Snow walked down this road a hundred times. Not in a literal sense, but in a metaphoric one. The physical road that his feet tread over was nothing special—a dirt road across an area that was vastly empty. A small town lay ahead, but he still had a ways to walk before he reached it. Plenty of time to get lost within his thoughts of this road he walked on through life.
It was a road of many things. Sorrow, over losing the woman that he wanted to marry. Dismay, at not receiving any word from this woman when she had a chance to contact him. Loneliness, at knowing how all of his other comrades and friends were in the process of pursuing their happy endings and his was taken from him. All of his hard work meant nothing. It all still ended in sorrow.
Perhaps Snow Villier's story was the most tragic of all. Orphaned by his parents when he was just a child, not worthy of their love. He had to stay optimistic to get through his many foster homes and the parents that often got frustrated with him because he wasn't open to reason a lot of the time. Eventually he founded a group that agreed with him—NORA. No obligations, rules, or authority. He made quick friends with Lebreau, Maqui, Yuj, and Gadot, who didn't care what background he came from. He was a good leader to them. First they fought off pretend monsters, then they went for the real ones. Then the government itself. But they were long gone now and Snow was left in a future without them to support him through this.
He knew that Hope, Sazh, Fang, Vanille, and even Lightning were there to support him through this. Yet he felt alone. Hope understood loss, but not this romantic loss. Sazh did since he lost his wife, but he was moving on with his life; Snow wasn't going to bring up those painful memories for his friend. Fang wouldn't have the patience for his self pity and Vanille would tell him to put a smile on and work through it. His famous optimism was gone; he couldn't even do that. Lightning was unpredictable in how she'd support him.
But he was still unwilling to go to her. He was walking the opposite direction. Lost, both in destination and in heart.
"There's gotta be somebody here to help," he muttered into the hot air. That was what he had been doing the past five months since it all ended. Going anywhere his feet could take him (because he didn't even have his eidolons anymore to give him transportation) to help people who were in danger. He looked a bit haggard, but at least he kept his beard down to a small stubble so he didn't look too hopeless. "The hero is arriving."
Yet he didn't believe he was the hero anymore. He couldn't save Serah. He couldn't even save himself now from this despair. Granted, he didn't give into death yet. The ever present battles gave him plenty of opportunities to lose his life. He was still here though. Why? What purpose did he have without Serah?
Snow walked into the small village, which had maybe twenty buildings all together. Only about ten of them appeared to be occupied by families. A dying village. Snow approached a woman who was raising water out of a well.
"Excuse me, ma'am," he said to her. "Does your village have a monster problem?"
She turned around and looked at him, unaccustomed to seeing new people. "No, no monsters here," she said. Her voice was a bit bewildered, and curious about why Snow was there. But not hostile. "Why do you ask?"
"Well, I'm a monster slayer," Snow responded. "I travel to make sure that people don't have issues with the critters."
"Oh. Well, like I said, we don't have any real problems here. We get along okay."
"Alright. Guess I'll move on to the next village then."
"Hold on. It's too hot for you to travel any further today," she said. "Stay for the night and rest up. You look exhausted from the heat."
Guess that's reasonable. "Where do I go?"
The woman smiled faintly, that smile showing embarrassment. "We don't have a hotel," she explained, "because nobody ever comes through here. But somebody else arrived in town yesterday and they're staying in the last house to the left. Perhaps the home-owner would open their house to you as well."
"Got it," he said with a nod. "Thanks."
The young man trudged forward again, ignoring the heat. With the travelling he did, he was glad to have the coat that often kept him warm. But it clearly wasn't good for this environment. He stood just outside the hut, studying it. It wasn't in horrible shape, but it wasn't too great either. Still, he doubted there was anything he could do for these people. He couldn't do anything for anyone.
Before he could even enter the home, a female in a blue sahri came rushing out. "Well, it's about time you turned up!"
Snow grunted, automatically taking a step back when the wild female with dark brown hair stopped directly in front of him. "Fang?"
Fang nodded firmly as she glared at the taller man. "You know how long it took for me to find you?" she asked, tone full of anger and rebuke. "I searched for a month at least!"
"I'm surprised you found me that quickly," he said awkwardly. "It's a big world."
"Heck yes it is. Where have you been?"
He shrugged. "Nowhere. Everywhere. I dunno."
Fang studied him, placing a hand on her hip as she gazed at him. Apparently she had been spending time with Lightning, because the soldier used to have that same habit. Hand on the hip, eyes firm and pose unyielding…Yeah, they were connected. "Oh, I see," she said after a few moments. "You're still in one of those self-pitying moods." She scoffed, and Snow immediately knew that he had been right not to bring his troubles to Fang. She was going to scold him.
Or was she?
Her expression softened. "You gotta snap out of it, Hero," she said quietly. "This isn't you."
Snow blinked in surprise. "I know it's not. I don't like being what I am."
"So what do you plan on doing to change that?"
"Just keep moving. Keep fighting monsters until something clicks in this hard head of mine."
"It ain't gonna change itself, Snow. You gotta choose to change."
"That's easier said than done."
"Yeah," Fang agreed with a nod. "It is. Nothin's easy. Are you gonna let that stop you now?"
Snow felt angry. What right did Fang have to ask these questions of him? She was implying that he had already given up! "Does it look like I'm letting it stop me?" he asked lowly. "I'm doing all I know how to do!"
"Don't get sharp with me, muscle man," she said after a few seconds. "Can't believe your head is still so hard. What you're doing isn't working, so you need to try something new."
His gaze dropped to the ground. Come home? Where was home, anyway? His home was with Serah, wherever she was. Or was it? "I don't have a home."
"Yes you do." Fang reached out and grabbed his hand. "Come with me," she ordered, walking him past the building that he had been about to enter. He glanced down at the hand, too surprised to react. He hadn't held anyone's hand since Serah, and she was the only one whose hand he grasped in return. Her grip was similar to this. Firm when it needed to be, gentle otherwise. Tight when afraid. Fang's grasp was a combination of the three. She really was scared of where he was going.
As they rounded the back of the hut, Snow was surprised to see two red chocobos. The fact that they were standing calmly also made him do a double-take. What's going on here?
"I want you to come back with me," Fang said. She released his hand and looked at the two animals.
"On these things?"
"I can tame anything, remember?" she said more lightly, smirking. "Two red chocobos aren't anything to me."
She swiftly got up on her red chocobo and motioned for Snow to do the same. Her expression told him that he didn't have any choice in the matter. She was going to kick him into gear if he didn't go ahead with her quickly.
So, Snow Villiers got up on his chocobo. He started riding when Fang did, away from the village and to the east. What laid in that direction was a mystery to him. "Where are we going?"
"Told ya. Home."
"Stop being so cryptic. I want to know what's going on, right now."
Silence was his response.
"Come on, Fang."
"Trust me, hero."
His heart dropped at the name. He wasn't worthy of being called a hero anymore. He may have saved Fang and Vanille from the flan that was trying to destroy their crystal tower, but he couldn't save the young woman that he loved. He had been too busy saving the world to give her a second glance. Maybe he didn't love her. Maybe he loved being the hero more.
A bitter silence settled between them. It wasn't because of Fang. Oddly enough, Fang wasn't beating Snow upside the head and ordering him to give up on the self-pity. She was being…patient. "Something happen while I was gone?" Snow asked after a little while.
"Loads has happened. Light and Caius are a happy couple, and Noel and Vanille are on their way to becoming the same. Sazh and his new gal are happy, and Hope is happy with his one love—work."
Hesitation was so unlike Fang. The woman was normally beaming with confidence and boldness. Yet she didn't answer Snow's question immediately. About thirty seconds passed before she spoke. "I've been doin' some wandering. Thinking, too."
"About what's worth protecting."
Snow glanced over at her. It was then he realized that she wasn't even looking at him. Her gaze was straight ahead, softer than before. Soft? What was going on with Fang that actually made her appear vulnerable? "And what's your conclusion on that?" he asked more gently.
"That Vanille isn't the only thing worth protecting. And that my time guarding her is up. Now she's got Noel." Fang spoke it matter-of-factly, without bitterness. She made it clear that she liked Noel and how he treated Vanille.
"Noel's a good guy," he assured her.
"Oh, I know. I'm happy with the way things turned out." Fang finally looked over at him. "Except for how you turned out."
He blinked at the concern in Fang's eyes. There it was again! That same thing that he noticed earlier, when she softly told him to snap out of this state. "I'll be fine," he said quietly in defense. "I'll bounce back."
Fang pulled back on the reigns of her chocobo and suddenly got off. Of course Snow stopped and got off his chocobo as well, though he was really curious. Was Fang going to slap him? Yell at him for acting like he was unbroken even now?
No. Fang closed the distance between the two of them, but she didn't hit him. Her arms wrapped around his shoulders. The wild woman buried her face in his shoulder as she gripped the back of his jacket.
"I'm so sorry."
"W-what?" Snow grunted in confusion.
Fang swallowed, choked up. "I'm so sorry you had to choose between being hero of the world and the hero of Serah. I'm sorry that it was because of Vanille and I that Serah didn't have you by her side."
"This is what it's all about? You feel guilty, so you feel the need to set things right with me to appease that?"
"No!" Fang said sharply. She pulled her head out of his shoulder and stared up at him in a glare that wasn't necessarily angry, just stern. "I'm doing this because I care about you. You're my family! And family never abandons each other." She lifted a hand, timidly touching Snow's jaw with her fingertips. "I'm just sorry I didn't remember that until now. If I recalled it back then, I never would have let you leave."
"Snow Villiers, you listen to what I have to say," she said, holding eye-contact. "You're not alone. You made an impossible decision, but it was the one that Serah would have wanted you to make. Serah did the same when she contacted Lightning, Caius, and Noel and didn't mention you. She had to choose between saving Lightning and Caius and saying hello to you. Time was too short."
"How do you know?"
"Because this is Serah we're talking about here! If she could let you know that things are alright, she would have. But she was stuck between a rock and a hard place, like you are now."
"Like I am now?" he repeated.
"You really are thick-headed," Fang scoffed. She slowly lowered her hand, though her eyes were still connected to his. "Right now, you've gotta make an impossible choice. Do you move on with your life without Serah and feel like you betray her for being happy again? Or do you dwell in the past to show how sorrowful you are of losing her, thus emphasizing how much she meant to you?"
"Neither choice is easy. But one of them is right, whether you admit it or not." When Snow didn't object, she continued. "Serah wouldn't have wanted this for you, Snow. She'd know that moving on to future happiness doesn't mean disregarding the past you had with her."
Snow stared at Fang, again blinking in surprise. Moving on wasn't disregarding her. He didn't have to live in sorrow. Yes, he was extremely depressed that he lost the love of his life. But…he was also thrilled that the rest of his friends were alive and able to be happy. Life wasn't all bad. Perhaps she was right after all.
The silence lingered. After maybe a minute of staring, Fang got back onto her red chocobo. Snow did the same. Nothing was said the rest of the way. Serah had to make a choice. Between saving Lightning and Caius and assuring me that she was okay. That's what this all was. She had made the right choice…like he had with protecting the pillar of Cocoon. It was a hard choice, but the right one. Without a doubt, it was the right one.
Just one request, Serah, he thought. Let me know that you're okay somehow. If you can. If not…Well, then you can't. Show me somehow that I'll be okay too. Somehow, he believed that Serah already answered the request. Not through her own voice, but through another. He glanced over at the young woman on the other chocobo. Fang came looking for him. She talked to him and spoke the words that he needed to hear. Did Serah somehow put Fang up to this? Or was Fang just different than before? Maybe it was both. He could cope with that.
After about half a day of travelling, Snow saw the small house up ahead along the beach. Lightning's new home. He squinted at the different colored pillars that he saw, only to realize that those weren't pillars at all. It was everyone. Lightning, Caius, Noel, Vanille, Hope, and Sazh. His family was there.
Snow and Fang both stopped their chocobos about five feet away from the group before dismounting. Fang received a nod in greeting, and in thanks for retrieving Snow. But Snow received the most greeting.
"Good to see you, kid," Sazh said.
"Looks like you've gone and gotten yourself into trouble again," Hope commented with a slight smile.
"Should have known you'd be too thick-headed to come back on your own," Noel chuckled.
"You always were the reckless one," Caius grunted, though in good nature.
Vanille laughed. "That's Snow for you."
It was Lightning who first stepped forward when the comments were done. She stopped in front of Snow and looked up at him. Serious as always, but warmer than she was in a past lifetime before their adventures together. "You find what you were looking for, hero?" she asked quietly.
Snow shook his head softly. "No, because I was looking in the wrong places," he realized. "What I was looking for was right here all along, waiting for me."
He looked at Lightning and then to the rest of the group, smiling faintly. Fang went over to join them, so he looked at her a few seconds longer than the rest. He had been looking for hope, and now he found it. Now, he realized that he should have never left. This was where hope was. And from now on, maybe not physically, but spiritually, he would be wherever his family was.
Wherever they were was home.
…Sob. That's the end! No more epilogues connected to this story; it's truly done. What a sad day! D:
OhJay: Glad I could inspire your idea! (:
Riku91: I know what you mean; it's hard not to imagine her as a soldier. Who knows, if I write a sequel, that may change. ;3
Yunadance6: All good things must come to an end, I suppose ):
Neno-neko-chan: No wedding planned right now, but maybe someday!
MaroonAngel of Darkness: Maybe someday I can write a sidestory about that, but I dunno. I find stories about the heroes' children to be a bit cliché and overdone xD
Guys, thank you so much for an amazing ride. I never, EVER expected I'd get the enthusiastic response that I did. Feel free to PM me whenever you want ('cause you guys are awesome). Keep an eye out for some of my new stuff too.I was randomly inspired to do a Light/Caius/Kain story the other day. It might turn into something I post, it might not. We'll have to wait and see. (:
A sequel is still a possibility, but I don't imagine it coming in the near future if it comes at all. We'll just have to wait and see what happens, eh? :)
Thanks again guys. It's been incredible.