Prompt: Understanding

Given by: Fawn

Setting: Post-KHII; Post-Clock, Post-Last Resort

Pairings: Zack/Aerith; implied Post-Sephiroth/OC (Hilargi)

Zack stared at the teenager sitting across from him. Riku had gotten up before Aerith that morning; he had already cooked breakfast and set the table by the time she and Zack made it to the kitchen. Once they had all taken a seat and started eating, the silvered teen looked his godfather in the eye and stated that he needed to talk to him about something.

Zack felt a fleeting jolt of terror before he took in the aqua eyes that met his calmly. He could tell Riku was a little nervous about the upcoming conversation, but was also feeling determined and peaceful. A quick glance to his right told the ex-SOLDIER that Aerith was far too relaxed with the situation. Clearly, his wife and godson had planned this little ambush together.

Relaxing a little, Zack met Riku's gaze again; "Of course, Ku. What do we need to talk about?"

"My mother's research…and those tests you want done." Riku paused and licked his lips as he glanced down for the first time. He looked up again after a brief pause, his eyes honest. "I don't mean it like that. You aren't forcing me to-"

"I know what you meant, Ku." Zack reached across the table and covered one of Riku's hands with his own. While it hurt to think that Riku's initial statement was probably closer to the truth, Zack knew that the teen understood why the tests were important. That didn't mean he was any happier about the situation than his godson.

"It won't be like before;" Zack promised instead of apologizing. "We won't keep you in the dark. I just don't like the idea of hitting you with too much at once. After-"

"Zack, I understand all that." Riku interrupted gently. He took a steadying breath before going on. "I was talking to Axel after we sparred the other day…about when he was a Nobody and how he came back."

Zack wasn't sure where Riku was going with that, but he nodded for the boy to continue anyway.

"I'm getting really good at controlling by new abilities. You, Squall, Cloud, and Reno have already helped a lot by telling me what you have already. I think…I just needed to understand what I am before I could trust myself."

Riku smiled softly at his godfather. Zack felt his heart swell. "I'll still get any tests done that you think I need to confirm your suspicions and you can show the results to whoever you need to in order to help you understand. But I only need you to tell me anything that catches you by surprise or that you think I need to be aware of."

"Ku, are you sure?" Zack couldn't help but feel relieved through his surprise. He didn't want the teen to give up on learning about his heritage just to put him at ease though. "I understand if you want to know more. I just-"

"That's just it though; I don't want to know more… I don't need to know more." Riku was no longer smiling, but he didn't look distressed and his eyes were still calm and resolved. He didn't look nervous anymore either. "I thought I had to understand everything to be sure about myself."

The silvered teenager shrugged lightly. "But maybe understanding everything isn't so important if I just understand me. I know you want to know more and I trust you to tell me anything else I need to know. The rest will just weigh me down. I don't need it."

Zack blinked and thought for a moment. He was confused about where the teen's change in attitude had come from, but he could tell the boy was being honest. The former SOLDIER smiled. "What brought this on?"

Riku smiled lightly in return. "Like I said, I was talking this out with Axel…and I've talked to Sora, Reno, Yuffie, Squall, Cid, you. Even virtual DiZ has commented on it. I know what it's like to lose control to something and someone. I'm not going to fall for anything like that again.

"Darkness, light, Keyblades, S cells; it's still me. Maybe it's time I tried trusting myself." Riku shrugged slightly. "I think I'll be okay. If anything does happen, I have you."

Zack was lost for words. Aerith smiled beside him and shook her head slowly.

"Besides," Aerith reached over and placed a hand on her husband's thigh. "You were the one who wanted to learn everything from the start. Riku just wanted to know what you were worried about. He never asked about the details."

The ex-SOLDIER was about to argue when he realized his wife had a point. Riku had never pushed about the Jenova project. If anything, the boy had seemed happy to let Zack oversee the research back when he had insisted on it. Riku's only expressed concern had been that he did not want to be kept in the dark about it all.

Zack placed the hand that wasn't covering Riku's over his wife's smaller one. "I never had anything to worry about, did I?"

Riku arched an eyebrow. "Well, I did sprout a wing and bleed over everything the other night...and I can still hear him in my head sometimes. But I've got that covered."

Zack nodded sadly. "Still, that would be what the tests are for… so maybe next time, we won't be caught by surprise."

"Assuming there is a next time," Riku pointed out. He turned his hand and gave the larger one resting above it a squeeze. "I understand, Dad. Don't worry about it so much."

Zack was smiling so hard his cheeks were sore and he could feel tears building in his eyes. "Yeah." he chuckled lightly and tried to discreetly blink back the tears. "I'll work on that."

Riku grinned and turned his attention back to his pancakes. Aerith giggled quietly beside him before returning to her own breakfast. The rest of the morning was filled with the family talking of plans for the day and teasing each other before they eventually parted ways to go about their day.

Zack found that he didn't worry about his godson so much that day, and he was still grinning when he came home to Aerith and Riku that night.