DH AN: *Blows off the proverbial dust off this fic as well.* Sorry about the wait. I've been lazy this summer so far. Despite the length of time that has passed since this fic was updated, I sincerely hope you enjoy Chapter Five: Seven Year Musings

Chapter Five: Seven Year Musings

My father and I stepped out into the sunlight, still somewhat shaken from the memory that had chosen to greet us at our last destination. With no warning, I grabbed my father's left hand and bolted towards a destination presented by my subconscious…but I soon realized that there was no destination. I stopped abruptly, breathing heavily. I stood still with my eyes closed, trying to control my unexpected flood of separate indistinguishable emotions. I felt my frame shaking so violently that one would have been blind not to notice.

"You're shaking." My father stated bluntly as he placed his right hand on my shoulder. "I'm more than certain it does not concern less than desirable essays." Normally a comment of this nature would have little effect on me, but now it only brought feelings of trepidation back that were equal or greater than those of that day so many years ago. It wasn't because of any essay; I inwardly agreed that my father was aware of this. Though I suppose I should have been thankful that he had chosen that memory among many others that affected me in the same manner. He had once again picked up on a subtlety and linked it to a memory. It was something that would never cease to amaze me.

My father was not a servant to communication stereotypes, most prominently picking up on non-verbal cues with ease. Seeing as he devoted a great deal of time and patience to the mastery of reading faces, this observation should have ceased to surprise me years ago. His methods always differed as to revealing his implementation of the practice; perhaps that would explain why my interest was piqued without fail upon every occurrence. His voice provided what words alone could not, granting passion, conviction; not even I could understand the prowess and finesse with which he was able to influence and convey what he wished.

My father winced, as I realized I had applied far too much pressure to his hand. I loosened my grip, releasing his hand and placing mine into my own pockets. He placed his left hand onto my shoulders. "Why, after the many opportunities you were given, have you not learned to lead?" He asked softly.

"I don't know where to go." I admitted softly.

"What leads you to believe that you have not led us somewhere with meaning, Dear One?" He sighed loosely. "Look and see where we are."

I obeyed, opening my eyes. I found myself speechless, my mouth agape as it had been fifteen years prior when my father had revealed the tapestry. Rather than the sounds of a Wall-Switch at work, we were met with the sounds of an unseen ocean. A large oak tree consumed my line of sight. The large boughs spread shade far onto the ground. Seven years earlier, that tree had provided me with comfort as I had debated what step I would take from there.

I inhaled shakily, doubt seeping into my mind. "How much do you know about this place?" I faced him; my voice was a whisper as I heard several unasked questions; the primary one pushing at the back of my mind concerned whether I had been granted mental sanctity at that point. It was a question I would never ask him; not only was I doubtful of the answer, our memories of a few of the events that brought me to the point of resignation had recently resurfaced. It was an experience I was not keen on enduring more than once.

My father shook his head side to side, "I know nothing about this place; it is you who brought us here."

Turning back to face the tree, I inhaled tentatively as if I were about to confess a secret that I had knowingly kept from him for years. "This place…it was where I first considered my resignation." My voice came out softly as I waited to see if there would be a reaction. Seven years ago, I would have never placed a conditional 'if' in any statement concerning my father's tendency for a reaction when confronted with a statement like my one prior. There was one; it never mattered whether the reaction was positive or negative.

"You always had a choice. You had one as soon as I pressed the proposition upon you, Dear One." My father murmured. "I never denied that resignation was a possibility. I knew you would find a way to accomplish it if that course of action ever became necessary." I glanced at him, noting his gaze was fixed on the tree as if it were familiar to him. He averted his gaze after a quick glance at me. "I should have seen that you possessed the necessary duration of time in which to discern what action you would take next. It was a concept which I ensured you possessed a firm grasp of. Time allowed you to consider all the factors, be certain of your options and fully aware of the consequences."

"They were consequences that could have been avoided if I had simply refused the proposition." I murmured, hesitating. "Is that true?"

"Upon the presentation of the proposition's terms, I recall telling you that even if you refused it, the results would be the same." He paused. "Though if things had gone differently, if those two boys had merely curbed their curiosity… what transpired would not have been necessary." I turned to face him once more.

"What transpired," I huffed, sitting down at the base of the tree, "was not entirely their fault." I laid my arms over my knees. "They weren't the ones who slipped in. Placing all of the blame on them hardly seems fair, now does it?"

"I suppose I still do not understand." My father exhaled softly. Only when I shook my head in confusion did he elaborate. "During our first discussion behind the wall, I recall asking you a similar question. Your partial response to me was that I didn't understand." He sat beside me, to my right.

"What is it that you do not understand?" I leaned against his shoulder with a loose sigh.

He sighed softly in turn, pondering my question. "What I truly do not understand is why you decided at the time you did; you should have chosen much earlier." My father's voice was soft with the last phrase as he glanced at me. "What made you wait?"

"I wanted to convince myself it wasn't you." I whispered, noting that my voice shook. "I wanted to believe that you were incapable of using the desires of others to further manipulate them…or that you would consider-" My sentence broke… I could not think of an ending to it. Standing, I took one step, inhaling slowly. "I was attempting to keep the notions that I held when I slapped Noinreil after that remark ten years ago."

My father stood. "There was proof in front of you that I was entirely capable and willing to use whatever I could in order to accomplish my means. You were foolish to believe those convictions of yours." He set his hands on my shoulders. "You also held onto that notion for far too long." He stated softly. "You still retained those ties, despite the problems it spawned because of me."

"It was not because of you. It was my choice to keep those convictions." I murmured. Turning to look at the tree once more, I realized that I felt peace here. It wasn't simply because of the significant event that occurred here; it was because of something simple. On a whim, I stepped back towards the tree, and ran my hand across the trunk. It was smooth at certain parts and rough at others. It was a sensation I knew. The tree was the same as the Seven-Year Oak that was in the oasis within the corridors. It only seemed fitting that I would make a decision of that magnitude under the same type of tree.

"Seems synchronicity strikes when we least expect it." My father glanced at me; "unless our minds are playing the same trick on us both."

"If you think it's a Seven-Year Oak and I don't disagree with you, synchronicity is indeed the word to use." I murmured, heaving a sigh soon after. I took to gazing at the ground, remembering the significance that was rooted within the oak within the complex. "You still miss her." I stated softly.

"I always will miss her, Mheralo; no amount of time will ever change that." My father murmured. "You have seen proof of that as well, Dear One." My chin touched my chest in regret for the naivety my father always seemed to imply when he was confronted with this matter. I should have known that response awaited me, as I should have known better than to ask.

My father broke my thoughts. "I understand why you always ask. You never knew her." He placed his hands on my shoulders. His voice dropped to a whisper. "I swore that I would never hold information from you regarding your mother. If I were to withhold those details from you, I would be no better than-"

"Your own father." I interrupted him with equal softness. His hands contorted into fists as he gripped my loose shirt.

"How do you know?" His voice gained an edge that I hadn't heard in years; despite that, it was almost indiscernible.

"I was in the room when Ishizu spoke of your childhood, by choice not circumstance." I softly supplied. "As I said to you during our second encounter behind the wall, concealing your emotions has been ingrained into you by something I needn't know. After hearing about… what transpired, it is not difficult to see why you would make a promise of that nature." As this subject was one that my father wished to keep as buried as he could, I turned to face him, my tone soft and meek as I continued. "From what little I heard of him, I surmise that he was very distant from you, and you resented him for it. Forgive me for bringing this subject into our conversation."

"How many times must I assure you that you needn't watch what you say with the vigilance that was once required?" My father asked, cocking an eyebrow.

"It is not a matter of watching what I say or do not say to you." I stated, looking him in the eye. "I apologized because I respect you and realize I just reopened your two greatest emotional wounds in one setting." My voice was calm, and I was struggling to keep it that way. "I still feel guilty about what I said during that argument when I was nine…I've never understood why you did not strike me. You had every right to." My voice was a whisper as I turned away from him.

"That was said out of vexation rather than spite; you know that as well as I." My father murmured. "The pallor of your face after the remark was made proved it."

"It still doesn't answer my question." I calmly pointed out.

"You said yourself that you respect me." My father began. "I know you would never have said something like that under normal circumstances." He inhaled loosely. "Even when you had no reason to respect me, you still were relatively cordial and certain of your next move." He turned to face me, "Those two traits were perhaps two things that most aided you in the circumstances that followed."

I shuddered as my sharp memories of the events that he spoke of invaded my mind. I felt my father's hands on my shoulders, causing my anxiety to vanish. I exhaled shakily.

"How quickly I forget how you react to even a vague mention of those events." He murmured, softly stroking my hair with one hand, the other was still on my right shoulder in assurance. His hand moved from my shoulder to grasp my hand tightly. I winced. He loosened his grip with a sigh.

"I hear that there is a coffee shop somewhere around here. Perhaps we might get breakfast?" I suggested as I took two steps forward.

"That would be quite reasonable, especially since neither of us seem fond of revisiting our morning beverages that have gone cold." He motioned for me to follow him once more.

DH: I really, whole-heartedly apologize for the lack of updates on this fic. I am going to be working on the stories that I coauthor with Ataahua/Rugrat247. Please Review.