Disclaimer: I own nothing.


Prologue

.

.

.

This was Asbel's fault.

Lambda sighed as he fell back into the field of flowers, flinching when he remembered that his form was actually corporeal. Around him, the grass whistled in the wind, and he could hear the sound of the waves crashing onto the cliffs below. A giant tree towered above him like a comforting blanket, its branches and leaves reaching towards the stars.

He grimaced at the absolute idiocy of it all.

The last thing he recalled was a dream. He had been speaking to Fodra, trying to dispel her rage. He presumed that he must have been sleeping for a while. In truth, he had thought he would be asleep for at least a few centuries, but he had been rudely awakened when a rush of thoughts and imagery had breached his mind, overwhelming him. He remembered her laughing at him as he fled, panicked, from his very own mind.

Damn Asbel. Couldn't he control his feelings better?

Lambda let out a heavy sigh.

He hadn't expected to awaken while Asbel was on a date, of all things. Normally, the emotions of his host would never have been so strong that it could overflow into his own mind, but it seemed like Asbel loved to prove him wrong. And as someone whose breadth of emotional experience consisted of being angry and hating the world, it was... a strange experience, to say the least. When he realized the situation he found himself in, he freaked out and forced himself from Asbel's body as quickly as he could. (Seriously, it was incredibly awkward when he realized he was pretty much acting as a third-wheel that nobody even realized was there.)

To be fair, it sounded downright silly that someone who had the power to destroy the world would be terrified of someone's feelings, but the thoughts he felt from Asbel through their bond were so strong and vibrant and unknown to him that Lambda had found himself washed away by them. He let out a breath, almost wishing that he could expel all of them from his mind.

I'm a wreck, he thought, mentally hitting himself. This is completely Asbel's fault.

He knew he should have returned by now. He would probably need to apologize for leaving so abruptly (and possibly leaving Asbel with a mild concussion from the mental kick for not considering his presence in his mind), but something held him back. Even when the residual emotions had died down, he felt something odd tugging at his heart. It was longing; wistful. And, frustratingly enough, he couldn't pinpoint what it was.

Lambda let his gaze drift to the night sky. The stars were bright away from the lights of civilization, and there was nary a cloud in sight. The moon was only a crescent now, but it shimmered with an iridescence that Lambda had never noticed before.

That's right, he realized. It had been at least seven years since he had his own body, his own eyes, his own mind, without needing to share it with anybody else. Everything around him seemed so much more vibrant as compared to his memories, like someone had colored in an old painting, and he realized that the world he had been seeing was but a watered down version of the real thing.

He could feel the sting of the cold air, hear the roaring sound of the waves, and smell the sweet scent of the flowers. He could taste the salt in the air, see the moon in all its glory-

He felt… alive.

The realization felt like a knife twisting in his now-existent gut. If he were asked whether he had felt content sleeping within Asbel's mind, he probably would have said, yes, yes he was.

But there was a whisper of doubt that he had long been fostering, a passing thought he hadn't paid heed to until now.

Cornell had wanted him to live, but until that moment, he hadn't understood the true depth of his words.

And too short, too soon, it would all be over.

"Lambda?"

He tensed when he heard the clear voice cutting through the night air, not even needing to look to identify the speaker.

"Protos Heis."

Quite by instinct, he let his body dissolve into dark mist as he turned to face his once-nemesis. She stood only a few feet away, watching him with a curious expression. Lambda mentally slapped himself for getting distracted- how had he let her get so close? Were they still trying to kill each other, he would have already been put at a disadvantage.

She continued staring at him, as if waiting for a response. She wore a simple white shift, her long purple hair blowing like a cloak behind her. She looked older now, more self-assured. He had known her for well over a millennium, but now, she looked like a complete stranger.

They stood there in silence, unwilling to break the uneasy truce between them. She was the first to speak.

"You have a body," she observed, somewhat lamely.

Lambda nodded. "I absorbed sufficient eleth from Fodra to maintain a physical form for an unknown period of time," he agreed. "Far longer than before."

"I- I see."

"But that's not why you're here, is it, Protos Heis?"

She flinched slightly at the name. Her hesitance was all the answer Lambda needed.

"Asbel sent you," he murmured, resigned.

"I-I can pinpoint your eleth, no matter where you are," she explained. "It's logical."

"Did he send you to kill me?" Lambda asked with a weary sigh.

She blinked, and then her brows furrowed in confusion. "Do you really think that he would do that?"

Lambda wondered. To Asbel, it might have seemed like he had run away and broken their agreement. Some of his previous hosts would have immediately assumed the worse, but Asbel…

Asbel was his friend.

Lambda sighed, exasperated. "He's a gullible fool."

Silence descended upon them once again.

Protos Heis did not look like she wanted to be here. In fact, if Lambda had to describe it, she looked... tense. Wary. Of course, he thought, considering the company, why shouldn't she be?

Hesitantly, she took a step forward, and instinctively, he moved back. She frowned and paused, watching him warily.

"Asbel said you were... scared. That you ran away."

Lambda felt affronted by the accusation. Sure, he was shocked and maybe he was slightly more panicked than usual, but he was not scared. He didn't do scared.

"I just... wanted to take a walk."

She didn't look convinced. "You left Asbel with a mild concussion. He was worried sick."

He could imagine, just as he could imagine exactly why she was here. It didn't surprise him in the least. Of course they'd expect him back. He couldn't very well run away that easily, after all. Nobody- not even someone as trusting and gullible as Asbel- would willingly let a monster that tried to destroy the world run free without questions.

He smiled bitterly. "Are you here to take me back, Protos Heis?"

She seemed surprised by his question.

"Is something wrong?" she asked, tilting her head slightly.

"No," he said brusquely, getting up. "Everything's... fine."

He had expected that she would be happy with his answer, and they would leave, dismissing his momentary lapse of character as perhaps moon-sickness or something. What he wasn't expecting was for her to grab hold of him as he walked past, stopping him in his tracks.

"No it's not," she said sharply. "I've never seen you act this strange before."

Lambda turned around, about to snap at her, when he caught sight of her face. The Protos Heis he knew had never shown any hint of concern for him, but now a slight frown graced her features. It gave him pause. After all, if anyone in the world (save for Asbel and Richard) had the right to speak to him in such a manner, it would be her.

"You don't trust me, do you?" she asked.

Did he? He wasn't sure. He trusted her to protect Asbel and Richard. He trusted her enough to know she wouldn't kill him, back on Fodra. But he had spent a millenia hating her, seeing her face in his nightmares...

Back on Fodra, on an impulse, he had called her a friend.

Emotions were complicated, Lambda decided in his defense.

He sighed heavily, letting the dark fog around him dissipate. This human form seemed more natural to him, but he hated how helpless he felt when he wore it. Yet, he supposed, if he wanted her to trust him, he would have to prove it to her.

He saw the surprise in her face, and taking the chance, he slid his hand away from her grip.

"This isn't living," he whispered. For some reason, his throat felt dry.

She didn't stop him as he turned and walked away from her. Instead, she watched him, though her stance never quite relaxed. He searched his mind, trying exactly to put into words the realization he had stumbled on just a few minutes before.

He turned to face her. With a deep breath, he admitted, "I don't want to go back."

She frowned, tensing slightly. Were it any other time, he would have smirked at her unease. Instead, he held up a hand as a gesture to wait, sighing as he struggled to find the words that described what he felt.

"Do you ever wonder what is it that we are meant to be?" Lambda asked. "Do you ever wonder whether we're living our lives or the lives that others impose upon us?"

Her frown only deepened. "I don't understand."

"Fodran scientists captured me before I could even form cognitive thought," he explained. "All my life, I've ran away from those who would wish me ill, did everything I could to survive. I believed the only way for me to do so was to fuse with this planet's Lastalia. But now... now I wonder. Why was I created? Who was I created to be? Am I to be forever hiding, whether it is in someone else's mind or within the core, watching as everyone else lives their lives? Am I a monster that is meant to destroy worlds, or am I capable of being something else?

"I don't even know who 'I' am supposed to be," he finished darkly, unwilling to meet her gaze. It was one thing to confide his insecurities in a friend, but she was also the one created to destroy him. And even though he wanted to trust her, he couldn't completely let go of the feeling that he was giving her everything she would need to not only destroy him, but his entire core.

She didn't respond for a while. Perhaps she couldn't. Perhaps she thought he was just being silly, or perhaps she was gearing up to destroy him.

"I understand."

Lambda looked up at the sound of her soft voice. There was a small upturn in the corner of her mouth, and she shrugged hopelessly. "I was created to destroy you," she said in response. "But when my memories were gone, the things I saw, and the people I met... they helped me find something beyond that. You never had that chance."

"You make it sound as if it was acceptable for me to roam free."

She bit her lip, thinking about her next words. Quietly, hesitantly, she asked, "Isn't it?"

He froze as she walked towards him, stopping about an arm's length away. Her face was expressionless, but for the first time since he had known her, Protos Heis's eyes weren't cold when they watched him.

"You called me your friend," she murmured.

Lambda nodded, her very proximity making him feel uneasy. It was as if those eyes could see through him. "I did not lie."

Her gaze was searching for something. Finally, she said, "You need more friends."

Lambda blinked at her pronouncement. Indeed, it seemed that even she was surprised by what she had said, as she ducked her head, her cheeks a furious red.

"You shouldn't go back to sleep so soon," she said hastily. "You should be living in your own body, having your own experiences, making your own friends. That's what Cornell would have wanted."

"You would presume to know what Cornell would have wanted?" Lambda asked with an arched eyebrow.

She shook her head. "He wanted you to live. He said as much from the records we found on Fodra. Isn't that what you want?"

"You... do not object?" Lambda could not hide the incredulity in his voice. Protos Heis had been the most reluctant of Asbel's circle to accept him, and even now, he doubted that she would go so far to trust him, even if he did consider her his friend.

She smiled- but her eyes were full of warning. "Asbel would want to give you a chance," she said. "Perhaps I should too."

And just like that, she turned on her heel and walked off. Lambda stood there, stunned, until she glanced over her shoulder at him and he realized that she was waiting for him to follow. For a moment, he was caught by an instinct to run away, that it was a trap.

But there was something else that told him that it would be okay, that she wouldn't betray him.

"Thank you," he said when he had caught up to her, "for everything, Protos Heis."

She paused in mid-step. "My friends call me Sophie," she murmured, so soft that he barely caught it.

"Sophie," he repeated. It wasn't that he hadn't known her name, but it was a name he attached to a different side of her- one that wasn't the monster in his nightmares, one that he wasn't familiar with.

He wouldn't mind knowing that person, he thought distantly.

For the first time that night, she gave him a genuine smile- one that wasn't troubled or wary. "Come on," she said, tugging on his hand. "Let's go find Asbel."