A/N: Let us pretend that FF8 happened before KH, at least in this storyline. :D
Sometimes you imagine feathers falling from the sky, so that her name stings at the back of your throat and you want to call out to her, so much, but you don't think you can stand the disappointment of hearing nothing answer back. You know that nothing will answer back because you're a realistic guy, and you don't believe in fairytales, despite the magic and the madness and the princesses with their pretty pink hearts. You know that nothing will answer back because you saw her disappear, one milkwhite arm reaching for you, straining, just out of reach – her fingers were only inches from yours, why could you not grab them? - her wings were melting into the darkness and they were red because she was bleeding and you couldn't save her. You can't save a goddamn thing, but everyone pretends it isn't your fault.
Cid smoke out of the corner of his mouth and frowns and goes all shifty about the topic, and you know it's because he was starting the ship at that time and couldn't be bothered, doesn't remember, doesn't want to. "Shit," he says, irritated. "If we coulda saved everyone then we woulda, and you know it, you ruddy arse."
You resent this, so you slouch off to the kitchen. Aeris pauses over her casserole, puts a mitten to her chin and sighs at you. "Oh dear," she says brightly, playing the kindergarten teacher to the sulky kid in the corner; you just roll your eyes at her, you've been through this game before. You can't help the brooding, and she knows that, and that is why she is more forgiving than anyone else. (Sometimes you think you might actually prefer it if she yelled.) When you spread your palms out at her in an accusing shrug, she turns her back to you and mutters crossly, "Stop thinking about it, then."
When she answers like that you feel like crying because you remember the way she bossed you around, too, and made you do silly things like dancing and watching fireworks and flying through space without the proper training; you feel knotted up and strangled and you need to get away from Aeris and the smell of potatoes and bread. (But I can't cook, she's giggling – then we'll both have to learn, you tease back, the dormitory kitchen a mess before the both of you -)
Yuffie's the least understanding – or maybe the most, depending on how you look at it. She sits up on the bed picking at the scabby wounds on her shins and takes one look at you before murmuring, in a dark and angry voice, "Don't you dare make this about you."
You feel ashamed, secretly, but she's just a kid and she couldn't have helped it, none of them could have done anything except you, (and Cloud? – but he deals with the hurt in other ways, and at least you still know how to communicate), but even swords and ten years of training couldn't have helped you then. And they can't help you now. The fighting is not enough. The training is not enough. You feel lethargic waiting around for Sora to save the world, even if you know he's the only one who can; you're useless and empty and tired of waiting for angels; and everyone else is tired of waiting for you to snap out of it. Easier said than done.
You want to save them. But you can't even save yourself.
She would hate you like this. She would hate your name and your red wings, the way you sit at mealtimes not appreciating your food, the way you don't sleep at night because when you close your eyes it's all destruction and disaster. Maybe she would like your hair, but otherwise, she would poke you in the ribs until she found your funny bone and had you curled up trying not to laugh (when was the last time you laughed?) and she would tell you, sugar-and-spice and everything-nice, "Squall Leonhart, be a big boy and suck it up."
You're trying. (Or are you?) You're trying but you can't start and there are some moments when you think you might be able to, but then you remember her hand sucking into that pit of death and you can't.
Don't make this about you.
Stop thinking about it, then.
Shall we dance?
When you know you're alone and the library is full of silence you hold her imaginary wrist in your hand and step about clumsily, feeling a fool. You listen to the imaginary Waltz for the Moon, think of Zell playing that violin and Selphie at the keys, Quistis conducting because she was so brilliant at everything; they didn't let you play because you were tone deaf and grateful for it. Unfortunately, you also had two left feet, and playing the escort didn't suit you, either, but you still got to meet her that way, didn't you? She picked you out of a room full of strangers and embarrassed you in front of everyone and you had never been more uncomfortable in your life. But she had sparkled. In your arms. You hold her imaginary waist against you and waltz around the imaginary ballroom, conjuring the great domed ceiling and the marble flooring and her pitch-black beautiful eyes, and it was not a dream, this life is, her not being here is.
Then you have to stop and lean against the pillars and crush your fists to your scalp, because it hurts too much. You need the feathers. You need the angels. You need her because you can't fly on your own and you never could; she taught you how, and then her own wings were stripped away and that crippled you both, you'll never be able to do it again. The sunlight pitches itself at you through the mosaic windows, cutting rainbow colors through the floor and onto you, so that your skin burns in patches of blue and red. Her face is burrowing into that hole of Heartless and she reaches out one more time, one last time, but she knows she won't make it, so she cries out instead, 'I love –'
Your throat is burning again, and you can't help it, you say her name. It comes out in a whisper, first, tear-stricken and fear-stricken and hopelessly pathetic into your collar, then you're saying it over and over, again and again until it's a scream, a shout, a prayer, an incomprehensible gurgle in your mouth as you repeat it like a chant, like a song, like a sleeptalking idiot. Sorry. Sorry. I couldn't save you. Sorry. I love you. I don't know what to do. What should I do? Sorry. Come back. Come back.
She won't. You know this. You're a realistic guy. Her name bounces back to you, every bookshelf come alive with her memory, and it's painful, but the pain won't go away unless you make it. Be a big boy and suck it up. Don't make it my fault, Squall. I gave up my wings for you, why don't you use them? You cry into your gloves and keep saying her name. Your wings are mine. Your lips won't stop. The feathers are falling and the ceiling is painted with angels. Fly. You keep saying her name. I'm here with you. You can do it.
And you feel her in your mouth, in your lips and cheeks and eyes and fingertips, all inside you, like a potion (a poison?) that you've just drunk, and you stop bawling. You slow down, you breathe, you calm yourself and picture her smiling, and you feel a little more at peace. It makes you think that perhaps, slowly, you can start to feel better? No, not yet; not yet – but maybe next week, maybe the week after, maybe when you're a little stronger and not scared of the darkness anymore. Because you're here. She is, she always was, she's still the cure and you always had the remedy, you just didn't know how to find it.
Aeris pokes her head in when you approach the doorway. You can't fix your expression fast enough – you know your eyes are red rimmed and your mouth is too soft, but she offers you a smile, anyway. "Dinner's ready. We were starting to worry."
Aren't they always?
You have to get them to stop. You clench your fist and she's inside it, non-imaginary presence sinking into every bit of you. Someday you'll be able to look up at the sky and see clouds instead of feathers, flight instead of failure. You can do it. Saying her name is like saying a spell, and it takes your ache away – you repeat it to yourself, under your breath so that no one can hear, and for the first time in ages you let yourself sleep. You close your eyes and see her smile. You close your eyes and the two of you are flying.
A/N: I have...no idea how this one happened. But it did. :D FF-in-KH!angst is something I've always enjoyed writing. I hope you enjoyed reading it as well. Comments would be greatly appreciated.