It was always the pain that woke me up from those dreams.

I sat up in bad, soaked with sweat, covers twisted around me from all the tossing and turning I'd been doing that night, with a headache splitting my brain open.

I'd been having them ever since that first time when Nami had cracked open whatever lay between me and the memories that sat in the back of my mind, over the sharp cliff in my brain. There was a darkness, an abyss at the bottom of that cliff that I've never been able to crack. Until… Nami.

I shivered. It had been the same dream each time, the same half-forgotten memory that Naminé had touched that day, taking away pain and suffering I never remembered I had. It was just, somehow, this time it was like she'd reopened an old wound, started it draining but didn't finish what she started.

The image returned unbidden.

Me, as a little kid, lying in a pool of blood and screaming for my mother.

A man who the very thought of remembering sent shudders down my spine, even here, in the waking world. I couldn't remember anything about him, except that he completely and utterly terrified me.

Terrible, terrible pain. Pain, and the sound my waking mind identified as gunshots, over and over. And then…

Then, a fire in my brain, a feeling like my mind was being opened with a can opener… or sealed with a welding torch. Both at the same time and flipping back and forth so rapidly it made me nauseous.

Like I said, it was always the pain that woke me up from those dreams, and they always left me with an echo of that pain – if you can call a migraine an 'echo'. I stumbled out of bed, groping for the headache meds that had started to be kept in a permanent spot beside my nightstand. It was half-empty already; I knew that it wasn't good for me to take so many. Bad for your liver and all that crap.

It also wasn't a good sign that no matter how many I took, the headache wouldn't go away. It was as if I were just imagining or remembering them. I guessed I'd have to go see Shinra about it, or some other doctor.

It surprised me that I realized that I didn't want to see Shinra, or a doctor, or anyone else, for that matter. I wanted to see Nami.

I thought about it. What did I want to see her for?

Stubborn. Stuck-up. Temperamental, bipolar, crazy, psycho, bitchy, mood-swinging, broken, vengeful…

…strong. Safe.

I didn't need anyone to make me safe. I was the only one who I needed in my life to be strong. Okay, so I needed Lea, too, because he was my partner, my right-hand man, no matter that he refused to let me say so officially. But no one else. It was my job to protect people.

I sat back down on my bed.

It was her fault I was here, anyway! I tried to tell myself that, but for some reason, it didn't stick. The only thing that was sticking was that afternoon on her staircase, when she'd let me hold her like she was the only thing that was good left in the world, and didn't judge me for the tears and the weakness and the tremors that I just wasn't able to stop. Or that time, right here in my apartment, where she'd held me the same way, and I'd just helped her through the pain. But after that, I'd never heard another word of it. She'd just… picked herself right back up again and got on with it.

I leaned back against my wall, closed my eyes. The first image that popped up was her face, smiling. That sweet, wicked, evil grin that promised something bad was about to happen in the next five minutes, usually to whoever she was grinning at. The way her eyes lit up with promised mischief. The way she always had her hair flipped over one shoulder.

I ground my heel down on that thought. She wasn't cute when she looked like that, especially since she was usually giving me that damned doom-promising smile of hers.

Then again…

A new memory surfaced over the one that had brought me pain.

"Oops," she said, giving one of the other Coordinators that same grin. "Looks like I rerouted all of those lovely items to… oh, dear. That looks like Salvation Army." She giggled. "I'm sorry, it must've slipped my mind that those weren't supposed to be donations for the Otherborn saferoom there… Oh well!"

The woman's eye twitched. "Those were rewards from the Head for doing our jobs so well," she said. "You ruined everything!"

"Really? I don't remember giving you any 'rewards'," I mentioned from where I'd been watching it all play out. "Sure those weren't supposed to be donations after all?"

Namine smiled again, that devilish, playful smile. "Oh, Boss! I knew that's what they were."

The other woman growled and stormed out of the room.

I chuckled a little, opening my eyes and staring up at the ceiling. Maybe there were some good things about keeping Nami around.

Goddammit, why did someone so annoying and… and… sensitive have to be so good at what she did?

…Didn't help that she was kinda pretty, either.

I slammed that thought out of my brain quickly. That's when I realized that the headache was subsiding.

I growled.

Stupid girl. How could she help when she wasn't even here?

I wanted her here.


Because… because…

OH, no. I was not riding that train of thought any further. I knew that I was being stupid, stubborn, and denying the inevitable, but that wasn't a place I was planning on going anytime soon.

I got up, straightened the blankets, laid back down and pulled them over me.

When I fell asleep, I dreamed of happier subjects – specifically, a certain hyperactive, bipolar blonde who'd somehow managed to become the center of my world.