“Hey, are you alright?”
You retracted your shaking fingers from the gray stone wall, a myriad of emotions swarming through your heart. Your hand came up to block the sun that shone brightly in the clear blue sky above.
A beautiful, complete, shining sun.
Sora’s voice was gentle and laced with concern as he watched your frozen form from a few feet ahead. He tilted his head to the side, relief washing over him as you sent a warm smile in his direction.
“I’m fine… I just haven't seen a sun like this before...Or in quite a long time, I suppose.”
Your musing seemed to satisfy the brunette, a smile forming of his own as he adjusted the strap of your bag on his shoulder. He had insisted on carrying it, grabbing it swiftly from the ship upon landing and moving forward with determination. Donald and Goofy stayed behind to work on repairs, your departure from them being a multitude of thank-yous and a wave goodbye.
You took a few hurried steps to fall in line with your guide once more. Your focus was mainly upon the world you were walking upon, eyes glancing over half-formed walls and seemingly patched up buildings. The top of what appeared to be some sort of castle loomed in the distance, its towers pointed and barely standing as smoke poured out of its stacks. Sora had done his best to explain why you might not recognize this place- and he was right. You felt no recollection, no jolt of a memory as you moved about.
“It’s just around the corner...Are you sure you’re alright?”
You glanced at the teenager to your right, his boyish features sending a reminder of Cato. “I’m fine, Sora. I promise.”
It was a lie, one you guessed he detected with the questioning look that flashed across his features. Your nerves were roiling in your stomach like an oncoming thunderstorm. You were to present this shell of someone they once knew…
What if that wasn’t good enough?
What if I’m not good enough?
He didn’t persist, however, and instead walked up a small landing to a grey stoned house, its wooden door and brown hued roof similar to the two homes nearby. This one, however, was adorned with a curled blue hat at the very tip of its roof.
With his one hand raised to knock, Sora looked back at your figure as you waited off the landing. You were fidgeting nervously with your necklace, but with a deep breath you nodded for him to proceed.
The door was immediately flung open from the other side, an excited yelp of the wielder's name and a heavy tug on his arm by what appeared to be a young girl.
“Sora! What are you doing here? Don’t you have some big bads to fight?”
She had pulled him into the threshold, her hands reaching out to shake his shoulders a little aggressively. She had short black hair adorned with a headband to match, her outfit of a crop top and shorts consisting of neutral colors. Her stark violet eyes were wide as she rambled on, all the while Sora doing his best to wave her off.
A gruff, muffled male voice could be heard from inside the home. “For Christ's sake, let the boy talk!”
“Whoops, sorry! What can we do for ya? Need a little training from the great ninja Yuffie before you head off?”
The girl let out a proud huff, her hands coming to rest on her hips as she spoke. Sora sighed, his one hand coming up to rub his shoulder as he carefully placed your bag on the floor.
“Is Leon around? I...brought someone important.”
“Oh, he’s moping around the castle. Why? Who did you...?”
Her voice fell to a whisper as she finally took notice of your presence, a gasp falling from her lips as she stood shell-shocked in place. You were unsure of what to do, your mind screaming at you with some sort of familiarity.
You know her. You know her.
The dazed expression that took over such a cheerful disposition had your heart aching.
Another voice, soft and kind and reminiscent of comfort spilled in from around the corner. Whatever was spoken was muddled, the crash of ceramic following it causing your head to snap in that direction.
The woman in pink.
She appeared to be around your age, her long brown hair pulled into a braid with a ribbon whose color mirrored her dress. Her green eyes shone in the light, brimming with what appeared to be tears as she spoke your name. A shattered potted plant lay at her booted feet.
“What in the hell is all this?!”
Another man, older and peering over Yuffie’s head from the doorway, joined in the fray. A half burned cigarette fell from his mouth, blue eyes wide as they took in your appearance. “By God…”
You didn’t know what to do- everything felt so heavy. Any words jammed themselves in your throat, becoming useless as you tried your best to take everything in. Blurry flashes of an old life danced at the edges of your vision like taunts for what is a much bigger puzzle, trying to push themselves out like hands pressed upon a glass.
Your heart knew:
This was your home.
They are your home .
And it hurt, it hurt, it hurt and you had no clue as to why. Your memory was not conjured like magic, you were not able to place names to faces, you were drowned in nothing but longing for what once was.
Your voice was broken and meek as you let out the only thing you could.
“I’m so sorry.”
You felt a set of arms wrap around you in an embrace, a blur of brown hair and beaded bracelets holding you tightly. Her tears spilled onto your shirt, soft whispers of reassurance filling your ears as you leaned in to return the touch.
You found yourself seated at a table with who you came to know as Aerith, a hot cup of tea in your hand as Sora talked hurriedly with Yuffie and Cid in the corner. He had to go, but seemed stressed about something, his eyes roving over to you every once in awhile. You heard snippets of their conversation as you tried your best to decipher exactly what it was.
“Just...promise you’ll take care of her.”
“You don’t have to worry about nothin’, kid. We don’t plan on losing her again…’specially if Leon’s involved.”
“He’s the only one she remembers, right?”
Aerith’s voice diverted your attention from the scene.
“Don’t let us overwhelm you. If you need to step away, please don’t hesitate to do so.”
Her kindness was something you welcomed wholeheartedly, a smile tugging at your lips at her statement. She appeared to be the epitome of a maternal presence, one that radiated such calmness that it carried over to your own being.
You let out a breath you didn’t even realize you were holding.
“Thank you, Aerith.”
Breaking away from Cid and Yuffie, Sora moved to stand next to the table, an almost guilty expression taking over his features. His hand came up to rub the back of his head as he struggled to speak, his ocean eyes downcast.
A nervous habit, you concluded.
“I have to get going. I’m sorry I can’t stay any longer.”
“You have much bigger things to take care of, Sora. Please don’t apologize.”
You placed your tea cup onto the table and stood, digging into your pockets all the while. The wielder watched you with curiosity before it was replaced with wonder. “Gran and I have been holding onto this for a while. It’s a Holy Stone- a pure gathering of light. Keep it on your being and it’ll come to aid you in your most dire need.”
You handed him the silver wristband it was attached to, watching as he examined the blue stone in his grasp.
“It’s the least I could do for everything you’ve done. You have a long journey ahead of you, but I know... I know that you’ll find the strength to protect what matters .”
Every time you looked at Sora you felt overwhelmed with a sense of protectiveness, regardless of how much you understood his place in the universe. The boy was still a boy, and he deserved any ounce of care and love that was thrown his way. That, you were absolutely certain.
He nodded, still awashed in amazement, and clipped it around his wrist with a quiet thank you.
With that the hero was off, waving goodbye with a cheeky smile as he shut the door behind him. Without a beat Yuffie ran up to sit at the table, her violet eyes wide as she began rapid firing questions your way, Aerith scolding her while Cid watched in amusement.
“Do you remember how to make pancakes? You made really good pancakes! Oh, what about when you took me to the Flower Festival?”
The raven-haired girl was talking a mile a minute, her excitement causing you to let out a small laugh.
“I-I don’t I’m sorry. I’d love to have you fill me in, though… Think you could try and remember that recipe for me?”
Before she could even agree, Cid yelled out from his spot across the room. His hands were digging in his pockets for another cigarette as he spoke. “ I’m the only one whose allowed in the kitchen around here, dammit! Don’t expect either of those two to give you anything that ain’t burnt to a crisp. You want advice, kid, you come to me.”
You tried to stifle a laugh behind your hand as both girls’ expressions turned to outright offense. Yuffie began chastising the male, a playful argument filling the air as you watched in continued amusement.
Everything felt so... right .
Then the door opened.
And the one who watched you die over and over again in your nightmare, the one who held out hope that maybe one day, one day you would find your way back, appeared scarred and conformed to the trials that he had no doubt experienced over the years.
Like oxygen being taken from a fire, silence fell over the entirety of the home.
And as blue eyes became locked with yours, you found yourself unable to breath.