So hello. I know most of you may find this piece of writing sad, but I hope you will all still read it. It is important to me somehow, even though I can't explain it well. I don't even know where it came from, but maybe I've been thinking too much lately. Regardless, I hope you read and enjoy it, and maybe get that something I'm trying to convey. Thank you.
Everything...was hazy. He didn't know where he was. Who was he anyway? Was he even a he? There was so much pain...and it felt like it was leaking somewhere important. Why was it important? Maybe it wasn't it? If only the pain would stop...
He felt something shift roughly. There was a buzzing sound too. Was he surrounded by bugs? How close were they? They had to be flying at him, then flying away. First it was loud. Then it was quiet. Loud. Quiet. Loud. Quiet.
That sounded good right now. If it was quiet, he could figure out what was wrong. There was something touching him too. It was warm and shaking and had a strange smooth feel. What was it? But then it grasped him and he realized that he what was grasping at him too. Fingers...their fingers were touching. They were holding hands. But who was he holding hands with? Great, yet another mystery to solve. But the pain...the pain was lessening now. Why was it lessening?
He should be afraid of that...he should be afraid that he can't feel any pain. Afraid that the fingers that are entwined with his own are feeling fainter and fainter. That he was being lifted or dragged somewhere, that it was all getting clear and light and the pain was gone.
But then it came to him.
Hope...Hope Estheim. That's who I am. How could I forget something like that? And Lightning...Lightning was next to me. Holding my hand. But-But I can't feel it anymore. Why? I should-
That's why...then I should get back. I should...
But then something that was neither cold nor warm took a hold of Hope Estheim's shoulder and he was ripped away from wherever he was. He couldn't even struggle, there was only a moment of intense pain, so much it bathed everything in white and burned him, and then there was nothing. So much nothing...it was still.
Still in a place that was neither hot nor cold, where he was surrounded by nothing but endless white. Briefly he heard a voice, but it was drowned out by the silence. He thought, for one helpless moment, that he should cry. He had no idea what had happened, only that it had. But then the feeling passed and a content feeling took its place. There was a shadow in it, nagging him and trying to push him somewhere, but there was nowhere to go. So Hope Estheim could only wait.
Somewhere, in the back of his mind, it clicked. He was almost dead. Or he was about to be dead. Or he was just in between it. His body was still alive...faintly he could feel something force movement. Force him to live. But the feeling was fleeting, like he could only skim the surface of a fine glass or risk breaking it. He was confused and content. He was dead and not dead. But he didn't want to stay in this strange place forever.
He thought of Lightning. He thought of her face as she had looked down on him. He wanted to go back and say sorry again. It had come out gurgled before. But he still wanted to say it. He had been all bloody. There had been a lot of blood. His blood. Funny how it didn't scare him anymore.
He sighed and decided to wait. He could collect his thoughts. He could let them deal with what was coming. He had accepted it just fine, but maybe it was different for them? No...it was different for them.
After all, he wasn't really being the one left behind.
"...Internal bleeding...several fractures. Ribs pierced the lungs, causing them to collapse. That wouldn't be so much of a problem if it weren't for the brain contusions. They were severe...far too severe. At this point, I suspect he won't wake up. At the moment, the machines are doing all the work for him. He may not even be there anymore." The doctor paused, obviously catching on to the tone he was using and cleared his throat. Lightning shook her head, raising a hand up even as Snow scowled at the man.
"Thank you for being honest with me. Please continue." Was that her voice? It was so quiet...not at all like her. Where did all her strength go?
"W-Well, I suppose we can continue to run scans, but it seems unlikely that we'll be able to do anything at this point. The trauma to the head was severe and moving him isn't an option until the wound heals. Even if he were to recover, the damage to his brain would make it impossible for him to live normally again."
"And the coma?"
"We have everything connected. We've recently put in the feeding tube as well. Since you are his acting guardian, we will leave it to you decide if you want keep him on the life support."
"What are the chances of his survival again doctor?"
The man shifted uncomfortably. He was never good at delivering news like this. He always sounded so monotone, not what the victim's family members wanted to hear. "Less than seven percent I'm afraid..." He took the woman's nod as a sign that he could go and quickly scooted away. He'd send a nurse later. For now he just wanted to stop that horrible feeling he got whenever there was a hopeless patient.
Lightning stared at Hope through the small pane that allowed them to see into his room. Machines of all kinds were hooked to him, tubes went through his nose and arms. There was a breathing mask on his face, as well as several machines that forced his lungs to work. There were a lot of machines that forced his body to do things. If Hope saw how much help he needed doing some of the simplest things...he'd be so angry.
The thought sent pain searing in her chest.
"He'll make it sis." Snow said from beside her. Serah was draped on a chair they had brought so they could stay close to Hope, her eyes closed but puffy after they cried themselves to sleep. Serah had cried so much today. So much. But she hadn't.
"He'll make it." But Snow's voice cracked, too much pressure from the thickness in his voice. She sighed and shook her head, looking down at the tiled floor below her.
Neither of them believed his words.
Hope sat on the train, shifting uncomfortably as the women finally moved from the seat. Keeping his sigh of relief to himself, he looked out the window again, eyes lighting at the sight of Gran Pulse as it sped beside them. The fields of green rolled over and over, blurred in his eyes, but it didn't matter. It was nice.
But then he thought of visiting the others again and got nervous.
He was coming back from a trip to see his father and mother's graves, something that usually made him somber. But for some reason, he felt unusually light. Talking with his mom had made him feel...almost happy. He dug into his pocket and pulled out the necklace he had told her about, the one she had given to him when he was ten. It was a simple necklace with a black ribbon, the pendant a smooth circle of green. The word love was engraved in small lettering along the sides of the circle, making another within. He smiled.
He told his mother he had finally found someone to give the necklace to. He told her about how special she was and how she and dad would love her. About what he had been doing the last few months. About how much he missed her.
The train ride was quiet with the exception of some children chattering away a few seats down. There was an old woman not too far way, smiling as she looked out the window. There was a couple holding hands. There was a man sleeping on the end seat.
There was a sudden lurch, the sound of metal crushing metal. There were bodies being hoisted into the air, almost frozen as if they were being given time to realize what was happening. There was screaming and howling, and terrible sounds that Hope wished he could unhear. Hope was aware of a hot burning pain, of something ripping him into shreds. That was all that pain could be. So torturous. The pain erupted along his head as he was smacked down the train, the cracks sickening and unreal.
Then it was dark.
"How long has it been?" Lightning didn't even look up when Sazh asked, keeping her eyes on Hope's still form. His chest rose and fell with each forced breath, the monitor beeped with each forced heartbeat, the tubes dripped with necessary fluid.
"A week." Her voice was calm, controlled, an utter blank. Quite the opposite of the maelstrom inside of her. Her emotions warred with each other until Lightning forced her mask on, unable to decide if she should cry, punch someone, or let herself fall into the nothing that called for her. She felt weak...so weak.
"I see." Sazh sat in the chair opposite her, watching Hope as well. The room blanketed them with its sterile whiteness. The curtains were drawn, letting no real light in. It was clean and still in the room, the beeping from the machines the only hint of sound. Lightning wasn't even sure if she was breathing.
And Hope sat still on the bed, unless she counted the forced movement from the machines. The doctors had tried...and now they were certain.
Hope would not wake up.
He looked so small and fragile in the bed. His color was gone, his tone a sad and dull gray. His hair was flatter. There was no twitch of the lips, no pout when he didn't get his way, no demanding to be released because he was fine even though he really wasn't. It was still...still.
Hope was not supposed to be in this bed. Hope was not supposed to be brain dead. Hope was not supposed to leave her like this.
But there it was...all laid out in front of her.
She wanted to laugh then. It would be a cruel, mirthless sound. It would mask what she felt on the inside while revealing it at the same time. It was so bitter. It made her want to throw up.
Sazh shifted, his clothing giving the only hint of movement. He leaned toward Lightning, eyes serious and sad. "He's not going to wake up is he?" She didn't answer him with something they both knew. That would be unnecessary. And it would hurt to say. "Lightning...you should let him go."
She said nothing.
"I know that-that it's hard." Lightning almost fled when she saw the tears in the man's eyes. She was not used to this side of Sazh. This Sazh who had lost someone. This Sazh who had lost someone so incredibly close to him.
Sazh who knew more than anyone what they were going through.
"Trust me Lightning...if you drag this out...if you drag this out it will hurt so much more." The man bowed his head, lost for a moment on memories. Memories of his wife as she laid in a hospital bed. Of him sitting there, waiting for her to wake up when he knew she wouldn't. Of his heart breaking into little pieces when she was finally gone.
"It's not fair to him Light. And it's not fair to you and everyone else that keeps coming to see him. He-He's not there." Lightning didn't say anything, only brought her arms closer to her chest. Silent as she lowered her head, even as Sazh sat up and took a seat next to her. She was silent as she put a shaky hand out to grip Hope's own hand. She squeezed and squeezed the unresponsive hand, begging him to squeeze back. Sazh put an arm around her shoulder but she still said nothing.
Hope did not squeeze back.
As Hope sat patiently in the world that was pure white and was neither hot nor cold, he couldn't help but wonder how long it had been. Time escaped him wherever he was, not that he minded much. But he couldn't help but feel restless, like something was about to happen. Would it be a good thing? A bad thing? Was Lightning okay? Was Snow okay? What about Serah and Sazh? There was so many questions he didn't know the answers to.
Was he really okay with this? He hadn't given it much thought, but what could he do? He had tried to push back, force his way to the others, but every time he did, he was flung back in the place that was neither hot nor cold. It was annoying, but not as annoying as it should have been. Was something wrong with him to be so nonchalant about this? Or was it normal once it happened?
But he tried not to think about what would happen later. It was like a secret. A secret he wasn't allowed to know until it actually happened. Something he had to be flung into the moment to understand or else it would lose it's meaning. And he didn't want it to lose its meaning, whatever it was.
He let his thoughts stray to the necklace...and sighed in relief knowing he given it to her. That had been a close one. Far too close for his liking. It made him sad and happy to know it had gotten to her.
He hoped she would like it.
There was so much blood everywhere. His head was pounding, screaming at him. Every part of his body was screaming and howling but his mouth wouldn't work properly. He knew the people carrying him were trying to be gentle, but he just wanted the pain to stop. They didn't seem to realize how much he hurt, how much he was bleeding.
His eyes went all around, trying to stay awake through the chaos that surrounded him. It was happening fast, far too fast for him. He wanted it to stop, if only for a second, so he could clear his thoughts. He wanted to scream so that they would now how much pain he was in. He wanted his body to start cooperating with him. Why couldn't he breath?
They were saying something over him, he knew they were. Their mouths were moving where he could see. But parts of his vision were dark, like there were shadows everywhere. He didn't want to be in the shadows. He didn't want this. Why? Why? WHY!
The necklace flew to his mind. It was in his hand. It was there. Why did that matter?
Where was she?
Almost as if summoned by the thought, Lightning suddenly swam into his vision. She looked worried and scared and her eyes were filled with so much emotion. She was almost never like that. She had opened up gradually, but not to let it flood like that. So it was bad.
Hope tried to lift his hand and give her the necklace. He opened his mouth, blood leaking out of it, and his words came out garbled, "S...ry. Ig..t. Nec-ace. Mom...nec...yours." Her eyes blinked and she looked at his hand. He forced it open, revealing the slightly stained necklace, and he was thankful when she took it from his hands.
"Your mothers? For me Hope? Hope!"
He had given it to her. He had managed it after all. Good...he was grateful for that. He needed to do that. She needed the necklace. But he was so tired now...
He closed his eyes.
Serah watched her sister as she fingered the green necklace, her hands going across the papers the doctors had given her at a steady pace. There were so many that had to be filled out, every little detail had to be accounted for. And even then, there would be a lot they would have to do. So many plans now, but they had plans before, and now they were up in the air. Disappearing before their very eyes, and they could do nothing but watch.
The thought brought tears to her eyes again.
But she would not shed them. Not in front of her sister. She owed her that much. Light was being so strong, so strong for them, but Serah knew that she was hurting more than any of them. That pain her chest refused to ease, the weight heavy and suffocating. There was silence between them except for the machine and Hope's forced breathing, as well as Lightning's writing.
Serah was at a loss. How would they recover from this? Hope had meant so much, so much to them, and now...
Serah pushed the thoughts away before they could consume her again. She had to do this for Claire. She needed someone to hold onto, even if she wouldn't say anything. She didn't have to. The way she had been staying at the hospital, the way she stared at Hope, the way everything around her seemed to be falling apart. She didn't have to admit it to Serah because Serah could already see that.
Serah jumped when a loud thud filled the room. She looked at the clipboard on the floor, several papers fluttering a small distance away and settling. Her eyes traveled to Lightning as the woman continued to run her fingers over the pendant. She felt the pain in her chest tighten but didn't dare breath a word.
"He-He gave me this." Lightning said, her voice barely above a whisper, "Before he...before he went to slee-into a coma." Lightning's fingers gripped the green circle that had the words love engraved around it, "It was his mother's. He wanted me to have it."
Serah stood on wobbly legs and stumbled toward her sister. She put her arms around her, knowing full well that few would ever see her dear older sister like this. And one of those few...was virtually gone.
Serah never let out a sound as Lightning sobbed quietly into her shoulder, the first real show of emotion in one week and three days. But that didn't stop silent tears from rolling down her own face.
There were several doctors in the room now. There was a family as well, of different personalities and attitudes. They were silent and sad and watchful. Some felt the bitter familiarity of the scene. It was the same, when you lost someone. Like a gaping hole that just couldn't be filled. For some it laid in memories that were fading in time, too young to remember the pure devastation that must have wracked them in that moment. And so they said nothing, waiting for the devastation that was already halfway there.
But as much pain as there was, there was a happiness too. Because those memories of his laughter, now more than ever, floated in their minds. Of how he had grown with them, how they had brought him from the depths of despair. Of how he had done the same for them, gave them a future to look forward to.
He was young and innocent and easy to rile up if you knew where to poke him. He was deep and mature when needed, able to keep a level head and work with the adults. He was childish and brought smiles.
He was their Hope...and Hope would never ever die. Not really. They wouldn't let him. Not when they had all those memories of him swirling in their hearts and minds. And they'd do him the honor of keeping it up, looking toward that future he obviously believed in. They'd give him that gift and let him go. They'd let him go so he could move on and not worry about the adults in the room who were constantly worrying about him.
Because no matter how old he got, he'd still always be the kid.
Lightning was aware of her tears as her turn came to say goodbye. The machines were still beeping, perhaps louder than ever before since they knew they would soon shut down. She would be the last to say goodbye, and she would stay with him until the very end of his journey. And then she'd take it, take those memories and keep going with just a bit of him by her side.
She would have it no other way.
She looked into that still, dull face that was her Hope. And she saw the bright exuberance he had. The need to please. That bit of extra love he always seemed to have for her. He was her soft spot...and always would be. And he was so alive right then as she looked at him, as if the train had never crashed, as if his brain was not really dead, and she almost gasped at the sight.
Hope was still Hope.
She grabbed his unresponsive hand and placed the necklace against it, causing the circle to print into his skin. She held it tightly, crying in front of people she had sworn not to. But it didn't matter. So she pressed the necklace against his palm, leaving a circle in his hand and the faintest lettering of love along the edge. And she leaned over and kissed his forehead, still crying. She blinked the tears away for they blocked the sight of him. And she couldn't have that.
"Goodbye Hope. I miss you now... I'll miss you later. And I will always love you."
She gave him one last kiss, stroked his hair and feeling the locks as they tickled her fingers. She cried silently and held his unresponsive hand in hers, tightening it and holding on for as long as she could. And the doctors came by and slowly unplugged the machines that gave him life, slowly began to let his body die. She felt the pulse weaken, flutter slightly, and stop. Her shoulders shook and she continued to cry, and she felt Serah put a hand on her shoulder, felt Serah bury her face in her neck to stop her sobs.
Lightning gave a soft laugh as she looked at Hope's still form, wondering if he was angry that they had taken so long. Then she shook her head and cried some more, holding Hope's hand even though it didn't hold hers back.
And she slowly let him go. Slowly, slowly let him go, knowing he'd never really be gone. She felt her chest tighten, then release, as if it had just realized something unbelievably important.
Hope would never be gone.
Hope sighed, a smile on his face, "So she did like it." He laughed and cried, sniffling slightly as he watched the sun that was setting on what could only be Bodhum's shore. He was covered up to his ankles in water, the sea painted a shimmering orange by the sun. It was peaceful and calm, everything he needed at that moment. This place from his memories was far better than that world that was painted white and was neither warm nor cold.
There had been a tugging on his hand before, and suddenly he found himself on this shore, the warmth from the hand inviting and safe. He had thought of Lightning, of what she was doing, of how sad she was. But he thanked her for it. Thanked her for her comfort and understanding. Of her gifts and promises. He thanked Serah and Snow for being so kind to him. He thanked Sazh for always being there for him. He thanked them all for understanding and loving him.
It hurt to know he wouldn't see them for a while. Despite this place and its warmth, he knew he would miss them and he felt his stinging eyes alerting him to that fact. He watched the peaceful shores of the past, knowing he could easily look toward the future again. He could and would watch them silently as they lived and smile knowing he was still a part of it, even if he wasn't there.
He lifted his head up as a breeze came by, the warm wind making his hair flutter. He heard a great splash and looked around, startled by the sound. But then he let out a happy sob, trying to blink the tears away and clear his vision, knowing that this was the secret he had been waiting for.
Vanille tackled him, sending them both into the water. But he knew from the way she was shaking that the girl was crying and laughing and trying not to go overboard but failing. And as he lifted himself from the water, the girl still laughing and crying into his shoulder, his back was thumped by Fang, still looking as tough as ever. But even then, he could see a little wetness in her eyes. And before him was a woman he did not recognize yet somehow knew. She was beautiful and dark and held an air of wisdom about her that reminded him of Sazh. She was away from them, smiling at them and letting them have this so important moment.
Pressure on his head made him look up, and he couldn't contain a sob, "M-Mom. Dad!" And he stood up, dragging Vanille with him and pulling them into a hug. He was as tall as his dad now, he was proud to note, and his mother still looked the same from his memories. Vanille was giggling again and she released herself from Hope, ducking out of the hug only to drag Fang to it.
"Hope..." his mother said, placing a hand on his head. She was crying, he knew she was, and he shook his head.
"I'm sorry mom."
"Don't be." she hushed, her voice thick, "I know what happened Hope. We all do. I'm sorry son. I'm sorry." And they were all crying and trying not to cry, sad and happy at the same time.
"She liked the necklace mom..." he whispered, "I knew she would." And she nodded and said nothing, only pulling him closer as they fought to regain themselves. The sun was still setting as they pulled away, still casting them in a warm glow that would never fade away.
"Hey Vanille!" Hope said, giving her a smug smile, "Bet I can beat you to the other end of the shore!" And he took off running, feet moving with difficulty through the water and making a big splash around him. He heard Vanille's angry squeak and the splashes of her feet as she followed them, the others laughing as they watched.
There was still a pain in his chest, but it was lessening now. He could wait here for them, wait for them to come and see this wonderful place where they were waiting. And they could talk about what happened and what would happen. They could say all those things they had wanted to say. And he could tell Lightning how grateful he is. He could show Snow that his mother really forgives him. Show Sazh and eventually Dajh the important person they had lost as she watched their childish antics by the shore.
He laughed as he was tackled by Vanille, both of them crashing into the water and losing themselves in laughter.
He could wait and watch here with them. He could laugh and cry with them and let them know he was there, even if it didn't seem like it.
And once they were all together on this shore, or wherever else they could think or dream of, they could live as they were always meant to.
As a big, happy family.