It seems that all my bridges have been burned
Summary: How much more could life chip away at Alvin before there was nothing left to take? Mild Alvin/Leia. Spoilers for the whole game.
A/N: So, I ship these two really hard, although this can definitely be read as friendship if that's your preference. I'm already itching to write a sequel with more romantic implications, so if anyone is interested, let me know. Takes place right before the end of the game during the side quest about Alvin's mother, so it contains spoilers for everything. I appreciate any and all reviews. Typos or chronology errors are my own.
Title comes from a Mumford & Sons lyric. I don't own that.
Oh, and I definitely do not own Tales of Xillia.
The wound in Leia's shoulder heals and every night she dreams. Sometimes it's her own death—the trajectory of the blast from Alvin's gun is slightly different and it hits her heart. The blood pours out onto the fabric of her shirt and the last thing she sees is Jude frantically trying to cast a healing arte, fingers dark red. Alvin is always there; in some versions he looks triumphant and other times impassive. Which is more painful, Leia can't decide.
Other times, she is unable to protect Jude. Alvin is too swift and she falters, staff knocked away and the blast to Jude's stomach sends him flying back, a dull thud on the forest floor when he lands. Stomach wounds bleed out slowly and painfully, Leia knows this, and in these dreams her healing artes aren't strong enough; the metallic smell of Jude's blood permeates everything and Leia tries, tries over and over to cast an arte until the light fades from Jude's eyes. Leia's determination to protect Jude is as strong as Jude's desire to protect Milla, and in these dreams they both fail. Leia wakes up in tangled sheets with tears in her eyes.
More than once the setting shifts to the Hallowmont and everything is jumbled. Agria and Pressa are there and the moment Agria let go of Leia's hand plays over and over again. Agria wanted to die, and Leia, who's spent a lifetime helping Doctor Mathis save others, doesn't understand. No matter how she twists Agria's actions around in her mind, answers don't come and the dreams continue. She tries to figure out the why for so many of these events, and sometimes she thinks of asking the others if they understand. Milla's presence bolsters and fortifies Jude's resolve, and Leia doesn't want to take away from that, so she doesn't ask either of them. In the end, her own frustration silences her.
"You should talk to Alvin," Elize says the night they are in Xian Du after Alvin's mother passes away. Leia has tried to sleep for at least two hours, judging by how far the moon moved across the sky.
Elize's powers of observation are often surprising, and she crosses the space between their beds and sits next to Leia, legs curled underneath her. She hugs Teepo tightly before speaking again, "He's sad."
"Of course he is." Alvin's multiple betrayals aside, Leia remembers the barely curtailed pain in his expression when he found out his mother died.
"He needs us," Elize continues, taking a hand away from Teepo and laying it atop Leia's, "Alvin needs us to be his friends. He hasn't got anyone else."
"There's too many things," Leia starts, "I have these dreams, and even though I want to move past—"
Elize squeezes her hand.
"Have you forgiven him?" Leia whispers. Elize is staring at Leia, but her eyes shift to the moon outside the window instead.
Elize is silent for a time before she replies, "I…think so," a pause, "Yes."
The new skin on Leia's shoulder is soft and smooth under her calloused fingers, "You might be a bigger person than me, Elize."
Elize's simple appraisal of Alvin's situation sticks in Leia's mind all through the next day, most of which is spent making preparations to follow Gaius. When night falls, she takes Elize's advice and seeks Alvin out. Leia finds him on one of the inn's balconies, long after everyone else is asleep.
"Can't sleep?" Leia tries after watching him from the doorway for an embarrassingly long time.
If Alvin didn't notice her approach, it doesn't show as he slowly turns his head to face her, "Nah. You?"
Alvin's gun lies on the table in front of him and Leia hates the way her stomach knots when she sees it, hates the way the memories flood in.
"Not lately," Leia keeps her tone neutral and navigates the tables scattered around the darkened balcony. When the gun is an even distance between them, Leia sits in the nearest chair. She irrationally thinks that she could get to it faster than Alvin if she tried.
They sit in a mockery of companionable silence while Leia tries to articulate, well, anything, really.
"Do you hate Isla?" she finally blurts. It's not any of the thoughts racing through her head.
Alvin is startled by the question, too. He sits up a bit straighter and runs his fingers through his hair.
"I should, right?" Alvin slouches again, considering, "She killed my mother. I should hate her, but when I think about all the shit I've…"
Isla might lie, stuck in the past, in the same bed Alvin's mother died in for the rest of her life. She hates Isla for what she did to both Elize and Alvin's mother, and can't muster sympathy for anyone except Yurgen.
"Yurgen will care for her," Leia eventually replies, "but she doesn't deserve—she killed—"
"He's stupid to forgive her," Alvin interjects.
Leia agrees, and nearly says so, but the look in Alvin's eyes quells her words. "It's all Isla wanted, though, was to put her past behind her."
"Doesn't always work that way."
"But you think you can forgive her?"
Alvin closes his eyes like it will pause reality. He looks exhausted and the moonlight makes him appear young and fragile. If their positions were reversed, she would never forgive anyone who hurt her family.
But could she forgive someone who hurt her?
"Mom knew she was being poisoned. She let Isla kill her," Alvin's voice breaks and Leia's heart cracks along with it. "Why?"
Leia wishes she had an answer. Alvin looks like he needs one.
Alvin's allegiances weave in upon themselves until Leia wonders if he even knows what he stands for anymore. She remembers the desperate look in Alvin's eyes when she'd taken the bullet for Jude. Alvin looked like he had nothing left to lose, nothing left to live for. The same look is in his eyes now, as he lost yet another piece of his life. How much more could be chipped away from Alvin before there was nothing left to take?
"How do you shoulder all of it?" The betrayals, the grief, the guilt, all of it—if Leia has nightmares she, for the first time, tries to imagine what Alvin must feel in the wee hours of the night when overthinking is all too common.
"Before, I told myself everything was worth it because I was protecting Mom, but now I don't know."
"You have friends now," Leia finds herself saying, and is even more surprised to discover she means it.
"Friends who don't trust me," Alvin expression hardens and he meets Leia's gaze, "Friends who I try to kill."
Leia's hand presses at her shoulder and the silence between them elongates. Alvin's hand moves just a fraction and Leia, as much as she hates herself for it, jerks back in her chair.
Alvin stands and holsters his gun, moving past Leia to the balcony door.
They're about the fight for the fate of the world. Gaius could kill every last one of them and Leia would die without working through this fear.
Alvin is through the door when Leia catches him, fistful of scarf tangled in her fingers. "Gaius could wipe the floor with us, and we are a team and you are not going anywhere, so I need to, we need to…"
"I won't let you guys down on the battlefield. Even if you don't trust me, I don't want Gaius to destroy the spyrix any more than you do." Alvin bracelets her wrist with his fingers and tries to shake her loose.
"I don't care about that—I mean, I do, but that's not what I'm talking about," Leia drops the scarf and goes for Alvin's wrist instead, bringing their hands together against her shoulder, "You tried to off Jude and nearly killed me instead. This needs to be discussed."
He tries to pull back again and Leia tightens her fingers until Alvin winces.
"All my dreams are about someone dying—me, Jude, Agria, Milla, you, and everything horrible is all jumbled together. I haven't slept well since and I need to be over this. I don't want to jump when I see you, and I want to trust you, but you've made it so damn hard."
Logically, Leia knows there isn't much Alvin can say, and that time is the only thing that repairs trust, but she has always been impatient and wishes there was something, anything Alvin could do that would fix everything.
"I know you are."
"I can't change stuff from before, and some of it I wouldn't—I'd protect Mom again, even though I didn't understand her feelings. I tried, though, to give her a life here—it wasn't great, I guess." Alvin looks absolutely brittle, a strong breeze or one hit from her staff might shatter him completely and scatter him across the mountains surrounding Xian Du.
It doesn't take much for Leia to crush Alvin against her. She drops his wrist and slips her arms beneath his heavy overcoat. The height differential means Leia's face is buried in Alvin's scarf. Leia thinks, not for the first time, that wearing a scarf tied like that looks a bit silly. It feels especially relevant at the moment.
Alvin stiffens as though Leia punched him and she doesn't need to glance up to see the multitude of confused expressions on his face. He relaxes, almost imperceptibly, and rests a hand on Leia's back.
"I want to stay with everyone, even if I can't earn back your trust. I want to have a place here."
Leia tries to imagine being as lonely and adrift as Alvin has felt for so, so long and she almost can't fathom it. She tightens her arms just a bit. Like Jude and Elize, Alvin needs her support and that's something Leia's very, very good at.
"Elize told me you need us,"' Leia's voice lowers and she looks up, "and that you two are friends."
Alvin smiles, and despite everything being in shambles, Leia thinks it's genuine, "That's what Elize told me when we were in Trigleph."
"Then we're friends, too."
Alvin's smile reaches his eyes and Leia's heart speeds up.
"Then Elize kissed me."
Leia makes an undignified splutter; Alvin stops her from backing away.
And Alvin, for the first time in much too long, laughs.
A/N: I am not totally happy with the way this ends.