allowed him to do so. Before, once upon a time when Luke fon Fabre would snarl and scream at anyone who dared suggest he was weak in any way, the boy would often refuse help, even from his childhood friend. But like a phoenix reborn, the rebirth of Luke's entire self was nothing short of majestic. While he did not rid himself of his old self's touch of arrogance, nor did he ever find that taste for humility, he was someone completely different now, Guy realized, and he found himself fascinated with-- even drawn to the new person before him. Like watching a sunset beyond the velvet-hued horizon, or a small flower blossoming slowly but surely, the former nobleman couldn't shake off the strong attachment Luke was making in his heart and he knew he was doing a good enough job of ousting that perpetual hatred from that spot within.

"True enough I suppose," Van and Guy exchanged smiles as Luke wrapped his arms around his companion's neck before Van added, "It is about time I should be leaving. Guy, Luke," the commandant nodded in parting towards the pair.

"Master Van!" Luke unlatched one of his hands from the back of Guy's neck to wave furiously at his Master, as if he understood what it meant to say hello and goodbye. Both men smiled at Luke's enthusiasm and Van gave a slight wave before turning his back to the two and making his way towards the door leading to the hallway of the conference hall.

"Guy?" after some time, Luke shifted slightly and peered into his babysitter's face, eyes questioning though both knew the precise words would most likely not come out properly.

"What is it, Luke? You ready for bed now?" the blonde readjusted the boy before tightening his hold on him before blinking as the redhead squirmed in his hold and kicked slightly. With a look of deep displeasure, Luke uttered his companion's name once more before looking down at scuffed knee. It wasn't bleeding profusely but it was more than enough to unsettle Luke.

Guy only smiled at the bundle at his side. "It's getting dark out. Let's go inside and fix that too."

x x x

He had heard from various sources how beautiful the view from the Fourth Stone Monument was during a sunset, but at that point its beauty was both inappropriate and amiss.

Luke fon Fabre or something akin to that, age seven, stood on the vacant cliffside, eyes blank and expression doing nothing to complement the disarray of his heart and mind. Guy could understand, but only so much; no one would be calm beneath the pressure of knowing they only had a handful of days left to live and the words 'I'm going to die' are never easy to say to oneself, and yet, Luke had always been selfish at the right moments until now, so it was beyond the Malkuth nobleman as to why the boy decided to cast that part of his truly old self away at this moment.

Guy blinked almost comically when he noticed that the would-be messiah had a small, albeit sad, smile on his face. The expression only intensified the air of melancholy around the two, and although Guy would have given anything and then some to lift it, truth be told, he knew there was no way, no way at all for no matter what the end result, both of them would suffer in some way.

"You know," the blonde began quietly, eyes never shifting from the orange and magenta skies before the great tower of Daath's pride and joy, "even in the most harrowing situations, you've always managed to pull a smile together."

Luke turned to Guy before blinking his large green eyes and giving him his usual cocky grin, and for that moment only, the two felt as if everything was going to be alright; Luke was not going to die for people who would surely reject him, and the two would be free to spend gentle times such as these together for the rest of their lives. "What's with you all of the sudden?"

"When you were younger, you were always smiling," Guy's voice was soft as sepia-toned images flashed through his mind; Luke's first broken arm (though there was a great fit of hysteria from the boy, when all was said and done and his cast had been fastened...), the day he resolved to say nothing but Guy's name over and over again, and even mundane moments that were but small bumps in time's eternal sway, such as various scraped knees and sessions of hide and seek.

"Nothing could seem to get you down," the blonde continued as Luke turned to face Guy fully, his once haughty expression succumbing to the pain of nostalgia and shifting into a look that seemed as if he were on the verge of crying but could not find the tears for it as Guy continued, "and even now, knowing what's going on, you were still smiling."

Luke's saddened expression gave no quarter, even as he blinked in slight confusion and asked "What does that have to do with anything now, though?" though it was apparent from the way his eyes seemed to glisten with the dispelling of his fear he knew the answer.

"It'd be wrong to say nothing can get to you, but," it pained him to maintain that small smile, and something dark and lost reflected in Guy's eyes despite the tenderness in his words and expression, "even when you were a kid, you always tried to make the best of things and survive. It just goes to show how human you really are."

The replica blinked in inunderstanding, contemplating the words as faded snapshots of his own filed slowly through his mind; in a manner akin to Rem's peaking over the horizon, or the final thread of a grand tapestry being pulled, it appeared to him, the meaning of Guy's words. From the most grand and unimaginable times such as when he learned his companion for life wished for his demise at one point, to simple and unclear moments such as that time, long ago, when he cut his knee and Guy was the first to raise him up and make it all just feel better, Luke realized, and how it hurt to do so, that smiling for Guy was all he could ever do.

"Yeah, but back then I was just a kid and didn't even know anything," Luke said with a slight laugh dancing in his voice and that same smile he had been brandishing since the day he returned to the home that never really belonged to him in the first place, before extinguishing that false look of security and quickly latching himself to Guy, arms around the man's torso, face buried in his white shirt. The action caught the blonde off guard but he relaxed within seconds, eyes softening as well as he looked down at the child pretending so hard to be a man.

"..And besides," Luke began, voice soft though devoid of any sort of tentativeness for he knew that despite the falsehoods and instability his life had been built upon, that the words he would soon speak were among the few truths he could believe in, "I only smiled all those times because you were with me."

"Luke..." for the first time in a long while, Guy allowed himself to look as sad as he felt; the sinking in his chest was painful enough to make him want to cry in the same manner Luke was at the moment, but he knew from countless experiments of his own that crying would do nothing to remedy the situation, tears would not bring back the dead, and that the only thing that could help the future, hopeless as it might have been, was to treasure the present in the hopes that when the time shared became sepia-tinted memories, they would be looked at and cherished along with the other flecks of light called memories scattered about time's unending axis.

"You've always been with me Guy, always, and..." the boy's babbling had long since stopped making sense; he had resorted to mumbling fragments of sentences, incomplete thoughts yet his message was clear as crystal, distinguishable and plain as the tower settled in the distance. Guy emitted a gruff noise, an obvious indication of the suppressed disdain hidden within him, before he wrapped his arms tight around the replica, around the one he held dearest to him.

"...I don't want to die, Guy," Luke's voice was hardly above a whisper, be it deliberate in order to mask the fact he may or may not have been crying, or due to the gravity of the situation that had dropped atop the two so suddenly, Guy was unsure.

"Then live, Luke," it was a lost battle, he knew; Luke's determination was unmatched with anyone's and while it ached unbelievably, he knew that when the time came and the need for a people's sacrifice made itself clear, Luke would step up, stand and deliver. Seven years of watching the flower blossom lead up to this point; seeing the boy in full bloom as the man he had been brought up to be. The Luke fon Fabre he had fallen headfirst for would not turn his back on the countless people who needed him, even if those people could never possibly understand the weight his sacrifice would have on those around him.

"Guy, I--" the replica's reply was cut short when the blonde tightened his hold around him, which he knew was the cue to keep whatever nonsense he was going to say to himself. Luke said nothing after that, only clung just a bit tighter to the only security he would ever know.

"Live, just for right now," as the sun set on the silently ailing Daath, Luke could do nothing but take Guy's words to heart and do exactly as he said; smile and live. It would not be difficult for, like always, Guy was by his side to help him do so.

x x x

Her song, her heart-- both rang out loud and clear and, soon enough, Luke fon Fabre or something akin to him rose from the ashes of Eldrant and began his life anew once more.

Hope was never lost to him; Guy truly meant it when he said he wouldn't be the one telling stories of Luke's heroics over his empty casket, and his faith more than paid off when all was said and done. Locked in his tight embrace was the one he had been waiting at beck and call for, his friend, his companion for life, his brand new everything; Guy and Luke or something akin to him stood, arms encircled tightly around one another as nothing but the moon's white glow and the achromatic petals of the Selenias littered in patches about the field dancing about against the gentle breeze.

"I've..." the redhead's words were soft, the collar of Guy's shirt muffling the boy's lips, but somewhere between the dead silence of the night and the fact that the blonde had been dying to hear the sound of Luke's voice once more from the moment they exchanged goodbyes, his message was clear and resounded throughout the valley of Tataroo without any interference.

"I've only been able to make it his far...because I wanted to see you so badly," Luke tightened his hold on Guy and slowly slid his eyes open thoughtfully, though his stare was blank; there was nothing else truly worth looking at for that moment. Guy only uttered the boy's name in response, and tightened his hold in order to quell the inherent fear that this moment may, like all of the other moments akin to this, slip away and become naught but yet another sepia-tinted link in his chain of memories.

"I wanted to see you, Guy... To see you and tell you I loved--"

"Luke..." the blonde suddenly pulled the boy away from him; he peered into Luke's confusion-clouded eyes with a look of both resolution and tenderness, a look Luke had nearly forgotten in the span of time his vision had been devoid of the sight, "You don't need to explain anything. You've come back, so... As long as you stay and keep on smiling for me, you can tell me you love me all you want."

Despite the time that had flowed away all those many days he had not been present in his homeland, nothing had changed, and this filled Luke with a warmth and security he could only recall in his childhood days. Guy's soft expression and kind but absolute words filled him with nostalgia as he tried to piece his memories together once more but found he could do nothing but smile; live, smile, and throw his arms around Guy's neck once more for another embrace as tight and unyielding as the first.

"...I've always loved you, Luke... I'll stay by your side no matter what," the corners of Guy's own lips twitched upwards when he felt Luke submit to his persuasion and smile into his shoulder. There was nothing in that valley and beyond that could tear the boy from his arms at that moment; neither predestined fate nor yesterday's hatred could remove the swell of warmth in his chest he could feel only during the present, during the moments where he could be certain that there truly was no single force that could extinguish how he felt, how Luke felt, and everything in between.

Guy and Luke remained locked in their eternal embrace, nothing but ravishing moonlight pouring all around them, and in the endless field where nothing but Selenias grew, they found peace.