In Her Shoes
A Rave Master Fanfiction
Written by KazunaPikachu
Summary: Haru knew it, although not many did - Elie was the strongest of them all - with or without her Etherion - and it was her, solely, who saved the world. Because when it came right down to it, if he was the one forced to make the choice, he wouldn't have chosen the world - because the world wasn't worth it, not without her.
People knew deep down, of course; that despite her clumsiness and her outwardly carefree exterior, Elie was tremendously strong - and not because of her Etherion.
But perhaps it was Haru himself who realized that she was much stronger than even the Rave Master could ever hope to be, with magic or none.
A couple of months had passed in a blur after his 'resurrection.' It was a joyous occassion - that being an understatement - and Haru wasted no time in re-acquainting himself with all his friends and informing his sister that he was, in fact, still alive. Truthfully, he wouldn't have guessed that he had been gone for a year. He had no memories of when Stellar Memory had protected him - everyone - from that fateful day. What was merely seconds to him was a whole year to everyone else, and this discrepency in their relative timeframes made him feel rather out of sync with the rest of his closest companions and, subtly, the world (so much had changed, once he actually bothered to look). But he didn't let that bother him. He was too bewildered with the commotion anyway to let it get into his head. In all actuality, his friends were adamant that they keep his existence a secret for the time being - if the people realized that the Rave Master was actually alive, it would have undoubtedly made them happy (with various cheers of 'Hoorah!' in every town they'd then see, and they'd never hear the end of it), but there would also be a lot of confusion. Time would be taken to explain the events to various people and no doubt people would call upon the Rave Master for help in domestic and international issues.
Truthfully, Musica and the rest didn't wanted to give Haru back to the world just yet. As his closest friends, they had the right to indulge in this remarkable and pleasant surprise for a little while without the bicker of the world's populace in their ears.
But as luck would have it, Haru hadn't even slept for a week at Garage Island before the word leaked and quickly spread, leaving him swarmed with past friends and people he'd never met before alike. They all wanted his attention, keeping him extremely busy, as if making up for lost time. There were large celebrations and festivals dedicated to his honor, a lot of cheering, dancing and partying in different cultures and lands - and rightfully so. After all, here with the Rave Master, the man who saved the world, and a child of the royal house of Symphonia. He was a living legend.
In all the commotion, Haru hadn't had much time for himself. He desperately needed to catch up with his closest friends - and not to mention his sister, who he hadn't even seen for three years. Although, he was kind of avoiding a serious conversation with her anyway, because some inner sense (whether it was unreasonable or not has yet to be found out) assumed that she might talk about Shuda - and who knew what that would eventually involve - so he wasn't too upset about the matter. What he really wanted to do, though, was talk to Elie. After she'd embraced him that day (that day they kissed, which made him blush in memory of it), they hadn't had time to talk; to really talk.
And there were things he needed to say to her. They were stuck in his throat, aching to be let out almost as badly as his need to actually see her.
His opportunity came quite a while later, which he disliked, because he shouldn't have to wait so long to talk to his dearest friend. Elie wasn't nearly as busy as he was, especially since the world didn't know that she was Resha Valentine. She wanted to keep it that way - she wanted to live as Elie now. And they were fine with that, especially Haru. After all, he didn't want her to be as busy and popular as he was, because that would mean even less time for the two to be together.
(Oh, and let's not forget about all the weirdos she may encounter - you know, like enthusiastic guys who might, maybe, ask her out or something. Haru couldn't allow that, because what if they were creeps? Elie was so popular already, it was hard enough now to tell guys to friggin' back off.)
It'd just be too complicated for her to go by the name of Resha Valentine. So they simply left that name to the legends.
But despite the fact that Haru was glad that people weren't exalting the very ground Elie walked on (like some people had done to him when he walked through town, which was rather disturbing), he still felt like it wasn't right.
After all, Elie was stronger than he was. She was the one who saved the world. He felt like he was stealing away her glory and claiming it as his own. He wondered if she knew how great she really was, knew how much he appreciated her (how grateful he was that she existed, that he knew her, that he even had the fortune to be friends with her and touch her and just see her smile), and he wanted to remedy his uncertainties by saying it directly to her face.
Because of his busy-ness, Elie hadn't moved in with him on Garage Island yet. She was still attending this school in the city that Haru vaguely knew the name of - he'd forgotten it now - but he didn't mind. After all, although they were all happy to see him (more than happy in fact - actually elated; it was like seeing a very, very dear family member rising from the dead, except he hadn't actually died), the fact still remained that he'd been gone for one whole year. And they'd lived a life in that span of time without him; Elie had lived hers there.
So, being the naturally considerate guy that he was, Haru wanted to wait for a while before he invited her again. He wanted to give her time before giving her the choice of leaving. It was obvious that he wanted her to live with him but he couldn't dismiss her one year's worth of living so easily. Maybe she wanted to stay? How much had she really changed? Did she make new, lifelong friends here in this 'school'? It was another reason why he wanted to talk to her; he just wanted to see if anything had actually changed while he was gone.
He waited by the gates of her school, wanting to surprise her with his visit. Musica told him that he usually picked her up in his car, so he'd given Haru this opportunity to walk her home (which, Haru absently noted, was with him in his apartment. He trusted Musica to protect her and treat her right. After all, he'd been doing it for an entire year, hadn't he?). He heard the bells of the school ring and he watched with interest as students piled out of the giant building. His eyes scanned the sea of people systematically, with an oddly blank expression. When he finally saw who he was looking for, the impassive mask broke and he smiled widely. Unable to contain his excitement, he cupped a hand around his mouth and shouted, "Elie!" while waving his other hand like a flag.
The girl - no, a young woman now - turned her head in surprise and saw him. Her eyes widened and she instantly smiled, her grin stretching across her beautiful face and threatening the sun with its shine. "Haru!" She quickly ran over, ignoring the stares she recieved and the disappointed mumbles of, "Another boyfriend?" from the high school boys as she quickly made her way towards the open gates. Without another thought, she leapt into the Rave Master's waiting arms, clinging onto him as if her life depended on it. "Haru," she said again, her voice warm like honey in the summer.
"Elie," Haru echoed, holding her closely, not caring about public appearances at all. He pressed his cheek to her hair, relishing in the fact that he was so close to her. "How was your day?"
"It was good," she replied, still in his arms. "But it's brilliant now that you're here. Are you walking me home?" Her voice held a tone of excitement in it.
They pulled back and grinned at each other. "It's going to be a very long walk," Haru emphasized. "We've got a lotta catchin' up to do."
She pouted playfully. "About time! I was wondering when you'd find time in your busy, busy schedule to make room for an old friend."
"Hey, that's unfair!" Haru whined with a smile. "If it makes you feel better, all the festivals and parties were all really boring without you anyway."
"Oh, I'm flattered. But what did you expect?" They laughed and, linking arms, began to walk away from the school, the gates almost overflooded by the students rushing to get out. "So, Haru Glory, where do you plan on taking me?" She quirked an eyebrow at him. "Or is it that I have to take you somewhere? Do you even know your way around?"
"Hey, I admit that I haven't been here long, but cut me some slack. I'd definitely know where to take you for our date."
"Oh? So this is a date?"
Haru blushed. "Well, we're hangin' out, aren't we? So yeah, I guess it is."
Elie blushed too but her smile was still in place, probably so bright that it would melt Julius' ice in a heartbeat. "Thanks, Haru."
As they continued to walk down the noisy footpath, Haru scratched the back of his head nervously with his free hand, the one not attached to the arm that was wrapped around Elie's. "Well, actually, it's less like a date and more like a 'I really wanna tell you something,' occasion," Haru admitted sheepishly. "Sorry to disappoint."
"Who said you did? Just hanging out with you after all this time is fine with me," she said earnestly. "So, where are you taking me on this non-date?"
Trying to adopt an air of mystery that Elie herself seemed to wear so naturally, he replied, "You'll find out."
It took more than a couple of minutes to get there, but neither of them minded. They filled the time with words, talking non-stop about anything and everything - what Elie had been doing at school, what Haru talked about with various country royalties; their mornings; what they had for lunch; how Musica snored and almost drove Elie to insanity. They blended into each other's presence and mannerisms perfectly, losing their identities (which were so important, both bearing names with the pressures of the world upon them) in the simple swirl of harmony that they created between them; as they conversed, nothing else really mattered but the others' voice and touch. Everything else paled in comparison, like an automatic dulling in their vibrance in the face of simple, innocent joy.
"Ah, here we are!" Haru declared, pulling Elie gently by the wrist. "You love beaches, don't you, Elie? And hardly anyone comes here on a weekday! It's facing west too, so we'll be able to see the sunset, which isn't for another hour."
"Ah, I've been to this beach with Musica and the others before," Elie commented, letting herself be dragged. "But it's my first time coming here with you."
Haru grinned at her. "And of course it makes all the difference!" They walked towards the beach, not caring if sand got into their shoes. It was slightly windy and cold, so they decided to stay on a stone wall marking the perimeter of the beach. They sat close together and, when Elie shivered slightly after a cold draft, Haru put his arm around her and pulled her closer.
"It's been ages since we've last talked like this," Elie whispered, looking out into the ocean. The waves were small yet persistent, lapping onto the shore and then retreating like shy snails into their shells - slow and rather sluggish. Excuse the pun. "I've missed you."
"I've missed you too," Haru confided softly, looking at the ocean as well. "I'm sorry."
Elie smiled slightly and moved closer against him. "Don't be. It's not your fault that the world loves a hero."
A silence passed over them, one that Elie thought was comfortable. However, Haru was struggling to get the right words out of his mouth again. Finally, here was the opportunity - to spill everything, to let her know how utterly grateful he was to her, and to let her know what he would've done - but at the present moment, it was like the words were too big to be jammed out of his throat. This frustrated him and he frowned.
Elie, not realizing his struggles, continued gently, "I'm happy you're back, Haru. And I'm sorry. I'm sorry I forgot about you." Here the sadness twinged her voice like a disharmonious chord. "I hadn't realized... and I never wanted to... And when I think about all the things that I could've lost... it just makes me scared." She smiled shakily. "I mean, I hate how I'm so memory-loss prone, you know? It's really annoying. Why aren't I strong-willed enough to protect my memories?"
"No!" Haru suddenly blurted, pulling away from her. Surprised, Elie did too and looked at him strangely. "Don't think like that! It wasn't your fault!"
"Really?" she asked skeptically, staring into his eyes. "So I guess everyone else also suffers from memory-loss symptoms in the face of great stress, right? Wrong! I don't see that happening to you, or Musica, or Let or Julia. You guys are just so strong. You wouldn't let the situation erase something so dear to you. I've figured it out, you know? I've been wondering why I lose my memory so often. It's my way of escaping from the reality - when things get too tough or too painful, I have the habit of just forgetting. And I hate it. 'Cause it's a weakness, right? I'm just running away."
Haru went to interrupt her, furious that she was thinking that she was weak, his mouth opening to deny her wholeheartedly, but Elie continued with that somber and self-scolding tone. "Aren't you at least mad, Haru? I mean, I forgot about you! Doesn't that hurt?" She clutched the front of his shirt and looked down, her hair curtaining her face so he couldn't see her sparkling eyes. "But you know... you're not the only one who should be mad, Haru. I'm kind of mad at you too. You've been so busy and I've wanted to talk to you so badly. Why did you just leave me here? Why didn't you take me back with you to Garage Island? Why didn't you invite me to those festivals you went to, like you did with Let and Musica? Why did you just leave me here, waiting? Don't you know how much I wanted to talk to you after... after..." Her voice seemed to catch. "Oh, Haru..."
The young man gathered her in his arms, not wanting her to feel so much hurt, but feeling powerless to stop it. He could fight the strongest men on the planet, he could fight monsters and endure even the most terrible of wounds that even God would falter over, but he could never stand up against Elie's tears, or stop her pain the way he really wanted to. "I'm sorry, Elie," he said, his voice just above a murmur. "I... I didn't realize. I wanted to see you badly too, you've gotta believe me, Elie. But I thought you wanted some space - you know, to like say goodbye to your old life before I asked you to... to move in with me on Garage Island. It's stupid now that you've said all that. I should've asked you what you wanted to do, instead of assuming that I knew. I'm sorry." In his arms, he felt her shiver, and not because of the cold. He said again, full of anguish that he was the one who caused her pain, "Sorry."
"It's alright," she finally replied, pulling away slightly. But she still avoided his gaze. "It's just me being whiny again. I mean, I just think about what happened... and why I lost my memory... and I feel all scared again. And I just wanted you near me, to remind me that I hadn't... actually... lost you." She looked at him then and her eyes were heavy, full of an untouchable kind of sadness that she could so inexplicably hide from everyone, including Haru. But not now. "I never want to do that again," she whispered. "I don't want to you kill you again, Haru. I don't. I won't. Don't ever ask me to do that again - ever, or I'm going to kill myself, Haru. I'll do it. You don't know how hard that was. It was harder than anything I've ever done, and I don't ever, ever want to feel so forced again. Ever. So don't."
Her eyes were pleading with him with desperation and pain. Haru gently held her face in his hands and said, "I won't. I'm sorry you had to make such a difficult choice." He offered a weak grin. "But look, Elie. It all turned out for the best, hadn't it?"
She looked down but because he was holding her face, she could only flicker her eyes away. She didn't say anything.
And now was the time to say it. Haru knew it was. "Elie, that's something I've been wanting to tell you. You know how you're blaming yourself for your memory loss? Saying that you're weak and all that stuff? Well, stop it. Because you're insulting the world when you do." He stared at her sternly and she shifted her eyes sideways, not quite believing him. "I mean it, Elie. I'd never lie to you. You're the strongest person in the world, and if you believe that you're weak, then what do you call the rest of us?"
She finally looked at him and her expression was slightly scowling. "Come on, Haru. Okay, fine, if I am the strongest person, then it's only because of Etherion. It does have the power to destroy the world, after a-"
"No. Not because of Etherion. It's even more powerful than Etherion." He pressed his forehead against hers but kept his gaze steady. "Because you're Elie, and because of your heart, you're stronger than even me."
Her eyes widened and she laughed, thinking this was a kind of joke. "You can't be serious!" she chuckled. "Me? Stronger than you? Haru, you've got the strongest heart out there! You're the purest person, absolutely, and you'd never do anything wrong! You're the world's protector - the Rave Master - and no one can compete with your sense of character or your strength! You've got a heart of gold, Haru!"
"Wrong. You're wrong, Elie." His tone was serious and it surprised her. She looked at him with wide, concerned eyes. "I'm not the person you just described."
"Of course you are."
"No, I'm not!" he nearly shouted. He let go of her face and simply gripped her shoulders - not tightly, but firmly. He looked at her so gravely that Elie shivered with apprehension. "I'm not as golden as people think I am! I'm not so pure hearted! You're the one they should be celebrating, Elie! You're the one who saved the world!"
"All I did was destroy Endless -" she gulped, "with you inside it. I could never have done it without you. We both just played our part; we both had to do what we did. If our roles were reversed and you had Etherion instead of me, you would've done the exact same thing-"
"No. No I wouldn't've," he interrupted, and it was with a tone of grim finality, the words an undeniable truth. "I wouldn't have destroyed Endless. Not with you inside it. If I were in your shoes, Elie, I would've let the world be destroyed."
Elie trembled and she wasn't sure why. "Idiot. Of course you'd think that now. I mean, even I can't imagine why I decided to do what I did." She smiled sadly and stroked his cheek. "But if you were there, Haru, you would've made the same choice as me. Because we'd sacrificed so much already, and I know you love this world more than anything - you would have done the same."
He held her hand and whispered gently, "You're wrong, Elie. You're wrong."
And it was the truth, the barest of all truths, and it was dark and terrible, but he didn't regret the truth's existence; yet, in a strange paradox, he also felt ashamed because of it. Because of what it meant, yet he also cherished what it meant. It was strange and it twisted his insides, his heart and mind indecisive and violently confused over whether it was good to love Elie so much, or a mortal sin.
"I wouldn't have done it, knowing that I'd lose you. I wouldn't have destroyed Endless if I knew that I had to live in a world without you in it. Elie... I know it, from the deepest part of my heart, that I would not have done it. I would have let everything be destroyed." He leant forward and kissed her, only a brief touch of her lips, and when he imagined a world without being able to do this, he sickly knew that he'd rather that world be nonexistent. "You were what I fought for, Elie," he said, his voice low and husky. "Every day, Elie, protecting you was my goal. The reason why I was so strong, the reason why I fought, the reason why I wanted to keep on fighting even when every single inch of my body ached with terrible pain, was because of you. And I know - I know - that if I had the choice of either losing you or losing the world, I wouldn't hesitate. I know what I would choose."
"So I'm glad that it was you who had to make the choice, Elie." And by this time, Elie wasn't the only one crying. "I'm sorry, but I can't help it. I'm weak, Elie. I'd never, ever want to be confronted with such a decision. But I'm glad that it was you. Because you're stronger than me, Elie. You're not selfish like I am, you wouldn't have made all of our sacrifices mount up to nothing. You made the right choice, because you had the courage and the strength and the love to simply let others live too, and look at what's happened. The world is peaceful and I'm still, in fact, alive. If I had been in your shoes, I wouldn't have done it, and none of this"- he gestured around him with his arms - "would be here. And every time I think about how hard the choice was for you, and for you to pick the right one knowing that I would've done the exact opposite because I was too cowardly, makes me feel so pathetic and so proud - of you, Elie. So thank you. Thank you... and I'm sorry that I'm not that golden knight you think I am."
Elie wrapped her arms around his trembling body and held him closely to her chest, ignoring the way her own eyes leaked as she closed them. "No..." she whispered, smiling sadly. "Thank you, Haru. For telling me this."
Because it was never an easy decision to make - to kill someone you loved from the bottom of your heart, or to kill the world? Was your love for either one greater than the other? No one would willingly answer that question, because just by asking it, it was already too painful to think about.
But Elie was glad that Haru had told her this. Although he was terribly in pain himself, and although he was ashamed, at least she knew that he understood what she'd went through. What she had to choose between and what she had to lose, all the while knowing - so keenly aware - of the consequences of either of her actions. She thought that he hadn't; that he couldn't comprehend how difficult it was for her to lift up her staff and pour her very essence to destroying Endless - to destroying Haru. But seeing him now and hearing his stark honesty, Elie knew that he understood what she had to go through. And he didn't dishonor her by masking his empathy with lies of what he would've done in her place - he gave her the truth, and with that truth, she knew he understood.
"I know you have a lot of sadness inside you still, Elie, and I can't compare to all the decisions you've had to make - and not only the one you made last year," Haru said, finally pulling away. He smiled at her shakily, rather embarrassed about his tears as he tried to erase all evidence of them. "But share it with me, okay? From now on. You can share everything with me."
Elie laughed and wiped away her own tears. She grabbed his face and kissed him, her touch fond and her heart warm with love. "Then take good care of me," she whispered with a smile.
"I think you should take care of me. I meant it, Elie, when I said that you were stronger."
Elie wrapped her arms around his neck and pressed her lips to his cheek. "It's always good to flatter a girl." Before Haru could persist on the matter, Elie pulled back and grinned, staring into the horizon. "Would you look at that! We missed our romantic sunset! What do you have to say for yourself, Haru Glory?"
"Huh?" When Haru looked out into the sea, he realized that she was indeed correct. The sun had already set beneath the horizon, leaving a cold, dark blue darkness behind, with only a trinkle of orange light that smudged the clouds. It was night now and the street lights behind them had even been turned on without their noticing. "Oh." Then he laughed too. "Then I guess taking you here was rather redundant."
"Ah! Don't say that! I enjoy hanging out with you."
Haru smiled at her easily and he stood up from the stone wall they'd been sitting on. "Well, it's really late, and I bet you that Musica will be furious with me if I take you back any later."
Elie pouted but allowed Haru to help her hop off the stone wall. "What is this? He's not my father or anything. I mean, I know I used to call him 'brother', but that doesn't mean he can have a say on my personal life!" she huffed, crossing her arms. "Besides, I'm going to be living with you very soon, Haru! Musica wouldn't mind!"
Haru grinned broadly. "Yeah, that's right, isn't it?" And they linked arms again as they began to walk away from the beach, as if it was the most natural thing in the world. "But before I do actually take you to Garage Island, I need to take you out on a proper date," he said, semi-seriously. "I mean, what a way to ruin a non-date. It really isn't manly to cry all over your girlfriend's shirt."
"Oh? When did I become your girlfriend?" Elie teased, although she couldn't help the happy flush that coloured her cheeks like roses. "And trust me, Haru. I've seen you crying quite a lot of times. It really doesn't shock me anymore."
Haru blushed in embarrassment. "Thanks, Elie. That makes me feel much better."
Elie laughed and the sound was so perfect that Haru's blush deepened. While linking their arms, they also held hands too. They didn't say anything as they walked back to Musica's apartment, content to just finally being by each others' sides. When they finally reached their destination, Elie threw her arms around Haru's neck and whispered into his ear, "I think you're wrong, Haru. I don't think I'm stronger than you."
Haru look of contentment disappeared and his expression was almost pained. "Elie..."
But she shook her head. "It's wrong to compare strengths like this. I sacrificed you, and it tore me, but you can't forget what you sacrificed either - you sacrificed yourself, trusting me wholly. If you were selfish, wouldn't you have urged me to not use my Etherion? To just let it all end, so neither of us would feel any more pain? You knew my pain, Haru, yet you were willing to sacrifice yourself despite how much it hurt you too - and you trusted me to share in your courage. And that's something I can't describe in words. So I should be thanking you as well, because truthfully, I wouldn't have chosen the world either. It were your words, your voice, your dreams and hopes that made me do it. And if it weren't for you being there, I'd choose the same as you thought you would. If it weren't for your strength, I wouldn't have done anything."
And that's how Elie knew he understood her. Because when he spoke those words before on the beach, it wasn't just his truth. It was her truth too. But it was because of Haru's light that she was able suppress that darkness and she hoped, she dearly hoped, that she could be his light as well.
That they would be able to share their strength and courage together, no matter what situation, no matter how tough the choice.
Because that was just who Haru and Elie were - one amazing, legendary team, whose duty was to the world.
Haru's eyes hazed over again, but not because of pain or sadness. They were filled with such undescribable warmth and love that he was glad that Elie couldn't see it - it would have been too embarrassing if she had. He returned her embrace, holding her closely, burying his face in her hair. "Thank you."
"Right back at you."
"I'm gonna take you for an actual date next time. We won't miss the main event - like the sunset. Promise."
"I'm holding you to it," Elie laughed.
"I'm gonna take you back with me to Garage Island. My sister's dying to meet you."
"I can't wait to meet her either."
"... I'm gonna make you happy. More than anyone else in the world."
Elie closed her eyes and leaned her head against his. "Mhm."
"And I'm going to make sure that we never have to be so strong again. We're never gonna make a choice like that again."
Elie's arms tightened around him. "Yeah."
"... And Elie?"
Haru smiled. "I love you. More than you'd ever know."
Elie pulled back, staring into his eyes as their noses almost touched. She grinned cheekily and retorted, "Why don't you try wearing my shoes? If you did, you'd understand that I actually do know." She kissed him. "Because I feel exactly the same way."
And that... was another undeniable truth too.