Disclaimer: I do not own Square Enix's Kingdom Hearts, nor am I making any money off this fanfiction.
A special thanks to hesteen for beta-ing this chapter for me! She catches crap I overlook all the time. Without her, you guys would be reading some pretty funky sentences.
Buried in the Ice
It was quiet enough in the snow that Sora could stand out in it without having his thoughts interrupted. The snowflakes fell to the ground in lazy circles, never making a sound as they landed atop their brethren. The cold emanating from the ice had frozen his cheeks, and the wind had painted them red, but he was long past noticing. He was too busy gazing skyward, his eyes not on the clouds but on a memory within.
He was playing with… someone… He wasn't sure who. It was a young man, and he was taller than Sora by a few inches, with silky silver hair and eyes so green they made Sora's heart ache. He had a wide grin on his face, smugness twinkling in those eyes as he crashed into Sora, sending them toppling into the snow as the powdery stuff rose all around them from the disturbance.
"C'mere, you goof!" echoed in Sora's head. The words sounded like they were coming from far away, at the end of a long tunnel perhaps. They lit something within Sora, some… tingle of recognition, but it was gone as soon as it had come. He focused on it. Tried as hard as he could to hold onto it, but like the snow when it touched his warm skin, the voice and the memory with it melted into water and slid from his grasp.
He was just glad he remembered his own name.
It was all he had left.
Sora took an unsteady step forward, and the snow crunched beneath his boots. He looked down at them. They were sturdy, black and waterproof. But a splash of color on the snow beside him caught his attention. It was scarlet, a quickly growing stain on the environment. As he watched, another drop joined the first, followed by several more, forming a puddle.
A sound finally broke through the wintry world.
Sora turned toward them, but everything was dark at the edges of his vision, the world so dizzying. He blinked several times, lifted a hand covered in a mitten, and for the first time he noticed that the cream fabric was covered in shards. He picked one up, examining it in the moonlight. Glass?
The sirens grew louder, their wails piercing Sora's ears. He flinched, staggering to the side, unable to find purchase on the ice and tumbling into the snow. He lay there for several moments, his breath making small clouds in the air before him. The snow had already begun falling thicker, fat snowflakes that tickled his nose and cheeks with pricks of cold. He didn't have the energy to lift his hand to brush them away, or better yet, to rise into a standing position.
All he could do was think about how comforting the blackness creeping over him was. It was coaxing him into sleep, and honestly, that seemed like such a great thing now. In sleep, he could forget about his worries, his new fears, the panic that was trying to engulf him, surging forth from the back of his mind.
The last thing he saw before he gave himself over was the crimson and white glare of an ambulance, flickering through the snow and tree branches.
Waking up was a surreal experience.
He opened his eyes slowly, half-expecting his lashes to be glued together with ice. When they weren't, he swallowed against his dry throat and rose into a sitting position. The movement made him weak, but he managed, soft sheets falling to his waist. He touched them, then lifted his eyes to survey his surroundings.
It had a hardwood floor, a simple dresser made of dark oak, and a window overlooking a snowy yard with a white picket fence. White drapes covered the window, and the molding around it was just as pristine, a pretty backdrop alongside the tan coloring of the walls. Sora leaned against what seemed like large pillows and let his eyes roam to the other side of the room.
A door, probably one that led to a bathroom, a larger dresser with a mirror attached, and a clothes hamper, made of dark whicker to match the furniture. The bed itself was king-sized, framed from head to foot, the comforter on top a dark, dark blue. It was simple in its appearance, but soft when Sora ran his hand over it.
He jerked, the voice as foreign as everything else. A figure appeared at the second doorway, the one in front of the bed, and he paused there, his hand on the doorknob. He was tall, with chocolate brown hair and piercing gray eyes. He was very handsome, though a scar marred those perfect features, running diagonally along his nose. It was new, an angry red slash that held stitches.
Relief crossed those features, but was replaced almost immediately by an expression close to apathy. The man came to Sora's side of the bed and sat down on the edge, his hand reaching out to take Sora's. Sora instinctively jerked it away, his eyes widening in his face. He bit his lip uncertainly. Who was this person? They knew him, that much was clear. But how?
"Sora…" the man began hesitantly. He blinked hard, then looked down and shook his head slowly. "…I know it was my fault. I started the fight, and then I hit that black ice… I lost control of the car, and then…" He closed his eyes, clearly in pain. "But it's been weeks. Are you really still not going to talk to me?"
Sora opened his mouth. Closed it. He was very unsure of what to say. Didn't even know where to begin, really. Words played themselves over in his mind. Who are you? was followed by I wish I knew what you were talking about, can you tell me? But nothing felt right, so they stayed latched in his throat.
The man looked up. The raw pain had migrated to his eyes. It made his scar stand out more vividly than ever. When Sora focused on it, something flashed through him. Feelings of darkness. Guilt, anxiety, his own pain, grief. Why? Had he had something to do with it?
"Sora… I know I've never been good at this emotional stuff…" This time when the man reached for his hand, Sora let him take it. He was captivated by those gray eyes and all the knowledge they held, knowledge Sora desperately needed. "But I meant what I said before… the accident. I love you. I do. Can you… God, can you please just say something to me?"
"I…" Sora found his voice hoarse from disuse. He cleared his throat several times to try and amend that, though it didn't do much good, so he settled for dealing with it. It would sound right again on its own. "I know this is going to probably upset you, but… um… who are you?"
Those gray eyes opened wide, then narrowed. "What? Sora, is this some kind of joke?"
"Uh…" A bit taken aback by the sudden anger heating the other's voice, Sora shook his head, only to stop when the world tilted at alarming angles. He reached up with a small groan to grasp his head. "Ugh… I feel like I'm gonna vomit…"
The hand around his tightened. "Do I need to help you to the bathroom?"
"No… I just…" When the nausea had passed, Sora leaned back into his pillows. His head hadn't stopped hurting, however. Now he could feel an ache pulsing near his temple. "Look, this isn't a joke, okay? I really have no idea what's going on. The last thing I remember is… God, I don't know. It's all… wiped clean. Everything." He gestured with his free hand. "I don't know why I'm not having a panic attack right now."
It was true. His thoughts were shrouded in gray numbness.
"The pain killers," his companion told him. He shifted on the bed, causing it to creak. "What do you mean, you don't remember? The doctor said you were just fine, just—just earlier this morning you were walking around, talking on the phone to your parents…"
"Yeaaaah, none of that sounds remotely familiar." Sora frowned at him. "If that's true, then how come I don't remember anything now?"
The man got up abruptly from the bed, his hands on his head as he stormed out of the room. Sora stared after him. In the time it took to make four blinks, the guy was back, his hands waving in useless circles in front of him as his mouth opened but no sound came out. Finally, he tightened his lips and glared out the window, a hand on his hip, the other fisted by his side. Tension was coming off him in waves, so strong it was making Sora uncomfortable.
"I can't believe this." The taller man pinched the bridge of his nose above his scar and squeezed his eyes shut.
Does that hurt him? Sora thought.
"This is—this is just… impossible. You were fine. You passed all of your neurological tests, the doctor sent you home because your brain was healing from the damage it sustained, and now… what, this?"
"I'm just as freaked out as you are," Sora assured him. He'd meant it to come out as defiant, but instead it was a quiet, defeated whisper. He didn't like how it sounded, like he was weak. On the other hand, it seemed to calm Mr. Angry Pants, and he slumped his shoulders, bowing his head with a sigh. Slowly, he made his way back to Sora's bed.
"You're—you're being serious, right? You don't remember anything?"
"Just my name," Sora supplied. Not liking the guy so upset, he reached over, patting his hand. "So why don't you start by telling me yours?"
"Squall…" the other man murmured. "Squall Leonhart."
"Okay." Sora nodded, his spikes bobbing with the movement. "And I'm Shiozu Sora."
"No," Squall whispered. "You're not Shiozu Sora. You're…" But he licked his lips, shaking his head. It made Sora tilt his head to the side, his confusion over the matter deepening. If he wasn't Shiozu Sora, then who the hell was he? His companion didn't elaborate, looking everywhere but at him.
"What?" Sora pressed. "What's my last name?"
The other man passed a hand over his brow—buried his fingers in his hair—shut his eyes so tightly stars must have burst across his vision. "I can't believe this is happening," he whispered, which was so not what Sora wanted to hear, and impatience rose within him.
"Seriously, man. What's my last name?"
"Leonhart," Squall bit out. He got up from the bed again, and he didn't come back.
Sora slumped in disbelief, that last uttered word banging around inside of his head. Leonhart, Leonhart, Leonhart… LeonhartLeonhartLeonhart…
"Right," Sora muttered.
He was married, and he couldn't remember his husband, he couldn't even remember that he was apparently gay, and to top it all off, he couldn't remember anything beyond that, either. It was enough to threaten the arrival of that impending panic attack. It couldn't break through the fog clouding his mind, though, so after a moment, Sora just closed his eyes and settled for breathing.
What. The. Fuck.
"What do you mean, he doesn't remember anything?" Aerith stood in the mudroom of the Leonharts' house, the blanketed basket in her hands lightly sprinkled with snow. Cute mittens covered her hands, pink with daisies, and they matched her peacoat, a darker pink. The bow her boyfriend Zack had given her for her twenty-fifth birthday held her hair back in a braid.
"He doesn't remember anything," Squall repeated gruffly. He didn't feel like debating this in the mudroom, or even at all, but Aerith wasn't going to budge until she was given an explanation as to why she couldn't go in the house. "Maybe you should come back another time—"
"Nonsense," she replied, brushing past him and taking the step up into the kitchen. She set her basket on the nearby table as she stripped off her gloves. "Have you called the doctor yet?"
Squall debated standing there and simply not answering her. It was the more appealing option, but he knew Aerith. Might as well make this headache as minimal as possible, he thought, and so he closed the door behind her. "Of course."
"And?" she prompted, bending to unlace her boots.
"And… he just… said that each brain injury is unique, and that he can slot Sora in for this afternoon." That wasn't the whole of it, but it would do. Honestly, all Squall had heard coming from that guy's mouth was Bullshit, Bullshit, and more Bullshit.
Aerith surveyed him, her green eyes sharp as always. When she spoke, her voice was calm. "Is that all of it, Squall?"
Damn it. "No."
"Well?" she pressed, tilting her head.
Squall pinched the bridge of his nose. It was fast becoming a habit. To make matters worse, he could hear Sora moving around in their bedroom. "Please…" And he was trying to be nice, because Aerith wouldn't listen to him otherwise. "…Can you just come back later? This is a lot to deal with right now."
"Unless you've suddenly been replaced by a friendly blue alien, I think I'm good to stay," Aerith replied. She was referencing an old stuffed animal Squall had had as a kid called Pupu. That she remembered that rankled and made his ears heat.
If she noticed, she failed to remark on it, striding through the kitchen toward his bedroom. "Sora," she called. "It's me, Aerith. I've brought those cookies you like. Russian tea cakes."
Any other day, Sora would have whooped with delight and hurried to greet her. Today was much more somber. Aerith paused as no one answered her, arching a brow over her shoulder at Squall before shrugging and soldiering on. Squall opted to stay in the kitchen, as that seemed safest. He slid down the cabinets, until his ass hit the floor and he could lift his knees in front of him. He tilted his head back and sighed.
What a nightmare his life had become.
Probably an entire five minutes had passed—barely—before Squall heard footsteps thudding on the nearest hallway floor. Sora came into view scant seconds later, flushed and out of breath. He thrust a shaky finger in the direction of their bedroom, his blue eyes wide with fear.
"Who is that?"
"That's…" Words failed Squall for a moment. Of all things, he hadn't anticipated this reaction, especially not toward Aerith. She had such a calm, soothing presence. She could make anybody feel comfortable, even Squall, and he was the most anti-social out of their group, sometimes in the extreme.
"Well?" Sora demanded, his voice rising an octave. His face heated further from the note he'd just achieved. "Who is she?"
"Aerith," Squall replied slowly. For a moment, he wasn't sure what to do. Comforting someone… well, it wasn't his forte. In fact, it was a part of their relationship they constantly struggled over. "Look, um…" He raised a hand to his hair, rustling it. "I don't—"
"Sora!" Aerith appeared on the scene. She was clearly frazzled, bewilderment lurking in her eyes as her hands landed firmly on her hips. "What is the matter?"
"I don't know you," he retorted hotly. "I don't know either of you! Do you really think this is the best idea right now?!" This question was aimed at Squall as Sora whirled in his direction. "First I find out I'm married, that I'm married to a dude—which is difficult enough to swallow—and now you sic her on me? What is wrong with you?!"
Before Squall could even formulate a reply, Aerith's voice rang out, crisp with the sternness she showed toward particularly rowdy children in her kindergarten classes. "Sora Leonhart! I understand you're under some distress, but that's no reason to be rude to either of us! If you feel uncomfortable, just say so!"
Sora wilted, but only a little. "Fine! I'm uncomfortable being called Sora Leonhart! I'm Shiozu Sora!"
The pang that hit Squall's heart…
He had to turn away.
"I want to know what the hell is going on with me! Where I am, why I'm here, what happened to make me lose my memory—" Sora ranted on.
"And we will tell you those things." Now Aerith's voice was soothing, placating, in a way Squall had never been able to manage. He struggled with part jealousy, part defeat. The fight that had caused the accident with Sora was still fresh in his mind, even after these last few weeks. "But first, we have a few questions of our own to ask."
There was a pregnant pause.
When nobody spoke, Aerith cleared her throat. "Right, Squall?"
"Actually…" Squall strode toward the door without looking back. He tugged on his boots and bomber jacket. "I got a message from Cloud. He needs someone to pick him up from his shift at the hospital. His car's in the shop." It was the most he'd spoken in a single paragraph in days, and for Aerith, it was the only explanation that would come close to being acceptable.
He didn't wait around for her response. In moments, he was in his car and speeding down the road for the highway.
Sora gaped after Squall's departure. Aerith stood awkwardly beside him, her hand still raised to possibly stop Squall, Sora wasn't sure.
"What the hell was that?" he exclaimed, miffed. He threw his arm up in an angry swipe toward the door. "He's supposed to be my husband, and he bails at a time where I probably need him the most?!"
"Eh… heh heh…" Aerith's giggle was nervous as she scratched at her temple with a fingertip. Sora noticed she wouldn't look anywhere at him. "That's Squall for you…"
"Why would I marry him of all people?"
"Because!" She reached forward, grabbing his hands. He was too stunned by the movement to immediately snatch them back. He eyed her warily as she bent at the waist, leaning in close, so much so that their noses were only a few inches apart.
"What, are you trying to peer into my soul right now?"
A giggle escaped her, which she quickly stifled by biting her lip. "Sora…" She arched a brow. "Squall's really a great big teddy bear inside!"
"Right… And Eskimos make igloos out of horse shit…"
Without waiting to hear what else she had to say, Sora charged through the kitchen, intent on the mudroom where he'd seen Squall vanish. She made a startled noise, calling for him. Whatever she wanted to tell him, it could wait. He had to get out of here. Now. Everything was too stifling, just—too much.
"Sora! Where are you going?" She was behind him in a flash, gripping his arm.
He yanked away. "Out," he said pointedly.
"You can't drive—not with your head injury—!"
"Do you see any keys?!" he spat at her. Maybe this was unlike him, judging by the way her eyes widened. The thing was, though, he didn't know who he was, how he behaved. All he had was his name. And really, he didn't even have that anymore, did he? Not if he was married. "I'm going on a walk. Please—just leave me alone."
"Sora, I just don't think it's a very good idea—"
He slammed the door in her face.
"What do you want me to tell you, Squall?" Cloud's words were quiet between them, even with the radio off and the heater a dull, muted sound.
Squall sighed, shifting. The leather of his seat squeaked at the movement. He let his eyes roam to the window as they rolled to a traffic light maybe five blocks from his house. The snow hadn't let up yet, falling in thick sheets, blanketing the ground in the same quiet that prevailed in the BMW.
"I'm not a neurologist…"
"But isn't it weird?" Squall swung his eyes back to his blond friend. He'd known Cloud since they were children. They'd grown up in the same town together, along with Aerith and a few others. This town. Radiant Garden. "He was fine. Now suddenly his mind is completely wiped?"
His friend's blue eyes flickered. He shook his head with a slow swing of his spiky hair. "I'm not his doctor."
"Yes, but you're a doctor," Squall bit out. His frustration was building to a boiling point, even though he knew it wasn't Cloud's fault that Cloud didn't have any answers for him.
"But I'm not a neurologist…" Cloud stressed a second time. He tilted his head back against the headrest. "Look… Each brain is different, right?"
The light shifted to green, and Squall pressed on the gas pedal. "Yeah."
The doctor waved his hand. "So then it begs to reason that each brain also behaves differently… Sora has an appointment in a couple of hours. You're going with him. So… you'll be able to find out more then."
Squall cut a glare across the small space that separated them.
Cloud's face remained as unreadable and unperturbed as always. "I wish I could tell you more. I do…" He bowed his head, his eyes dropping to his lap. "But I don't want to put any ideas into your head. What if I'm wrong?"
"Look… it's—it's no big deal, okay?" It took all Squall had to get that out. He wasn't big on apologies, especially given how stressful his life had grown in the last few hours, but… Cloud deserved one. It wasn't his fault he didn't have any of the answers Squall was searching for, no matter how inconvenient it was.
His friend only shrugged.
Squall stifled another sigh. Though he'd been the one to run out on Sora when things had grown too complicated, he was grateful Cloud only lived a few houses down from him. It meant he could drop Cloud off, return home, and see his husband again, unpleasant though the reunion might be.
He shouldn't have walked out. He should have stayed.
The words played themselves over and over in his mind, and just as he was ready to kick himself for being an asshole, Cloud's voice rang out, sharp and alarmed.
"Squall! It's Sora!"
Squall immediately slammed on the brakes. Combined with the snow and ice, a horrible screeching sound rent the air, and his vehicle slid feet instead of inches. It came to a stop so suddenly that their seatbelts yanked into place, and their bodies jerked from the whiplash.
"Where?" With shaking fingers, Squall pulled his keys out of the ignition. If he'd so much as hurt another hair on Sora's head—
"On the curb. Right there." Cloud pointed out his window.
Squall was out of his car without further direction and raced around it to where Cloud had indicated. Sure enough, Sora was resting on the curbside, his knees drawn up and his forehead buried against them. Had he even flinched? The car had come maybe inches from hitting where he sat.
"Sora." Squall fought to keep the roughness out of his voice, breathless with adrenaline as he knelt beside him. Snow was soaking through the knee of his pants. "Sora—" His hand fell onto his shoulder, only to get slapped away.
"What are you doing out here?" Sora asked him. It was said in perfect monotone. Squall wasn't accustomed to such a thing, not from Sora. "I thought you had to go pick somebody up."
"I did. He's in the car. Sora, what are you doing out here?" he reiterated. "You don't have a jacket on, and…"
"What do you care?" Sora lifted his eyes, and the heat he carried in his question was enough to physically hurt Squall. He could feel it there in his chest, a fiery line that threatened to incinerate him from within. "Two seconds ago, the last thing you wanted to do was help me." He'd been outside long enough that his entire frame, small as it was, was shivering hard.
A few weeks ago, Squall would have angrily lashed out, mostly in defense. He didn't deal with confrontation well. He fled it, and when he couldn't, he walled up, made sure that whoever was provoking him stopped soon. But today… today, he didn't have that luxury. It was time to man up. "You're my husband," he murmured. "We need to figure this out together, not apart. I'm… sorry."
Once upon a time, Sora would have been touched at this admittance. He would have thrown his arms around Squall and exhaled with relief. He would have said, "It's okay, baby. I'm sorry, too." But there was none of that now. Only a hollowness in Sora's eyes that never should have had to be there.
"Just take me to my doctor's appointment, and we'll go from there." Sora rose, and when Squall tried to help him, he fended him off. "Stop. I don't want—or need—your help."
"You don't even know the way back to the house—"
"It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out how to look at street signs."
"But baby, come on, it's cold outside—"
Sora burst out laughing, taking Squall by surprise. They stared at one another from opposite sides of the street.
"Isn't that a song?" Sora tilted his head. Was he listening to some inner track playing at his ear? After a moment, he simply shook his head. "I've got it from here. Thanks." Giving Squall a thumbs up, he began a light jog away from him.
Cloud looked over once Squall was back in the driver's seat. He didn't say anything, though. That was good. Squall really felt like punching something, and he'd hate for it to be his best friend.