Another Heart Calls
By: Manna


xOx…

Chapter One: Everything and All Things

God knows I've done a lot of stupid things in my life. Things that make me look over my shoulder and say, "Oh, if only I could go back…" But the fact of the matter is that I can't go back, and even if I could, I don't think that I could bring myself to change anything.

You see, the best thing that ever happened to me came about because of one of those supposed stupid decisions. Her name is Sue, and today is her fourth birthday. I don't regret bringing her into this world in the slightest. I suppose I can only regret the fact that I let her father into my heart. That in itself is probably the biggest mistake I've ever made.

But if I hadn't chanced to make it, Sue would probably not be here, and some days she is the only thing that keeps me going.

I suppose you could say that I don't try for myself anymore.

I tried, once. I tried to get his attention, tried to make things work, tried to hope, tried to figure out why everything kept going downhill even though all I did was try-try-try without a single positive result. I never found answers. I probably never will.

So when I try, I try for her sake, now.

When things get hard, when I want to just lie down and give up, all I have to do is look at her. Those dark eyes, her high cheekbones, the little dimples that appear when she smiles…

And when I see that, even after the worst of days, it's like… I can keep going. Nothing will keep me from providing for her, for us. I don't care how many hours I have to work, how many times I have to beg Florina or Ninian to watch her on the weekend, I will do nothing less than everything to keep her safe and happy.

It's not always easy. In fact, I don't think there's been one easy day since her birth.

But that's okay. It's worth it, she's worth it.

She's the best thing that ever happened to me, and the most important person in my life.

xOx…

"Mom, are you sure about this?" 24-year-old Lyndis Rivèra unbuckled her four-year-old daughter from the car seat in the back of her parent's Grand Cherokee.

"It will be fine," the older woman insisted, hefting two overstuffed shopping bags from the hatchback.

Lyn set her daughter firmly on her feet before taking care to swing the maroon door closed. "But—"

"I've been alive far longer than you have, Sweetheart, and let me tell you one thing that may prove to be useful in the future."

Teasingly, she spoke as she relieved her mother of the shopping bags, "And what's that, Mother dear?"

"A few children in one room does not mean the end of the world."

"But a few children in one room, eating cake and watching only one of them open presents?"

Madelyn hesitated, "It could prove to be a worthy challenge, but it's nothing two strong women can't handle."

xOx…

Hassar had fled to his study the moment the hellions arrived. It wasn't that he detested children, or even disliked them, but he was getting older, and he found that with age came…what? Well, there was wisdom, but along with that came a certain lack of patience, as well.

He watched everything from a safe distance, including his only daughter. Her face held a happy smile, but he was no fool: there was nothing happy about it. Deep down, something was troubling her, and he did not feel cocky in deciding that he knew exactly what it was.

A certain someone should be among the other children and their parents. A certain man should have come to see Sue turn four years old. But he was nowhere in sight, and he knew that hurt her, even if she tried not to let it show. Sue had been a tiny, frail little thing when Rath left them, but his leaving was something Lyndis didn't seem capable of getting over completely.

She had devoted all of her time and love to Sue, and the smile she wore on her face while the party raged on was not for the guests, or for her parents, but for the little girl who hadn't thought to ask, yet, about what a daddy was, and why she didn't have one.

A gentle smile came to his lips as he watched his girl tousle little Roy's red hair. The boy grinned sheepishly and blushed when she praised his choice of a gift for Sue, and Hassar quietly closed to the door to the sound of Sue's quiet imitation of her own mother's, "Thank you."

xOx…

"Eliwood." Lyndis cornered her friend on her mother's favorite overstuffed chair. She sat gingerly on the arm of it, afraid, for whatever reason, that she might break it with her weight.

"Lyndis," he replied, blinking as he watched his son get tackled to the carpet by none other than Hector's little girl, Lilina. "They grow up so quickly, don't they?"

"You sound like an old man," she said, but sighed, and let one of her hands rest on his hair for a moment. "I just wanted to thank you for coming all the way out here for this."

"Roy could talk of nothing else for weeks," he said softly, and suddenly his head was in his hands. "All of the other kids were coming, he said. And could he please go, too?"

"Such a polite little man," she said, interrupting because she could hear a small hitch in his voice that she understood all too well. She braced herself.

"And then his eyes, so innocent, you know? 'Mommy would say it was okay,' he said..." A dry chuckle worked its way from his throat, but it didn't quite reach the air, dying a swift, just death. "I don't—I can't… Lyndis, what should I have said to something like that?"

She didn't answer, and she knew he didn't expect her to. She'd lost someone, but it had been nothing compared to what had happened to poor Eliwood and his little boy. The pain of that man's loss still wore heavily on both his heart and his mind.

"Things will be okay," she said, finally, eyes focused on Sue. That little girl had helped her through so many things, completely oblivious and unaware of how important she really, truly was to her mother.

"I miss her so much." His blue eyes were focused on her, but she couldn't bear to look at them, knowing tears would be swimming in them, and that was something she was not prepared to face. Empathy was something she couldn't afford to feel on her daughter's fourth birthday.

Being alone did hurt, that was undeniably true. Sometimes she felt the familiar prickle of pain just beneath the surface of her own eyes, perhaps in part due to feeling lonely.

But she and Eliwood were two completely different types of lonely.

Rath had left her many years ago, and he'd had his reasons. They were reasons she hadn't—and still didn't—agree with, but they were reasons nonetheless.

Ninian had faded in Eliwood's arms.

"I know," she said, and left the room. The kitchen had suffered a devastating cake battle earlier in the afternoon, and she needed to tend to it. As she scrubbed the colored icing off of the tiled floor, she sighed.

Jealousy was not something Lyn found attractive at all, but sometimes she felt that way toward Eliwood, if only the smallest bit.

At least, she wanted to tell him sometimes, when she saw the sorrow weighing most heavily in his mind, Ninian hadn't wanted to leave him.

At least she said goodbye.

xOx…

"Thank you for coming." Lyndis smiled at Hector and his little girl, Lilina, as they walked outside. They were the last to leave, and her expression had faded from happy to simply weary.

"Sure," the broad-shouldered man answered. "And don't forget…"

"Tomorrow night, work. Yes, I know, and I'll be there."

"On time?"

He gave her that cocky grin of his that had the tendency to make her fist want to connect with his face and smush it into something unrecognizable. But she was too beat from entertaining children—with games like Twister and tag—all afternoon to bother with it. "Yes," she said instead.

He nodded, but then stopped. "Look, Lyn…"

"Hmm?" She blinked at him and flipped her messy ponytail over her shoulder. Hector Durbanson was both her boss and—grudgingly—her friend. He was a good—though somewhat misguided—person most of the time. She forced a small smile onto her face for him.

"Be careful goin' home." He gave her shoulder an awkward pat that felt even stranger than it looked. "And if you're a few minutes late, I guess I could excuse you just this once."

"Thanks," she said, giving him a lazy shrug. "You too. But I'll be on time."

"Lies," he muttered under his breath, and lifted his daughter into his arms. She immediately snuggled in and smiled at Lyndis over his shoulder as he walked away.

Lyn gave her a tiny wave and then went inside, closing the door behind her.

Sue was fast asleep on the living room couch, the stuffed horse that Roy had given her earlier in the day held tight in her arms. The grey plush tickled the little girl's cheek, and Lyn couldn't help but watch her at rest for a long, slow moment.

"Lyndis." It was her mother, and she pulled her hand away from Sue's bangs to turn and acknowledge her.

"Mm?"

"It's getting late," she said gently, walking over to run her hands through Lyn's own bangs to straighten them out. They always had had a mind of their own. "Your father's tired, and I think he'd prefer to drive you back to Caelin in the morning instead of tonight."

"All right," she agreed, leaning her head on Madelyn's shoulder for a moment. She never had gotten any taller than her own mother, something she found quite amusing. "Before I know it, she'll be in school," she found herself whispering.

"And then you'll blink, and she'll be a crazy-insane teenager that you can't control."

"I highly doubt it."

"I did that, and look what happened!"

She almost retorted, but a yawn interrupted her, and she shrugged her shoulders. "I'll put her to bed," she told her mother, and scooped up the sleeping angel before making her way to the stairs. "Good night, Mom."

"Good night, Lyndis. Don't forget—bright and early tomorrow morning."

"You won't let me forget," she chuckled, and disappeared up the flight of stairs. "You and your famous home-cooked breakfasts…"

xOx…

Her old bedroom was exactly how she had left it years ago. Her stuffed animals still adorned the shelf over her computer desk, books were stacked neatly on her nightstand, and a few cds were scattered haphazardly across the top of her bureau.

For a moment, she went back in time. Suddenly, she was 18 again, and she heard her own voice as she looked in the mirror on her bathroom wall and told herself that she would fly away with Rath someday, that they would finally be free.

She shook her head at her silliness and changed into a pair of pajamas that she hadn't worn since she had lived in her parents' house. Dark blue shorts and an oversized shirt that advertised breast cancer awareness.

The green and pink comforter peeled back easily, and she slid between the sheets with easy familiarity. The occasional passing car lit up the room, the headlights bouncing and sliding across the walls in strange, intricate patterns to the gentle humming of an engine. She smiled and turned onto her side.

Though it was no longer her home in the strictest sense of the word, Madelyn and Hassar's house was where she had grown up. It was the only place in the world she felt truly safe and protected.

She was a kid again for a few minutes. There in her old room she was a recent high school graduate with her head resting on her pillow and her long hair spilling over her shoulders. There was nothing to worry about. There was nothing to fear.

But the feeling faded, and Sue shifting in her sleep in the bedroom across the hallway brought her back to reality—her reality—where a job had to be worked in order to pay the bills that needed to be paid.

There was no going back to that childish innocence and a lack of responsibility.

She was an adult. She had responsibilities and someone who depended solely on her for everything. She had not forgotten it, not even for a moment.

She chuckled as she remembered the way she had so eagerly reached for adulthood, for things like responsibility and being on her own. How silly of her. How foolish!

But, she thought as her eyes slid closed, she would not want to go back for anything. Tomorrow was a new day, a fresh start, she remembered hearing somewhere. It was a clean slate without any mistakes on it.

She dreamed of green grass and a blue, blue sky.

She dreamed that she had wings.

She longed to fly high, high, high as the heavens, but when she reached them and looked down upon the earth, at the green grass and the flowing water, and the millions of people who went about their daily lives, she didn't feel the freedom she had expected to feel.

Instead, she felt isolated and terribly, horribly utterly alone.


xOx…

Author Notes:

I am now working the morning shift again thanks to tendinitis (and my factory putting me in an office). So much for adjusting to anything! There was quite the time jump between the prologue and this chapter. Things should become clear soon. Feedback is, as always, very much appreciated. Thank you for reading! Kent (and Sain!) should show up next chapter.