A/N: and here it is, finally finished! I am over the moon! A quick warning, there's a lot of tense changes in this last chapter as I flick from scene to scene, trying to make sure that I've wrapped everything up!
This story is dedicated to ~Her Head in the Clouds, someone I consider to be my friend, who always writes great reviews and whose own work (both video and fanfiction) is inspiring to say the least. The initial idea for Come Back to Me was sparked after reading and watching much of her work!
A special thanks to ~WishfulTrance, another fanfiction author who has repeatedly offered me great encouragement and whose work is also of the highest calibre!
But I can't not say thank you to everyone who has read and reviewed my work, some of you have followed this story from the very beginning, some have offered great critique that has allowed me to look objectively at my writing and aim to improve more and more and all of you have kept my determination to get this thing finished strong. So thank you, I think I might rest now for a while :'D But please, enjoy! I hope this ending is what you wanted!
It was like living in a dream, the kind where you know that the world is just too perfect to be real and therefore you must be dreaming; it's the kind of dream that you don't want to end because it's the happiest you've ever felt and waking up leaves you cold and alone.
Aerrow didn't want to wake up; he was scared that she might disappear.
They kept telling him that it wasn't a dream, but he wouldn't listen… not at first. It took many days to convince himself that the girl lying in the bed beside him wasn't simply a figment of his imagination; he sat and watched over her for hours at a time, scarcely daring to blink, to lose sight of her for even a second, in case he opened his eyes to find her gone. He kept his fingers entwined with hers, lived for every breath she took; every time she stirred his heart faltered, he never once left her side.
And then, one day, he let himself believe.
Because nothing could ever replicate those honeyed, carnelian eyes, not even Aerrow's imagination; the day that Piper woke up, the Sky Knight's dream ended and his world began again. There lay Piper, his Piper, bruised and battered but smiling… and most importantly, she was real. She didn't say anything, but Aerrow hadn't needed her to – just one look in those eyes and he had seen the life in them. This was his Piper, the Piper he loved.
And for the first time in five years, Aerrow hadn't needed a dream, the reality was better.
Tonight is a beautiful night, the sky is an array of interwoven colours creating a sight that any artist would call a masterpiece; violets and fuchsias and indigoes all mix with the violent whites of the burning stars above the Condor. But no star shines brighter than the one standing before Aerrow right now.
The Sky Knight looks at her from afar, leaning against the railings of the Condor, her cerulean hair swaying in the warm breeze; he watches her close her eyes and enjoy the sensation of it brushing against her face, taking in the smells and the sounds of the world around her. Piper has lived five long empty years, blind to the world around her and now the plainest setting, the most average sunset or the dullest morning will sometimes make tears rise in her eyes at the simple beauty of existence.
How Piper feels about the Atmos, Aerrow feels about her; every time he sees her, it's like being bathed in sunlight, a blinding sunlight that strips you of your falsehoods and lets your soul breathe, lets you live again.
He'd like to tell her that he loves her.
But he can't.
Not yet, anyway.
Losing five years of your life, changes you; for five years you existed and yet did not live, you opened your eyes without seeing, you heard but did not listen, your heart would beat but it would not feel… for five years you were nobody, no one, nothing. And in that time, the world carried on without you; people grew up, moved on, changed.
The people you once knew are different now, they are strangers, not the friends you used to know and love; even your own body rejects you. Though you weren't aware of it, it also continued to grow, continued to change until the body that you once called your own now feels separate to your own mind.
This is how life is for Piper, or at least… it was when she first returned to the Storm Hawks. She had woken up to see a team huddled around her, a group of people that used to be familiar; and every subsequent day after that one brought upon new and difficult challenges. The woman in the mirror was someone Piper didn't recognise, the crystals sitting in the untouched lab were relics from a life lived before her own, the hand-drawn maps and plotted courses remained uncharted territories to the Navigator.
It had broken Aerrow's heart all over again to see her so distraught, a woman on the verge of madness as she tried to piece back together a life she couldn't remember. For five years, the Sky Knight had convinced himself that the love he felt for her was so great, it would defeat all obstacles… but it hadn't.
And so, after much debate, Piper moved back into the hospital that Aerrow had been so determined to free her from; Dove ensured that she would be well taken care of, the Storm Hawks didn't doubt her, but they couldn't help feeling sometimes that all their efforts had been in vain… what kind of life had they brought their friend back into?
She resided at the home for nine months, nine long months filled with trials and tribulations and plenty of nightmares; Piper experienced many horrific, sleepless nights when her frustration and depression overwhelmed her, her development took longer than she had ever expected and every day was like stamping 'failure' on her calendar. It was as though a blockade had settled itself between her and her past, one that took a long time to tear down; but Dove and the other doctors slowly and steadily began to make progress with her, and sure enough – brick by brick – that wall came tumbling down.
Her life before the accident soon returned to her; however, not satisfied with this amazing result, the Crystal Mage took to pulling apart the five years she hadn't existed. Her body had stored things, little memories, photographs of scenes and events that had taken place around her – combining these with the records from the hospital, Piper slowly developed an overall picture of what her life had been like. And through the five years of haze, one factor had constantly remained by her side…
There had been periods of time when Aerrow had visited her day after day after day; his untidy scribble for a signature filled page after page in the visitors' logbooks. Piper had been given the room she had occupied before, and though she had been touched to find that Dove had left everything in its proper place; a discovery within the room, made when she had opened the draw at her desk, proved all the more moving. It had been filled with seemingly insignificant, little notes, written in the same untidy scrawl as the one in the visitor's books made by her Sky Knight. There were notes with orders on them, telling her to eat properly and sleep well and to behave for the nurses; there were notes telling her how the team were doing, jokes about Finn's beard and Junko's new-fangled recipes; and then there was one other note – just one other – the kind of note that had been left at the pinnacle of the man's loneliness and desperation:
"I miss you, Piper – please come back to me."
Piper kept every single little scrap of paper from that draw, but that one, that lone solitary message was kept apart; she put it in her treasure box and every night, on preparing for bed, she would remove it from its storage space and read it – just the once, every night. It acted as a reminder, that somewhere in the Atmos, there was someone waiting for her. That was Piper's incentive, her need to make it back to the one person who truly mattered.
Aerrow, like Piper, had lost five years of his life and they had long since been owed an happy ending.
During this time of recovery, the remaining Storm Hawks put themselves to good use; the news of Piper's consciousness spread throughout the Atmos like wildfire and soon the Sky Knight and his squadron were called upon by the Sky Council to explain all that had happened to them. On learning about their experiences within the ruins of Cyclonia, the Elders agreed that it was time to bring a complete end to the feared Cyclonian Empire; it was ordered that the remains of the terra were to be destroyed, pulled apart stone by stone if necessary, if it meant that it could never again haunt the Atmos.
It was the Storm Hawks who rounded up volunteers for such a mission and over the following months they gradually tore the terra apart and threw it to the wastelands. Aerrow oversaw the whole project, his heart set on ensuring that no one would ever suffer there the way he and his squadron had. For him, the destruction of Cyclonia was not revenge on a personal level, it was simply a message to the peaceful world that it was time that the Atmos forgave and forgot. And Aerrow made this message very clear with one simple act…
Two bodies were discovered soon into the destruction process, the bodies of the two most evil and corrupt people to have ever existed. Both were mutilated and twisted, having lived and died in obvious agony, but it was not hard to recognise them: the Dark Ace and Master Cyclonis, infamous and feared throughout the Atmos no longer. It was universally believed that the only thing they deserved was to be thrown into the wastelands along with their precious, defeated empire.
But the Sky Knight of the Storm Hawks had refused such a demand.
Yes, they had once been cruel and their plans had once threatened the very livelihood of every other being in existence… but that had been many years ago; they had become weak and helpless, destroyed by each other's lust for death and destruction. Cyclonis had damaged her most loyal soldier beyond repair, shattered him into pieces like fragile glass… and in return, he had slaughtered her like an animal, beaten her into the ground like a rag doll and sacrificed her soul in the desperate search for a new master.
They had deserved each other.
It was with this knowledge that Aerrow asked for their bodies to be buried with respect and for their resting places to be left alone, to be eternally forgotten. After all of their suffering, in an odd sort of way, they deserved peace.
There was very little the Elders could say in protest to the Sky Knight's plea, three times now he had removed the greatest threat to the Atmos – the man who had stood before them was a lot different to the fourteen year old who had once begged to be made the leader of an official team, and he deserved to be listened to. And listen they did.
Master Cyclonis and the Dark Ace now lie side by side in two unmarked graves on an unchartered terra too small to sustain life; between them, Aerrow planted a single flower – a daisy. It held no true importance… except perhaps the hope of the young Sky Knight, that between them, a new life could come into existence.
One day, he'll return, just to see if such a thing is truly possible.
This was ten months ago.
Now Aerrow stands on the threshold to the balcony of the Condor looking out onto the beautiful night sky that seems dull in comparison with the young woman standing before it. This distance that remains between them, these few metres, this inability to connect physically – it is only a representation of how the pair of them are emotionally at this given point in time. Piper has been back with the team for only a week and after nearly six years apart, everyone is a little on edge, understandably.
The Crystal Mage is aware of eyes on her all the time – not prying eyes – it's simply the watchful, concerned gaze of her family, making sure that she is safe and well; and to be honest, Piper welcomes it. She will never truly regain every single last second of her life, but she has overcome that sense of loss; her time with Dove and the other doctors has taught her that if she cannot face the future and forget the past, she will lose even more. And Piper does not want that, she needs her family, loves them all unconditionally… and that is all that matters.
Unfortunately, of all the people she has been having a hard time connecting with, it is Aerrow she finds distant; she has tried to talk to him, tried to find a minute to spend with him alone… but whenever she approaches, he simply pulls away. There is something different about him, he can't look at her, won't look at her; he only ever mumbles her name, avoids her eye contact, her touch… everything.
Piper is at a loss, this Aerrow is different to the one she has images of in her memory, this isn't the man who every time he saw her would tell the same thing again and again, every time he left her:
"I love you, Piper. Please come back to me."
You cannot believe how much the Crystal Mage longs to tell her Sky Knight that she has done just that, but finding the right moment is proving difficult. Tonight however, Piper has come to a decision: that it is now or never. Only that morning, the girl had returned to the hospital in order to ask for some advice from Dove – not as a patient, but as a friend, desperately in need of guidance.
"What am I supposed to do! I can't take this anymore, Dove! Seven days I've been back and each subsequent day has been as bad as the one before it!"
"You surely did not expect everything to be perfect from the start, did you?"
Piper starts, raises her hands in protest; "no, no not at all! Well… maybe… oh, I don't know! It's just, I'm so confused! He's changed so much in five years! It's not like I'm trying to compare this new Aerrow to the old one, I'm just trying to understand. My memories, the ones of his visits – I can see him, I can smell him, I can touch him… he's right there, squeezing my hand, looking at me… telling me… telling me that he loves me…"
"And… you don't think that he does?"
The distressed Storm Hawk raises her gaze to look into the startling blue eyes of one of her greatest friends, tears rising to the surface that she fights to hold back; "… I just don't know. I think he did, once."
Dove leans back in her chair, sighs a little, chews on her bottom lip; "do you want him to love you? How do you feel about him loving you? How do you feel towards Aerrow in general, Piper?"
The two women sit face to face in the grey lounging area, two cups of coffee sitting on the table between them, untouched; there is silence, a moment's pause as Piper takes in the magnitude of these questions. How does she feel about Aerrow? About him loving her? She clutches at her own trembling hands as she thinks about him, his eyes, his smell, his laughter; and then she knows her answer.
"I love him, Dove. I did before I left and I do now after all this time… a part of me always loved him. Of course I want him to love me! …it's all I've ever wanted."
Her friend smiles and folds her arms on top of her lap in a "well-there-you-are" sort of a way; Piper looks at her and feels her own smile growing.
"Then you don't have to worry about a thing;" Dove begins, "Aerrow is scared – that is all. He's seen the girl he loves warped, damaged, nearly killed, injured, tortured, messed with; and like the gentleman he is, he is only concerned with how you are feeling. His distance is most likely him attempting to ensure that you are comfortable once again with your surroundings, he probably does not want to force his feelings on you in case you are still fragile."
"That sounded more like psycho-analysis rather than a friendly word of advice." Piper raises an eyebrow but Dove laughs it off; the Storm Hawk's tone turns serious just a little. "… so what should I do?"
A moment's pause.
"Tell him, tell him how you feel; Aerrow is not likely to say anything until you give him a sign that you are ready to move on in your life. You can't sit and wait for the other to make the next move, this isn't a game of chess, this is real life – the pair of you have waited long enough, don't let a little lack of confidence keep you apart. You love him, he loves you – it may not seem very simple, but that's exactly what it is. Show your Sky Knight that you've come back to him."
Tonight is the night, for both of them.
The Crystal Mage knows that her Sky Knight is behind her, she can feel him close to her through their eternal bond; Piper smiles to herself sadly, tonight feels like a night they shared a long time ago, she can only hope that it doesn't end with them both alone. She takes a deep breath, this is it; time to finally move on.
"Couldn't sleep either, huh?"
Aerrow starts, not having expected any communication. Piper turns to look at him, leans against the banister and smiles; her leader, coaxed in by her welcoming expression, moves forwards until he is standing beside her. The Navigator doesn't say a word, doesn't breathe, doesn't make a move; all she can do is watch him, trying to control the bubbling of emotions surging just beneath the surface. The Sky Knight too is rigid, very aware of his own desires that are coursing through his veins; the distance between them is nothing, he can feel the warmth of her body near him and it plays havoc with his self-control.
The young man forces himself to remain calm.
"No," he answers softly, "no I can't sleep very well anymore."
His answer holds a sad truth that awakens concern in Piper; "why not?"
It is a simple enough reply, one that bears an underlying message telling the Mage not to ask; she decides to respect the unspoken request, for now at least. Beneath her calm façade, she panics, Dove had made the whole thing sound so simple, but how do you even begin to tell someone you love them? Do you just… tell them?
Things had seemed so much simpler, five years ago – so why had Piper never told him how she felt? Had she been waiting for the right moment? Had she been waiting for him to tell her? She can't remember. But she knows that she had been afraid, afraid of Aerrow's reaction – now, it's the same old fear: the bond that lies between them is still there, but it is weakening rapidly and Piper fears that it is because the Sky Knight does not want to be bound to her anymore. There is no rationality behind this idea, no logic whatsoever – but the wretched thought has become lodged in the navigator's mind and no reason will ever remove it. Not until she knows.
"Aerrow, I –"
" – here, Piper. This is for you."
The Crystal Mage is forced to swallow her words as Aerrow interrupts, thrusting out a closed hand towards her; a little startled, Piper cautiously holds her palms out beneath it. The Sky Knight lowers his arm and when his fingers are about a centimetre away from Piper's outstretched own, he releases the tension of his grip and drops something small into her hands. She gasps, her amber eyes drawn to the dazzling turquoise of a fragile little crystal resting before her, tied to a thin string; tears form as she looks back up to her squadron leader.
"… how did you…?"
Aerrow looks away, trying not to cry himself. "I've spent a lot of time at Cyclonia recently, it didn't take too long to find all the pieces."
"… but why…?"
Because I love you.
"Because you wanted it, it's yours after all… I thought it only right that it be returned to you."
Before Piper can ask any more questions, Aerrow has turned and left after a brief 'goodnight' nod in her general direction; the Mage's mind is racing, tears are streaming down her cheeks. Does he not love her then? Has he changed her mind? …But why would he! There is the possibility that the experiences of the last five years have hurt Aerrow more than she could ever understand, watching her seemingly die and never thinking she would recover may have forced him to make a decision and cut himself off from her; perhaps he is too afraid that getting close to her will only lead to him suffering even more so.
But a second train of thought is quickly gathering pace, the crystal in her hand is not only mended, it looks a though it has never been broken; there are no cracks, no missing pieces, it is complete. And Piper is well experienced enough in the crystal department to know that such reparations take time and effort. It is her crystal definitely, because she can feel its energy signature. But she can feel something different, something stronger inside of her; her necklace is not the only thing that has been healed, a part of herself has been healed too…
Dove's words suddenly make sense.
"Aerrow's afraid, Piper."
And Piper realises that up until this point, she has been afraid too – and it's been holding her back. King Agar had once told her that sacrifice was in her destiny, and she had ultimately offered her life in order to save those she loved – if she can do that, nothing can stand between her and Aerrow. Because she loves him. She loves him. And she can't live without him.
It won't do to be afraid, and she's only afraid when she doesn't have him near her.
So why is she still standing here!
"Aerrow – Aerrow – wait, please!"
The Sky Knight is pacing through the corridor, cursing himself for not having stayed beside his navigator; he wishes he could be himself around her, wishes he could tell her how he feels. But he is so scared of damaging her that he daren't; until he can know for sure that she has completely healed, Aerrow will not burden her soul with any more chaos or confusion. This is his resolve. This is the right thing to do.
Then why does it hurt him so much?
His heart falters as that familiar voice cries out to him, the emotion easily detectable; he doesn't hesitate in turning around, the desperation in Piper's pleas alerts his second nature to protect her at all costs. He starts as he sees her running at him, crystal clutched in her slender fingers, arms reaching out for him, tears streaming down her smooth cheeks. Piper doesn't stop, as the distance between them lessens, her legs weaken under the extreme emotion and they buckle; she falls forwards into the Sky Knight's chest. He catches her, strong arms wrapping around her tiny waist. They both sink to the floor, Aerrow stunned into silence and Piper still sobbing.
"Please, Aerrow… please…"
Tears are rising in the Sky Knight's eyes too, now. To have her in his arms again is just too much. "What is it, Piper? Tell me, what is it!"
"Please," she begs, clutching at his shirt; "please don't leave me…"
Finally, the Sky Knight realises how foolish he has been, in his attempt to cut her off for her own stability, he has only weakened Piper further; how could he even have thought that pretending his feelings didn't exist would help in any way? What had he been afraid of? Had it been her state of mind?
… Or had it been rejection?
Cradling the weeping woman in his arms, Aerrow softly whispers in her ears the words he had first spoken to her, ten months ago on Cyclonia. "I'm here, Piper… I won't let you go."
"How did you do it?"
Piper glances sideways to her Sky Knight sitting beside her, he hasn't torn his eyes away from the sky above the pair of them but the navigator knows that she has his full attention; she follows his gaze upwards and sighs wistfully, what a question… how does she explain?
"I was a coward," she whispers, "I didn't want to die. So I came up with a plan. I remember sitting in my laboratory all week trying to work out how I could fulfil my sacrificial destiny and survive at the same time… and then it came to me; after all my training as a Crystal Mage, why couldn't I use another crystal to protect me… just not in the way anyone would ever expect? You can very rarely find a crystal powerful enough that can resist the powers of the Hypno Stone, in fact, the only one in existence is its sister: the Oracle Stone." At this point, Piper looks down to the Oracle Stone sitting in the palm of her hand; she's had it with her since she returned to consciousness ten months ago, having placed it back inside her small satchel that hangs from her belt. She feels safe with it there, for numerous reasons…
"I grabbed something for you on the way out."
The Crystal Mage smiles to herself, perhaps there's just one reason in particular: Aerrow had always looked out for her, and on that day he'd given her a precious, priceless crystal without even batting an eyelid. He'd done it to make her happy, to say sorry for her not seeing the Oracle. Piper shares as much of a connection with the stone as she does with Aerrow, they were meant to be together – just as she believes that she and her Sky Knight are meant to be together.
Aerrow waits for her to continue patiently, a similar feeling of belonging rippling over him; whatever Piper is feeling, he can feel it too. It is that sense of meaning, knowing that some things are meant to happen – just as Piper had meant to meet the Oracle, had meant to receive the Crystal. Funny really, because deep in his heart, he also knows that he and Piper were meant to be together… but both destinies couldn't have co-existed. And yet here they are…
Here we are.
"Can you remember where my necklace came from, Aerrow?"
The Sky Knight nods, "of course, it's from my energy blades. I broke a bit off when I was little and made the necklace for you, because you liked the colour." He and Piper blush as they remember their childhood and how innocent they once were.
"Yes, funny how we never realised how powerful those crystals were. And that's when it came to me, as I was sitting in the lab, stroking this little fragment absently-mindedly thinking about that day." Even now, Piper has raised a hand to the jewel sitting around her neck and begun to stroke it. "…I thought, why not transform that power? During those years and years of research, I came across plenty of references and examples of "chamber crystals"- crystals that can store things, memories, images, thoughts… even souls…"
A brief silence, every piece of the puzzle is slowly fitting into place.
"Blue striker crystals are some of the most powerful crystals in the Atmos, it was perfect! My necklace had enough to energy to act as a chamber crystal – with a little bit of tweaking of course, but that was nothing I couldn't handle." Piper shrugs, she's not boasting, she's being honest – this had been a time when she was desperate, desperate to live, she would have worked herself into the ground just to avoid that prophecy.
"… so, what happened? How did it work?"
Aerrow's emerald eyes fall upon his navigator's face, curious, wanting to know more; he's spent nearly six years wondering what happened. Now he's finally getting his answers.
"I knew the consequences of destroying the Hypno Stone whilst in such a close vicinity, especially when it had been activated; I knew the Oracle Stone would allow me to get close enough, and I knew I could use it to efficiently destroy its sibling crystal. The shield it provided me with also meant that I didn't turn out like Cyclonis at the end of it all. So, I altered my necklace, bonded with it to ensure that my conscience could safely pass into it and be sealed inside; but of course, to move a conscience safely you need a great deal of power…"
"… and the destruction of the Hypno Stone was the sort of power you needed." Aerrow finishes her sentence. "That explosion was enough to allow you to lock yourself away in the crystal."
Piper nods again, "exactly. Like a chemical reaction. I thought I was so clever, hitting two birds with one stone, seemingly fulfilling my destiny by sacrificing my soul and my safety… but then being reawakened as if by magic! No one would ever have to know what should have happened…"
The young man ponders this for a while and Piper sits in silence beside him, waiting.
"That's why I always wanted to find your necklace, because I could tell that it was important; not just because of that last night on the Condor, because I knew that it wasn't just something sentimental. It meant life or death for you… and part of me knew that; the part of me I shared with you..."
Silence falls again, a comfortable silence. Aerrow speaks after a while.
"… so… to release your conscience from the crystal you had to… break it."
"Yes, that's why I've broken so many crystals over the past few years – I sort of left… directions or orders built into my body to find the necklace and smash it so that I could be released; but the link between mind and matter was tenuous, and I guess I wasn't precise enough. I smashed every crystal I could come across because the plan had gone wrong… the Dark Ace had taken my necklace…"
Finally, Aerrow turns to look at Piper directly; his sudden movements make Piper jump and she turns to him wearing a startled expression. They are sitting side by side on the roof of the Condor, away from any disturbance, surrounded by the stars; they aren't touching, they're simply basking in each other's presence, playing it cautiously, aware that even after a five year wait they cannot rush things.
"Why didn't you tell me about all of this, Piper? I know I refused to take the necklace… but if you had told me that it would save your life, you should have known I would have taken the crystal for that! How could I not!" The Sky Knight beats his fists against the metal roof of the ship in frustration; "I should have pushed you further, I should have known something wasn't right!"
"Aerrow… Aerrow, please…" Piper whispers, she moves closer as he curls his legs up into his chest; steadily, the navigator changes position so that she is kneeling in front of him, leaning forward to see his buried face. She strokes his hair, coaxes him to look up at her and smiles. "I didn't tell you… I didn't tell you because… because I was afraid that you would be ashamed of me."
"Why would I be ashamed of you?"
"Because I was taking the coward's way out! And that is not the way the Storm Hawks do things; you taught us to be brave, to face our fears and to do the right thing. Cheating the prophecy, escaping death, that is how the Cyclonians work – not us. I realised, on that balcony that night, that regardless of my fear… my love for you was greater, and I was doing it for you, my Sky Knight, the one who made me the Storm Hawk I am today."
Aerrow relaxes a little, pulls himself out of his little ball of self-loathing and looks at Piper warmly; his navigator smiles and runs a finger down his cheek, laughing a little. "The last time I saw you before the war, you were a boy, then I wake up after five years and see a grown man; now I realise it's just the facial hair, you're still the Aerrow I remember."
The Aerrow I love.
Her Sky Knight grins sheepishly but his face turns sombre as he raises his hand and entwines his fingers with hers, clasps them tightly, not daring to let her go; Piper leans forward, gazing into his jade-coloured eyes, hardly allowing herself to breathe. "Almost six years ago, I made a promise to someone close to me, Piper. A promise I didn't keep. And that girl suffered, because I couldn't look after her. Now I'm not asking her to forgive me… I know that's too much to ask but…"
"She doesn't have to forgive you, you did nothing wrong! Oh Aerrow, she doesn't have to forgive you at all!"
Aerrow pulls her closer to him, "you mean it? But Piper… all of the things I did to you, the things I didn't do! Things have changed, what if I'm not right for you, what if I can't make you happy! I so want to make you happy, I want to give you your life back, I want… I want so many things Piper…"
She edges forward again, removing her hand from his grasp and cupping his face lovingly; "there are so many things I haven't told you, Aerrow. This body, there are memories that I don't recognise, memories that this body has stored for years on end; I can see a boy – a man – sitting beside me, holding my hands, calling out my name. Nearly every day he's there, beside me, just waiting; and even when I don't respond to his words, when I don't react to his touch, he stays. And when it comes to an end, and he has to leave… he tells me the same thing, every time. I heard you, Aerrow. Through all of the darkness and the pain and the emptiness, I could see you, hear you, feel you; you were there, asking me for guidance, telling me how you felt, how your day had gone."
The man's heart is racing, she felt the way he did! She saw him! Heard him!
"I felt the same… Piper, there were days when I thought I was going mad; you'd be there, right beside me, telling me what to do, helping me with plans and missions and preparation. Piper..." Tears slide down Piper's cheeks but Aerrow wipes them away with his thumb, caresses her face. "I don't want you to feel rushed, I don't want you to think that this is too much, too soon – I've been so afraid of damaging you…"
"Don't Aerrow, please. You could never damage me; you've fixed me… you complete me… I'm nothing without you, I've been nothing without you; I've spent ten months trying to work out who I am, but I already know; I'm yours." A pause, she smiles through her tears; "don't you see, Aerrow? I've come back to you…"
She sinks into the Sky Knight's chest, holding him tight; he pulls her into her, wraps his arms around her waist, kisses the top of her head, strokes her neck and lips and cheeks. Then he tips her head back so he can see her eyes and smiles in a way he has never smiled before; she smiles back.
For five years, Aerrow has been blind; he knows now, that sometimes, you have to believe the impossible. He understands everything, how their love has kept them united for all of this time, has kept him searching. Throughout his entire journey to save navigator, there had been one constant in his life, guiding him to her, like a compass… and it had been Piper. Across the Atmos they had heard each other, had fought to find each other, had faced impossible things just to be with each other again.
"Piper, don't you see? You never left me…"