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Memoria

Chapter Text

Chaos.

The darkness was spreading, spilling out of the city center like a broken pipe.

Friends, family, children… They were running, shoving, looking for a way out. Any way to safety.

You were shouting directions, pointing towards the airships parked at the edge of town. In the corner of your eye you watched a building crumble to nothing, crystal pink hearts floating up to the purple and black tinged sky in result.

Monsters.

Screams filled your ears as you watched a mass of these yellow-eyed shadows advance towards a large group of people, your breath hitching in your throat in realization that they were mostly children. Your grip on your staff tightened. You looked around, time seeming to slow down as another group appeared on your right, cornered.

Your ears were ringing, nearly blocking out the shouting of your name from behind you. Regardless, you did not turn back- not yet.

Breathe.

You lifted your staff, a bright yellow light surrounding it, and slammed it to the ground.

“ STOPZA! ”

The knock-back from the spell nearly sent you to the ground, but you stood tall, your shoulders shaking as you held tightly onto your weapon. The two group of monsters had halted mid-air, giving their near-victims a chance for escape.

You held on for as long as you could, your eyes tearing up as the ringing stopped, and your name was called once more. You looked over your shoulder to see him- it was always him.

A soft smile graced your face and an apology fell from your lips as the spell faded. The shadows turned towards you.

As your staff fell to the ground and the darkness descended upon you, his dark blue eyes were wide in shock, his gloved hand outstretched in your direction.

The cold was like no other-

And the boy’s anguished cry followed you to the dark.

 

You awoke from your slumber with a gasp, your hand flying up to rest on your rapidly beating heart as you sat up in bed.

The same nightmare- over and over and over again.

You looked out your window at the permanently setting sun, only the clock on your wall allowing you to confirm how early in the morning it was. A sigh escaped you as you clutched the jewelry that hung from your neck.

 

Unbeknownst to you, the brunette worlds away similarly woke up in a shock, your name falling from his lips in a shout, his hand outstretched. The same nightmare.

His hand moved back to rub his temple, his eyes roving over to the clock next to his bedside before moving to look out the window across the room. The sun had barely risen.

Nearly ten years and the dead still haunted him.

Chapter Text

You awaken to a land where endless sky meets endless sea.

You stare at your hands, and then at the reflection of what surely must be you, rippling ever so slightly in the water you stood upon.

Who...are you?

You recall nothing- nothing but a name that has to be yours.

_______

It felt right.

“What an unusual case…”

Turning to face the source of the voice, you see a small, cat-like creature staring up at you. Its grey fur was interrupted by various black stripes while its round head, adorned with small ears, was tilted to the side with curiosity. A cream colored cape and red pouch served as the creature’s attire.

You spoke, but the voice that escaped you seemed foreign- broken and barely above a whisper. “...W-Where... am I?”

“My name’s Chirithy. This is The Final World.”

“The...Final World?”

“Yes, those whose hearts and bodies perish together will move forward with death. Those who persist, however, end up here.”

You instinctively held your hand up to your chest. You could feel the beating of your heart, real and reassuring. Chirithy spoke before you could.

“There is something tying you here, refusing to let you go. The connection is strong- those who pass through here rarely appear whole...

You must’ve made a great sacrifice.”

Closing your eyes you tried to will your mind to work, to remember, but it was for naught. The hand on your chest closed into a fist as you tried to well away the tears of frustration that were bubbling up.

“I-I’m not whole...My memory, it’s gone.”

A sudden warmth surrounded you, causing you to open your eyes. It was a light, one that was growing ever brighter by the second.

The Chirithy seemed to gasp in shock, its words rushed as it spoke.

“The ties to your heart are willing you back! Your heart still holds your memories- you need to find your light. They will line the pieces up, they will be the key to remembering!”

You nodded as the light fully encompassed you.

“Thank you.”

___________________________________________________________________

 

“Grandma, Grandma! Look, Pup found a girl!”

A young boy excitedly stood in the center of Sunset Hill, his small frame stark against the expansive view. He was pointing at the odd scene before him: his labrador pup, its golden fur shining in the sun, was nuzzling up to a girl who was slumped down against the fence unconscious. The animal was licking her cheek, desperate to wake her up, but to no avail. It turned to the boy with a whine of concern.

The boy’s grandmother emerged from the winding path that led to the top. She was leaning on her cane, wisps of her grey hair that had fallen out of her bun moving in the breeze. Her powder blue dress moved in the wind as she moved to stand next to her grandson.

“Oh, dear…”

Her green eyes closed with a sigh.

“Grandma? What do we do?”

The boy looked up at her with eyes shockingly similar to her own, his face scrunched up with worry.

“Take Pup and go get Biggs, we’re going to need some help.”

Nodding with determination the young boy whistled for the dog, its ears perking up before it dashed over. Together they ran down the hill, bound for the other side of town.

Slowly crouching down before the unconscious girl, her cane keeping her steady, the woman reached out to brush hair away from the stranger’s face. The girl was still out, but her breathing was steady.

“You’ve made quite the journey, haven’t you?”

The woman reached for the girl’s hand, holding it in her own as she watched a single tear roll down her cheek. It glinted in the sunlight as it dropped and landed upon the silver jewelry that hung around her neck. A small smile grew on the grandmother’s face at this, her hand giving the girl’s a reassuring squeeze.

“A lion’s sigil... how fitting it is for such a strong light like yourself.

Chapter Text

 

“Sora, one more thing.”

Leon stood up from his seat at the cafe, effectively halting the young boy in his tracks. The Keyblade Wielder’s two anthropomorphic dog and duck companions continued their trek to the ship parked to the side of the courtyard, their hands waving about wildly as they immersed themselves into an argument of some sort.

Sora turned to look at the brunette, his blue eyes widening in surprise. He took notice of the solemn expressions that had suddenly befallen Aerith and Yuffie as they remained in their seats.

“Yeah, Leon?”

Sora watched as he pulled a photograph from his pocket. It was slightly crumbled, looking as if it had been folded this way and that. Gently flattening it out, Leon held it out for Sora to take.

“If you see this girl, can you promise to tell me?”

The photograph was of a teenage Leon, his eyes downcast and a smirk on his face. A girl was holding his hand, her head tilted to rest comfortably on his shoulder as they stood side by side. They both looked utterly content, in their own way. Sora’s keen eye caught notice of the matching sigils that hung from each of their necks.

“What’s her name?”

“…(y/n).”

A look of pure determination came upon the boy’s face, the same one Leon had seen many times during their trials there in Traverse Town. He was already asking so much of the kid- to save the worlds, to find the King, to find his own friends. But, this was Leon’s last hope- his last shot. If nothing came up…he would stop. At least, that’s what he was telling himself.

“I’ll find her, Leon. That’s a promise.”

Sora gently tucked the photo into his pocket- he know what it was like to lose those close to him…

The Keyblade Wielder surely wasn’t one to break his promises, either.

 

__________________________________________________

 

The loud thud of the jewelry shop’s back door rang out in the nearly empty Market Place. You fumbled for the keys in your pocket, all the while trying to balance a small, but hefty box on your hip. Finally retrieving them, you swiftly locked the back door and turned to make your way to the station. You tried to suppress a yawn as you climbed the steep hill.

Jumbled chatter from around the corner filled your ears, but the ever growing strain on your arms kept you distracted. You had been working at the shop everyday this week, from open to close, to give Gran a vacation of sorts. And Cato, with his pleading green eyes, roped you in to cover his shifts as well so he could practice for the upcoming Struggle Tournament. He had grown up to be quite the charmer, and he surely knew it. You couldn’t help the small smile that appeared on your lips at the thought. You remembered one time when-

“Do you need some help with that?”

Letting out a small yelp of surprise, you snapped your attention towards the source of the voice. A brown-haired, blue eyed boy was eyeing you with a look of slight amusement, his hands crossed behind his head in a relaxed manner. One either side of him stood two…companions? A duck and a dog, who you immediately learned, talked and acted like any human would. One was dressed like a guard of some sort, the other a mage.

“Yeah, Sora can carry that for ya. Looks kind of heavy, hyuck!”

You tiled your head to the side, a bemused look on your face as your tired mind tried to process the scene before you. Realizing that you may be appearing rude, you hitched the box up a bit and smiled.

“I’m alright. That’s very kind of you, though.”

“See, Sora? She’s got it- let’s keep moving!”

The duck squawked impatiently at the boy, his hands on his hips as he nodded in the direction you had come from. You let out an amused huff- what a trio they were.

Sora appeared slightly aghast at his friend’s words, his voice turning into a scolding whisper.

“Don’t be rude, Donald!”

Entertained by their antics you gently placed the box on the ground, bringing your hands up to rest on your hips. “You guys aren’t from around here, huh? Do you need help finding something?”

Sora let out an awkward laugh, his hands coming up to wave wildly in front of his face.

“We’re just meeting our friends, Hayner, Pence, and… and…”

Your eyebrows scrunched in confusion as you watched Sora’s movements slow down to a halt, his voice fading into a fumbling whisper. His blue eyes were wide as they moved from your chest to your face. You got ready to scold him for being so crude, your hand coming up to point at him in an accusatory manner.

“You really shouldn’t-“

“You’re (y/n).”

You blinked in confusion before falling back into a defensive state. “Excuse me? How do you know my name?”

This time the dog spoke up, his attention turning to the boy. “Sora, what’re you talkin’ about?”

Sora’s expression turned into one of panic, his hands patting wildly at the various pockets on his shorts. He was mumbling to himself, avoiding the concerned call of his name from Donald.

“You’re… you’re the girl… You have the same necklace-“

Before you could try and shake the brunette out of his distraught state, he stopped with a quiet sound of success falling from his lips. Unzipping a pocket, Sora yanked out a small piece of parchment that looked as though it had been to the ends of the universe and back. He held it out to you with a reassuring nod, a wide smile on his face.

“Your friends, they’ve been waiting for you. Leon, Yuffie, and Aerith and Cid! Leon asked me…”

You suddenly couldn’t even hear what else he was saying, his voice slowly being replaced by a loud, static-like sound that flooded your ears. Your hand was shaking as it took the paper from his palm.

'How- how does he?’

Upon the realization that it was a photo, you felt a pang in your chest. 

You made quite the journey, all those years ago  

Treating it like a precious jewel, you slowly unfolded it to reveal the preserved image. It was of you, a much younger you, holding hands with… with-

Him.  

Your hand flew up to your mouth in an attempt to suppress the sob that threatened to escape. You barely registered the voices of concern and the hand on your shoulder as the picture fluttered to the ground.

“Come on you two, don’t be so shy…”  

You closed your eyes in response to the pain that shot through your head at that voice. Your body hunched forward, the only thing stopping you from falling being Sora’s support. A muddled, almost pixelated scene was trying to play in front of your closed eyelids.

 “Come on, S#u/?). There’s no harm in pictures you know.”

A flash of a camera, a young woman in pink, the teasing giggle of a child…

The weight of a hand in your own.

And the face- the face of the boy who called out to you in your dreams.  

Your eyes shot open with a gasp, tears streaming down your face as you grabbed Sora’s gloved hands off your shoulders and held them with desperation. He was looking at you with utter guilt for causing your erratic state. Before he could apologize, you uttered the same words you spoke when you first awakened:

“You have to take me to him…

Please.”

Chapter Text

You carefully slid the photo across the wooden surface before you, your fingers initially hesitating to remove yourself from the connection. You could hear excited chatter spilling in ever so slightly from the the kitchen’s cracked window, Cato’s voice mixing in with Sora’s and his friends’.

The elderly woman sitting before you let out a hum of contemplation, her green eyes glinting behind her reading glasses as she observed the memory.

Your memory.

“You must follow your heart, (y/n)...”

You felt guilt rush over you like a tidal wave at your wants. How could you leave behind the family you held so dear? The boy you watched grow, the woman who kept you grounded…

“Do not fret about us, dear. You know that we are perfectly capable of taking care of ourselves.”

You scoffed, a sad smile upon your lips. Your hand came up to hastily wipe away another tear that had fallen. Of course she knew. She always did.

“I just… You’ve done so much for me. Nine years… nine years of this .” Your hand waved nonchalantly over your form, a small laugh escaping both you and the woman. Gran slid the photo back towards you, both of her hands reaching out to cradle yours.

“And watching you grow into the woman you’ve become has been the utmost honor.”

You sniffled, hating how you were retracting into the melodramatic form she had first found you in. Your heart was supposed to be strong, to be able to bear the weight of seemingly trivial things- to be able to revive from death and simply ache at the thought of any emotional perseverance was nothing but frustrating.

Guilt and potential rejection was forefront on your mind.

“...What...What if I’m not... wanted ? I remember nothing but my demise. What kind of person is that?”

She 'tsked', reaching up to remove her glasses and taking a quick glance outside to see the cause of Pup’s sudden barking. Her eyes glinted with mischief as she watched the labrador tackle Sora, effectively taking him to the ground while Cato laughed.

You couldn’t help the smile that tugged at the corner of your lips, but it quickly diminished upon realizing the unfinished discussion that was still at hand.

“(Y/N), how do you expect to regain the pieces you’ve lost without going to the one who holds them?”

The elder woman spoke in an earnest tone, her focus unwavering as she watched you grab the photo from off the table.

“Your friends, whoever they may be, kept you tethered to this plane because of their love for you. You must not take that for granted.”

You looked at her and nodded slowly in agreement, your expression still forlorn as she stood.

“Let me help you pack.”

And so she did. You moved about wildly, insisting on taking as many photos and journals as possible. You needed your stationary for letters, but left knick-knacks behind, insisting that you were going to visit often. This house was a home, and it would always remain that way.

“Hm, if you’re going to visit, you better bring that boy in the picture. I bet you he’s grown into quite the man.”

Gran sent a smile and sly wink in your direction, causing your heart to flutter in your chest at the recollection of how seemingly...cozy you were with him, both in that photo and the muddled flashback it caused. It was an odd feeling, to be so uneasy over someone’s name you weren’t even sure of.

Leon.

That is the name that Sora had given, but it seemed... off .

“I can’t believe you’ve been to different worlds. I mean, come on! How did you not start off with that?”

Because he’s not supposed to tell anyone .”

You and Gran chuckled at the duck’s scolding tone at Cato’s inquiry, their voices carrying down the hall and into your room. Quickly tossing your bag over your shoulder, you exited the space shortly after Gran, hesitating a bit as you glanced it over and slowly closed the door. The rag-tag group was waiting for you at the front door, their conversation coming to a halt at your appearance.

“I see you’ve made your decision.”

Sora nodded at your bag, a knowing smile on his face.

“I… suppose I have.”

Gran immediately pulled you in for a hug, her eyes brimming with unshed tears. Cato was next, his sudden embrace nearly sending you to the ground. You swore you caught him mumbling something about him missing you, which for him, was quite the confession.

Before he could pull away you grabbed his face with your hands, his expression an amusing mix of embarrassment and confusion.

“W-What are y-you doing?”

The raven-haired boy’s voice was muffled slightly as you pushed his cheeks together, a very serious look on your face. His green eyes widened as he tried to wiggle out of your hold.

“If you do anything stupid- anything, I will land so quickly back onto this world you won’t even know what hit you.”

“Alright, alright !”

You immediately released him, a smug look on your face at his exasperated state. The trio behind him chuckled at your actions.

Sora moved to rest his hands behind his head, his voice gentle as he spoke.

“Ready?”

You took a deep breathe and readjusted the strap of your bag.

“Let’s go.”

 


 

The journey was quick, but otherworldly in what it held. Sora told you of his adventures, doing his best to describe to you the turmoil that was going on. They were so very close to the end, the Mansion holding some sort of Door to Darkness, and you had deterred them.

You apologized profusely, the Keyblade Wielder waving his hand nonchalantly with a smile on his face.

“Don’t worry about it. I made a promise to a friend- I wasn’t about to break it.”

You nodded, his smile contagious as you focused your attention back to the stars speckled outside the Gummi Ship’s window. Your stomach seemed to do a flip as you heard Goofy enthusiastically yell out from his seat-

“We’re almost there!”

You fiddled nervously with the lion sigil that hung from your neck.

Chapter Text

“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.

“(Y/N)?”

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.

Merlin’s place.

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.

“Oh, (y/n)...”


 

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.

Chapter Text

The crashing of a teacup falling to the floor knocked everyone from their stupor, apology after apology falling from your lips as you scrambled to clean up the mess. Your heart was beating a mile a minute, well aware of the multiple sets of eyes that had fallen upon your form. Shaking hands barely held the ceramic pieces as you did your best to hold yourself together.

You heard the scraping off a chair and suddenly Aerith was beside you, dabbing up the tea with a cloth as she did her best to hide her worry. You couldn’t bring yourself to look up, mumbled conversations from the other three in the room and the slamming of the door causing you to freeze.

“Leon!”

Yuffie’s distressed call felt like a knife in the chest.

You knew it. You knew he wouldn’t…

“Nah, kid. You stay here. I got it.”

Cid’s tone was grave, his footsteps echoing like gunshots as he followed after the brunette. You stared and stared at the shattered dishware in your hand.

‘What have I done?’

The gentle call of your name had you finally looking up to find Aerith holding out the now dirtied cloth, waiting for you to pass along the glass. You nodded and did your best to smile, thanking her as she moved to toss everything in a nearby bin. Yuffie remained quiet, hands balled into fists at her sides as she stared at the door with a scowl.

“Yuffie, why don’t we help (y/n) settle into the guest room?”

The young girl seemed to pause, as if wanting to lash out before deciding on a quiet sound of agreement.

You had what felt like a thousand emotions and thoughts clouding your mind, crashing together as one part of you screamed to stay put, while the other begged for you to follow him. Aerith’s hand fell into yours, tugging you along as she gestured for Yuffie to grab your bag.

A decision was made for you.

As the sun began to settle over the broken world, your half-glazed eyes barely registered that you had been guided across the courtyard to one of the homes you had seen upon arrival. A small entryway presented three doors, one clearly marked as Yuffie’s with a handmade sign.

“This one can be yours, if you’d like.”

Aerith opened the door on your left, leading you into a simple room that held a bed, dresser, and a small table tucked into the corner.

“You have your own bathroom and Yuffie and I are right across the hall. The kitchen is in the main house with Cid and...and Leon.” Her sentence fell off to a whisper, emerald eyes downcast as she clasped her hands in front of her. Yuffie placed your bag on the bed, turning to face you with a smile, her hand waving dismissively in the air.

“Don’t worry about him, he’s just being a big baby. He’ll come around soon, I’m sure of it!”

She moved to the door, winking at you on the way out. “You should rest up, you have a world tour in the morning with none other than Yuffie Kisaragi herself!”

Said tour guide put her hands on her hips, her enthusiastic attitude drawing you from your dissociated state. Aerith nodded, reaching out to give your hand a reassuring squeeze. “Make sure to let us know if you need anything, alright?”

“Of course, thank you. I…

You took in a deep breath, shaking off the suggestion that maybe it was best for you to go. One man would not chase you away from the friends you had worked so hard to return to- that, you were certain.

I’ll see you all in the morning, then.”

And with that the two girls departed, leaving you alone to unpack as the sun continued its descent from the sky. You placed your knick-knacks here and there, making sure to place the photo of you, Gran, and Cato front and center on the dresser.

At the very bottom of your bag, tucked away in the pages of your notebook, lay the photo of you and Leon. You felt your heart drop in your chest as you absentmindedly fiddled with it, ultimately deciding to tuck it away in one of the drawer’s.

It felt...odd, selfish even, to want the attention of someone you had so clearly hurt. You had no recollection of what kind of person you had been before you perished, the thought causing a heavy sense of uneasiness. The others had welcomed you with open arms, but maybe they had painted a different picture of you over the years. Perhaps they morphed and molded memories to create a better version of someone they lost.

Afterall, Yuffie was just a kid when she lost everything.

The very thought of what she may have seen made you sick.

With a sigh you stood from your seat at the table, slipping your shoes on to get a breath of fresh air. Night had fallen, so you made sure to be quiet as you made your way outside so as not to disturb the others. And despite how minimal it may seem, the thought of seeing stars again had you giddy.

The cool breeze was refreshing on your skin, your eyes tilted upwards as you leaned against the stone of the house. The stars, so stark again the darkness of the night, had the corners of your lips upturned in a small smile.

 

“You know, they say that the stars are other worlds.”

“Do you think one day we’ll get to see them?”

The brown-haired boy turned to look at you, shrugging his shoulders at your question.

“Who knows...I don’t think it would be worth it if we didn’t go together, though.”

Heat rose to your cheeks at the implication, your eyes darting to look at him before they returned to the night sky.

“R-Right.Together.”

 

You shouldn’t be alone out here .”

The voice startled you out of your memory in an instant- the recollection ending like a fire that had just been doused in water. Leon, with arms crossed and expression unreadable, stood just a few feet away.

His steady gaze sent a shiver down your spine.

“...I just...miss the stars.”

Your voice was quiet, arms wrapping tighter around yourself as you glanced his way, only to return your attention to the sky.

To your surprise he moved to stand next to you, gaze also upwards. You took in a deep breath as you prepared to break the silence.

“I’m sorry I’m not who you expected.”

You didn’t bother to look at him as you spoke, taking his silence as a nod to continue.

“I’m sorry I don’t remember everything, and that I didn’t find my way back sooner. We were so young and Yuffie, God she was just a kid, wasn’t she? I- I’m just… so, so , sorry.”

Your hand came up to hastily wipe away a few tears that had fallen. It was too much, it was all too much . But you knew that if you didn’t speak up now, if you let any resentment he may have fester and grow any longer than the nine years it had, you would never make it past these barriers. You pushed yourself off the wall, turning away to go back inside to get away from his distressing silence.

A gloved hand wrapping gently around your wrist had you halting your movements.

“You saved her, you know.”

Leon’s voice was gentle, blue eyes connecting with yours as you turned to face him. “You saved a lot of people that day; that isn’t something you should apologize for.”

He dropped his hold, watching as you battled with your guilt before closing his eyes with a sigh.

“Get some sleep.”

The brunette left without another word, leaving you alone once again.

You could still feel the ghost of his hand on your wrist as you made your way back inside, heart still beating quickly at the contact. Even as you lay in bed and let the embrace of sleep take hold, you couldn’t shake off the feeling that you yearned for so much more.

Chapter Text

“And this is the Bailey!”

Yuffie swung her arms out dramatically, a wide grin on her face as she gestured at the concrete passageway you had entered. Your eyes roved over the strange area in wonder, your feet immediately taking you to one of the windows. It held an expansive view of the world, the sky clear and beautiful in contrast to the strange, jagged ravines that wove through the ground.

“It’s not much, but most of our reconstruction had to be put on hold with the Heartless and all…”

The brunette’s expression softened as she moved to stand next to you, her focus also outward.

“You all have taken a world that was once so broken that it became uninhabitable...and you’ve made it a home. I think you’ve made giant leaps, even if it doesn’t feel like it.” 

You spoke with sincerity, completely in awe at their progress. Sora had described how scattered this world was when he first arrived, like a strange puzzle that was being held together by invisible strings. You saw the damage those monsters could cause, playing in your mind like a record as that fateful day arose in your sleeping mind almost nightly.

Yuffie turned to look at you, her bright demeanor returning. She held a mischievous glint in her eyes. “I overheard Leon talking to Aerith one day about you and...this. Before you came back, and all.”

You let out a questioning hum, unsure if it would actually be something you wanted to hear. She continued, nonetheless.

“She was telling him to take a break and he said…”

Yuffie paused, clearing her throat and turning her expression serious. She spoke lowly, “...It doesn’t matter if she’s alive or not, I owe her this.”

You sucked in a sharp breath, eyebrows furrowing in a mix of confusion and appreciation. Why...why would he owe you anything? The horror that you caused his younger self was painted in the back of your mind like seemingly permanent acrylics. You abandoned him, alone, to a crumbling world.

‘...You saved a lot of people that day.’

“Don’t look so shocked, (y/n). I mean, I was just a kid, but you guys were-”

Whatever Yuffie said next faded into nothingness, a heavy shiver racking down your spine as your senses became hyper focused on the energy that crackled nearby. You snapped around, eyes wide as you scanned the area frantically.

Darkness, swirling in a circle and void-like, produced a Heartless just a few feet away. Its bulbous head tilted to the side, yellow eyes wide and antennas twitching as it poised to pounce the girl who was oblivious to its existence. Time felt as though it had slowed down, mind going into panic mode as you roughly grabbed Yuffie by the shoulder and shoved her behind you.

Not again, never again.

Before she could protest, you let out an instinctual battle cry that crawled its way from an unknown memory and out of your throat.

“Thunder!”

The call produced a harsh bolt of lightning at the shadow from your raised arm, disaperating the creature in an instant. Your heart pounded in your chest, breaths becoming gasps as you turned to hold Yuffie by the shoulders. The world was swirling around you, turning the stone cove you were in into an unfamiliar alleyway. The girl before you looked scared, violet eyes wide as you spoke rapidly.

She was young again, small and vulnerable and only seven years old.

You had to protect her. You had to.

“We need to get you out of here, now!”

Voices, incomprehensible and sounding like you were underwater, tried to pull you from this. But you simply tugged on her arm, her body unmoving and expression frozen in time. “Please, Yuffie. Please!”

You could feel tears running down your cheeks, vision becoming blurred as a result. Why wasn’t she moving?

A gloved hand on your shoulder and another call of you name had you whipping around in an instant, dropping your grasp on Yuffie like it was hot coal.

“Hey, she’s alright. It’s alright.”

Blue eyes met yours and like the moon eclipsing to cover the sun, the delusion melted away in an instant. The man was looking at you with concern, one hand on your shoulder while the other gently held your wrist. You focused on his touch, the reassuring and oh-so familiar warmth knocking a sob from your throat.

He looked behind you, voice suddenly gruff as he spoke. “Yuffie, go get Aerith.”

You saw a flash of black and white as she ran past your frozen form. His face weaved in and out from the one he had all those years ago, to the scarred one he had now. Your chest ached like it never had, tears tasting like saltwater as they fell to your lips.

“(Y/N)... stay with me.”

You don’t know how or why, but his voice ran over you like silk, knocking something within you as his hand moved to cradle your cheek.

Your tone was raw and broken as you let his name, the right name, roll off of your tongue.

“Squall?”

The man in question turned rigid, expression unreadable until it fell into something akin to relief. His hand slid from your face to the back of your head, the other to your waist, and he tugged you into him like you would turn to dust any second.

And you cried and cried, face nestled into his shirt as your heart began to rebuild itself.

It had finally recognized its light. 

Chapter Text

“Why did this happen?”

Leon spoke with a tone that barely suppressed his feelings of concern. His blue eyes stayed trained on your sleeping form, your face still slightly reddened from your earlier cries, as he inquired with Aerith.

“Her heart is reassembling itself, filling the fractures that have been empty for so long. It’s...not the kindest process to the body.”

Silence fell over the two of them, the healer absentmindedly running her fingers over your knuckles as she sat by your bedside. You had fallen limp in Leon’s arms shortly after you spoke his name, like some sort of spell had awashed over your distraught form.

“...How long?”

Aerith let out a hum, emerald eyes coming up to connect with his. “Until she awakens?”

Leon nodded, arms crossed in front of his chest as he leaned against the opposite wall.

“It shouldn’t be long, perhaps tomorrow. I think she just needs a good rest, but for now I’d rather not leave her alone.”

Her voice was sincere, tinged with a maternal worry that only Aerith could carry. The swordsman closed his eyes with a sigh, returning to making a feeble attempt at organizing the thoughts and emotions that ran wild within himself.

The forefront of them all was…

Guilt .

What kind of man walks out on a person who abandoned all they had built up just to… come back to someone like him ?

What kind of man allows someone to apologize for mistakes they never even made?

You were always so empathetic, and kind, and loving

Perhaps that’s why one part of him yelled at himself to stay away, while the other ached for the ardor of a love’s past.

Leon opened his eyes, irises falling once again on your peaceful form. You were still so...

“I can stay.”

He blurted out his offer a little more clumsily than he liked, his own words knocking out the next pattern of his thoughts like water on a fire. Aerith looked up at him in surprise before her lips settled into a knowing smile. Her bangles jingled as she let go of your hand, carefully moving it to rest at your side, before her own hands came to settle upon her lap.

“I suppose… I should be checking in on Yuffie. I worry that a part of her thinks that this is her fault.”

Leon’s voice was gruff, his attention shifting away to the door so as to avoid the perceptive look of his companion. “Obviously it isn’t.”

He heard her shifting to stand, her footsteps, however, were so light that he barely noticed her close proximity until her hand reached up to land on his shoulder.

“Everything’s going to be alright, Leon… It’s not that one owes an apology to the other- you owe it to yourselves.”

Leon’s eyebrows scrunched up in confusion, mouth slightly agape as Aerith made her way to the door. “Knock if you want to switch, I’ll have Cid brew a pot of coffee for you.”  

She left without another word.

He sighed, moving off the wall to remove his jacket and gloves to place them on the nearby table. Perhaps, he thought as he fiddled with the fabric, she was right…

Regardless.

The brunette settled into the chair at your bedside, arms crossing over his chest once more as he leaned back to make himself comfortable. Night had already begun to fall, the golden color of the disappearing sun spilling in through the window and washing your still frame in its light. Despite how hard he tried to distract himself with the intricacies of your room, like your knick-knacks and scattered jewelry, he couldn’t help but glance at you from the corner of his eye.

That’s when he saw them:

Tears, fresh and new as they slid down your face and onto the pillow upon which your head rested. A small whimper fell past your barely parted lips, face twisting into an expression that he could only conclude as pain.

Leon immediately sat up, his one hand reaching up to dangle near your cheek, his fingers shaking slightly in hesitation.

Another weak cry from you had him moving to wipe away your tears with a tenderness that he himself barely recognized. He brushed loose strands of hair behind your ear, his own heart beating rapidly in his chest as yours began to calm. You let out a contented sigh, face softening as whatever plagued you began to fade.

And Leon fell back into his chair, relief rushing through him before the inevitable what-ifs and how-comes plagued his mind like they always did.

Your heart was rebuilding itself, was it not? How long would it be before you even remembered everything?

Surely not instantly.

And you… you deserved your space to grow, to become one with your memories. To reconcile with your past…

You deserved to decide if he was even worth it.

And God, he hated how selfish he felt in that moment... because he really hoped he was.

He knew you were.

Chapter Text

“Happy Birthday, Miss (y/n)!”

You stumbled backwards at the sudden surprise, feeling familiar hands settle upon your shoulders to keep you steady. Shock turned to joy, a wide smile taking over your features as your hand came up to rest upon your heart.

There, in the courtyard, were your students. Aerith stood in the center with a cake in her hands, surrounded by the community center class, while Cid stood tall in the background with Yuffie on his shoulders- who was currently wielding a dangerous amount of sparklers.

You felt the hands slip from your shoulders, watching in awe as the group of young children ran at you with so much force love that it had you fall to your knees. You embraced them each with a light laugh, spewing ‘thank-yous’ and compliments as they showered you with flowers and crafts that Aerith had no-doubt had them creating when you weren’t looking.

Speaking of, your co-teacher walked over, bending down to your level so you could blow out the ‘17’ shaped candle as a chorus of voices sang to you in a broken, but endearing harmony.

You looked around, time seeming to slow down as your eyes landed upon the surly, brown-haired young man who stood off to the side. His arms were crossed in front of his chest, posture proud and seemingly intimidating-

if you didn’t know any better.

A sly wink and a slight uptick of his lips had your heart rapidly beating in your chest.

A sudden yelp knocked you out of your stupor, attention quickly turning to the mechanic across the way. Cid was letting out a string of curses, the toothpick between his teeth barely muffling his yells as he stomped out the fire that had occurred on his precious beanie.

Yuffie was rolling on the ground with raucous laughter, the other children joining in as you and Aerith looked on in horror.

Your eyes connected with her green ones, your disturbed expressions quickly melting into amused ones as you both joined in on the laughter.

This- this was the calm before the storm. This was before the light would expire-

This was... happiness.

You awoke with a small gasp, lungs burning and head pounding as your body tried to adjust to its newly awakened state. Your hands grasped at the sheets underneath you, eyes taking a bit to adjust to the darkness of the room.

You immediately sat up, panic rising in your chest like bile as blankets slid from your form.

‘Where am I?’

Moonlight spilled in through half shut curtains, washing over a chair and table, which held a vase of fresh lilies. You could spot half doodled notes and what appeared to be building plans. Surely nothing you had anything to do with, right?

Next, the dresser. Upon it sat a photo, one barely made out to be… to be Gran and Cato.

And the incident that put you into this state rushed back to you, inciting a tired groan from your lips as your headache rose in power. Your hand came up to rest lightly on your temple, eyes closing for a moment before they shifted to look at your bedside.

You jerked back in surprise.

There, with eyes shut and chest gently rising and falling in the rhythm of sleep, sat Le-

No, Squall.

Squall.

His arms were crossed over his chest, his legs outstretched in front of him and crossed at the ankle. His head was tilted slightly forward, that position and flimsy wooden chair having a spike of worry rush through you at how uncomfortable he must be.

But, he was so... peaceful. The constant scrunching of his brow in worry, or anger, or confusion, was gone, providing the opportunity for his alluring features to pull you in. The glint of his jewelry, including his earrings and necklace that matched your own, had you staring in awe.

You really hadn’t had a chance to look at him yet, did you?

His hair differed slightly from your memories, a little longer, perhaps. Natural aging had taken place, but had it not with you, too?

The only change that sent a painful ache through your heart was his scar.

Would he tell you, one day, how he got it? Or would you move on, too afraid to ask in that it may be too painful for him to recall?

Your hand reached out to linger next to his cheek, body stretched out in an instinctual movement that suddenly had your own eyes widening in surprise.

What were you doing?

A puff of air suddenly flew past his lips, Squall’s one eye slowly opening to find you frozen in place. Sleepy confusion took over his features, both of his eyes now blinking open in slight surprise as they moved to look from your hand to your face.

“...I see you’re awake.”

His voice was gruff and muffled slightly from sleep, blue orbs unnervingly trained on your own. You quickly retracted your hand, croaking out a ‘sorry’ that sounded more like a wheeze than anything.

The corner of his lips fell and suddenly he was standing, moving quickly across the room to grab a glass of water off the table. He gently grabbed your hand, lifting it from your knee to press the aforementioned drink into it.

“Drink it. All of it.”

Your eyebrows scrunched up, taken aback by his demanding tone, before something within yourself told you to settle down.

‘He cares, he’s just… not the most eloquent.’

You downed the water in seconds, choosing to fiddle the empty cup nervously when you finally spoke. “How long?”

“Three days.”

You let out a low hum, oddly not finding that too jarring- you worried it had been longer. The creak of Squall settling back into the chair had you turning back to look at him. He spoke, gently this time, as you watched him with an ache in your heart that you couldn’t quite place.

“How are you feeling?”

“...Different, but I-I don’t know why.”

It was true- your heart and head were...heavy, almost. But there was still so much missing, you just knew it. It was as though you had done the outer layer of a very large, complicated puzzle, but the center-

The center was blank.

You had performed magic, had you not? But how ? And you had remembered his name, his real name, and those scattered memories.That memory-

A jolt of pain through your skull had you letting out a hiss, the blurring of your vision and general discomfort nearly having you crawl back under the covers. A sudden dip in the bed, then a hand on your shoulder, and you couldn’t stop yourself from moving to wordlessly rest your head on his chest.

He stiffened slightly, his arms moving to rest at his sides as he remained on the edge of the mattress.

You were busy trying to calm your heart rate, your headache decreasing in its intensity as every minute ticked by. You focused on the muskiness of his scent, lightly laced with gunpowder, and the beating of his own heart.

Homely and comforting; like you had experienced this a million times before.

“I’m sorry.”

Your spoke in a hushed tone, your eyes still closed and breath fanning out across his neck.

“...Don’t be.”

At those words, like the sun coming in to dissipate the morning dew, one of the many walls between you two had dropped.

Silence was not a burden, and the way his arm wrapped around your waist to keep you steady felt only right. You would fall back asleep like that, body and mind still in a recovering state as Squall gently maneuvered your form to lie back down, and plucked the discarded cup from your bed.

He would return to his chair, a million little unsaid words dancing on his tongue, and you would awaken to find him still there in the morning.

Chapter Text

You rolled over onto your back with a slight groan, your arm coming up to shield your eyes from the sunlight streaming in through thin curtains. Head feeling heavy, and limbs sore from such little movement these past few days, you had trouble finding the motivation to remove yourself from the comfort of your bed.

Little bits and pieces of memories were playing like movie clips on the back of your eyelids anyway, enrapturing you enough to nearly have you lulling back into another slumber. 

“I’m Aerith, it’s nice to meet you!”

“Don’t go wavin’ that staff around all wild n’ shit, alright?”

“Yuffie, you have to go to class. No, don’t-”

“Squall, I’m fine. I’m not s-sick, I swear-”

The sudden memory of him had you reflecting on what transpired last night, heat now rising to your cheeks and hands moving to yank the covers over your head in slight embarrassment. 

“You should eat something.”

The gruff, but familiar voice only caused your heart to beat even faster. Slowly, but surely you emerged from your blanket cove, sitting up to nervously glance at the man across the room. He was no longer by your side, instead seated at the small table littered with paperwork. His outerwear was still discarded, his upper half only adorned with his necklace and white t-shirt. Blue eyes stared into your own, barely appearing through his endearingly bedhead-ed locks. If the steaming cup of coffee gripped tightly in one of his hands wasn’t enough, the near blank expression on his face was-

Squall wasn’t a morning person. He wasn’t when he was a teenager, and he surely wasn’t now.

Your lips tilted up into a smirk, eyes shining with mirth at the sight. “I think I’d rather have that coffee.”

“...You like tea.”

You were slightly taken aback by his response, mouth agape for a second before it settled into a soft smile. 

What a seemingly little thing, for him to remember such a preference.

Regardless.

Before you even had a chance to retort the door flew open, followed by Yuffie’s squeal of excitement at your awakened state. She immediately wrapped her arms around your upper half, nearly pulling the two of you off the bed with her force.

“M-Morning to you too, Y-Yuffie.”

Realizing she was hugging you a little too tight, the teenager released her hold, stepping back to look at you with a grin. “Man, I didn’t think you were gonna wake up! I thought we’d have to pull a Sleeping Beauty- ya know?”

You tilted your head to the side in confusion. “A what?”

Her grin turned cattish, hands coming up to rest on her hips. “I met this Princess once who told me she got stuck under a sleeping spell, kinda like you did, and the only way to break it was for her true-”

Yuffie.”

Squall’s annoyed growl cut through the air like ice, causing Yuffie to shoot him a glare.

“It’s not like it was a bad idea! You’re just stubborn, Squall!”

“It’s Leon.”

You watched the argument with wide eyes, mouth opening up to squash it before it got too far, before Aerith’s gentle voice washed over the tense room like a much needed balm. “I’m glad to see you all awake, just in time for breakfast too.”

She looked over at you with a knowing smile, before speaking once more-

“Why don’t we give (y/n) some space to wash up?”

Treating her suggestion more like a demand, the both of them began making their way out, Squall making sure to take his coffee along with him. Yuffie glared holes into his back, while Aerith sent you a wink before shutting the door behind her. Letting out a light laugh and shaking your head at their dynamic, you began to get ready.


You stood over the table, hands gently sifting through the blueprints Squall left behind with awe. They were extremely detailed, outlining the entire world’s reconstruction plan from the Outer Gardens to the Fountain Court. You traced your fingers over the lines and notes, the world around you seeming to melt away.

“Squall, put me down!”  

The teenager in question only laughed, your shouts of protest and faint-hearted hits to his back doing nothing. He had you slung over his shoulder, your world turned upside down as he walked down the stairs and into the fountain court. The sound of running water had you panicking, fully aware that despite his stone-cold exterior, Squall was not incapable of mischief. 

Seemingly satisfied with the destination, he gently placed you back onto your own two feet.

Face red from both embarrassment and flipped blood flow, you gave him the best pointed look you could manage. Before you could even scold him, he spoke in a strangely serious tone-

Relax."

The tension in your shoulders immediately dissipated, eyes shifting to the ground.

“I know, I know.... I just, we have the festival coming up, and Merlin was telling me about this new spell he wants me to learn, and Yuffie’s dad is ...I-”

Your voice trailed off as he grabbed your hand, pressing a small blue box into it.

“Happy belated birthday.”

You looked from the gift to him, eyebrows scrunched in confusion. “Squall… I- you helped with the party, you didn’t have to get me anything.”

He hummed, expression soft. “Just open it.”

Your heart beat rapidly in your chest, fingers shaking as you complied with his request. There, a silver necklace glinted in the light, the intricate pendant that dangled on the end having you suck in a sharp breath. Staring up at you with an inquisitive eye was the side of a lioness’ head, a half pointed cross stuck out of the bottom, just like...just like his.

You looked up at your childhood friend, the one who you stuck to like glue for years. The one who has seen you in every emotional state imaginable, the one you trained with, the one who you teased, the one who, every once in a while, entangled his fingers with yours if no one was around.

...The one who carried you home when your feet just wouldn’t work, the one who let you drop your head on his shoulder when you just couldn’t keep it up anymore, the one who.... Who you-

You gasped, eyes fluttering open for a second before they closed again. Both of your hands gripped the table now like it was a life-line, and you were shoved back into the memory like a wave roughly pulling you from the shore.

“Thank you, Squall...It’s beautiful.”

Your thumb carefully brushed over the lioness’ head, as if afraid it would crumble in your hands. You looked up at the brunette, “Mind helping me out?”

He nodded, gently taking the jewelry out of your grasp. You turned around and swiped your hair to the side, the feeling of his hands brushing against your neck causing a shiver to run up your spine. 

Slowly, so slowly you faced him.

“How does it look?”

Your voice was shaking when you spoke, some unknown nervousness bubbling up within you. But Squall, calm and confident like always, only tilted his lips up into a small smile. 

“...Perfect.”

And maybe it was the way that he said it, or the fact that his attention was nowhere near where the necklace rested, but instead on you as a whole, that it had your heart stopping. 

As if the space between you wasn’t already barely present, he seemed to step closer, his hand coming up to gently settle on your cheek. You sighed, leaning into the touch without hesitation. His other hand came to fall on your hip, causing your eyes to flutter shut for just a second, before they returned the look of adoration he was giving you.

The two of you basked in a silence cloaked in nothing but yearning, waiting for the other to break the cycle-

And he did, tilting his head just right to brush his lips against yours for the very first time. Eager to return his affections, you moved to do the same.

“(Y/N)!”

A sudden shout of your name had the two of you freezing in your actions, as a familiar blur of chaos that went under the guise of non-other than Yuffie bounded down the stairs. You couldn’t help but laugh, your head falling to rest on his chest. Squall let out an annoyed sigh, hand slipping from your waist. “...I guess we’ll finish this later.”

You looked up at him with a gentle smile, “We have all the time in the world, Leonhart.”

Reality came rushing back at you, your hand coming up to cover your mouth in shock. This memory did not feel like a film, you were not a spectator to a past event, you were in it. You felt every single thing you had back then.

“(Y/N)?”

That voice had you choking back a sob, tears threatening to spill as you gripped the edge of the table even tighter with your free hand.

...You had loved him.

You had loved him.

“O-One minute!”

You could not deny the pull you felt, the call within your heart that you needed him. He had been important to you, no doubt. A member of a family you cherished but lost, someone who haunted you like a ghost every night in your dreams, who was now real and here

He was your tie to this plane.

He was your first love.

And, God, how did you not realize it until now?

The creak of the door opening had you looking nervously out the window, your hand shaking as you ran it through your hair.

“...Food’s getting cold.”

Squall’s voice had you taking a deep breath before you turned to face him, looking as composed as you could be. “S-Sorry, I… got distracted.”

The brunette looked as if he was going to comment on your state, but instead held back. Patiently he waited in the threshold, and silently the two of you made your way across the small courtyard to meet the others. Too preoccupied with your own thoughts, you didn’t notice the way his eyes stole glances at you as you walked by his side.

And he didn’t notice the way your hand kept brushing up against his, as if instinctively trying to entangle your fingers with his own.

Chapter Text

“You need to read this, my dear, before you begin to cast any spells again.”

Nodding in understanding, you gently took the large green novel from the familiar wizard, cradling it protectively against your chest. Merlin’s dark eyes shone with delight. “Now, send me a letter when you’re done reading that. You can give it to the Moogle in the shopping court- they can travel between worldlines with a simplicity I could only hope to muster!”

You smiled, a fondness for the wizard you could only hope to place bubbling in your chest.

“Of course, Merlin. I can’t thank you enough.”

He smiled, the corner of his eyes crinkling as he did so. “Anything for my favorite pupil! Do you need anything else before I go?”

You tapped your nails nervously on the cover of the book, and took a deep breath before requesting the one thing you couldn’t stop thinking of.

“Merlin, is there anyway you could get me to Twilight Town one day? I’d like to visit, if that’s possible. Cid doesn’t have a ship up and running, and there’s so much rebuilding to be done, I just-”

The wizard let out a hearty laugh, effectively cutting off your small rant. “There’s always a way (y/n), it just isn’t always easy. Your heart is still in a fragile state, but when you feel as though you are ready, let me know in writing and I will transport you myself. Of course, you’ll need someone to go with you...”

He tapped his chin in thought, a light bulb seeming to appear over his head. “Ah, Leon! He’s quite deft in worldly understandings and what-not. I’ll speak to him about it.”

You felt your stomach drop, nails stopping their rapid movement as you absorbed his words. Nearly a week had passed since your sudden recollection of… that memory came to be.You never spoke of it, not even to Aerith, who you had grown even closer to as time passed. She spoke with ease about any topic, would bring up little memories here and there, and would spend time with you gardening or shopping in the Marketplace. Maybe one day you could start your after-school program back up, you both noted.

Yuffie was bubbly and lovely- a tornado that left you surprised and proud after being with her. It was jarring to say the least, seeing her go from seven to seventeen was an adjustment you never found yourself quite ready for. It was heartbreaking, really, because you realized you missed the adventure of watching her grow up. But she had become your cheerleader in trying to summon your magic back- and you couldn’t be happier.

Cid, was well, Cid. A grumpy mechanic who did his job and did it well. Full of hidden wisdom and a knack for cooking, you had enjoyed a beer in the kitchen with him the other day, while he rambled on about some defense system he created called Claymores, and you relayed the memory of Yuffie sitting his hair on fire at your seventeenth birthday. He grumbled something about ‘that little brat’ but there was a fondness in his words that couldn’t be ignored.

And Squall you had only seen during meals, too scared to do anything but steal glances. There were so many things you wanted to say, and it never felt like the words playing on the tip of your tongue were enough.

The possibility of taking a trip with him, to introduce him to Gran and Cato, was nothing short of nerve-wracking.

“Ah, look at the time, dear. I better get going! Remember, practice is the key to remembrance!”

“W-Wait, Merlin!”

But he was already gone, your shout a feeble attempt that did nothing but push the puff of smoke that he left behind. You sighed, taking note of the sitting sun, before your feet carried you back to your room. You supposed you could study, and start writing your letter to Gran-

It’s not as though you had been sleeping very well anyway.

Memories would jolt you from your sleep like a bolt of electricity, keeping you awake for the rest of the night, regardless of how positive or negative they were. You were glad Merlin had given you a task for you to occupy your time with.

After changing into more comfortable clothing and lazily pinning your hair back, you sat at the table in the corner of your room and immersed yourself into the green spell book. Fire, Blizzard, Thunder, Gravity, Cure, Stop, the list went on and on. Each had their own intricacies, and each emphasized the importance of conducting magic through a weapon of sorts. Your staff, you remembered with dismay, was long gone.

Hours passed by like the drop of a hat, your eyes peeling away from the novel just long enough to notice it was already past midnight.

You groaned, head slumping onto the table for a bit before you moved to stand. You stretched and yawned, limbs popping here and there as you did so. With a quick look out your window, you threw on a sweater and slipped on some flats, suddenly enamored by a craving for tea.

Maybe, with some luck, it would help you get some sleep.

Under the light of the moon and the neighborhood’s lanterns, you slipped across the courtyard and into the main house, making sure to close the door quietly behind you. Avoiding creaking floorboards and cabinets, you drew out a teapot and began to boil some water. With arms crossed over your chest and feet lightly tapping the floor, you waited.

You forgot how cold Cid insisted on keeping the place, and suppressed a laugh when you heard his snoring filtering in from his bedroom.

“You’re up late.”

You cursed, hand coming up to rest on your chest and eyes wide. “Squall…”

Said brunette was leaning in his bedroom’s doorway, dressed down in sweats and a t-shirt, with arms crossed at his chest. His hair was tossed this way and that, his disheveled state so endearing that your heart began to beat just a bit faster.

The small smile on your face suddenly fell. “Did I wake you?”

He raised his brow at your tone, the sudden shift causing him to gently shake is head ‘no’ in response.

As if the universe was dedicated to you causing an absolute ruckus tonight, the kettle began to whistle, a curse flying past your lips as you quickly grabbed the handle. Without a care for the burning you felt on your palm, you tossed it to the other side of the stove, relief rushing through you when it managed to stay upright. But the pain on your hand had your expression turning sour as you jolted towards the basin to run it under cool water.

You slumped over the sink, completely unaware of Squall’s close presence until his hand moved to gently reach for your wrist. But he suddenly stopped, eyes soft as you looked up into his.

“May I?”

You nodded, the feeling of his fingertips gracing your skin nearly sending a shiver down your spine. Turning away in embarrassment, you fixated on the swaying curtains in the corner of the room, jolting slightly at the feeling of a cool rag now wrapping around your palm.

“Sit down.”

Though quite blunt, Squall’s tone was nowhere near commanding. Releasing his hold he slipped into his bedroom, and you did as he asked, arm drooping sadly onto the table.

Your leg bounced nervously as the seconds ticked by-

But why? Squall was never rude, nor overly emotional, he was always just… calm. Precise, almost, in his interactions with you.

The scraping of a chair being moved next to you snapped you out of your thoughts. A tube of burn cream and bandage wrappings were placed onto the table by the brunette, his knees lightly knocking against yours when he finally sat down. Silently, he began working on your hand, looking up when you hissed at the contact of the medicine.

“You should be more careful.”

You let out a tired laugh, eyes briefly connecting with his before he turned his attention back to your wound.

“I suppose making tea around midnight is quite the dangerous adventure, huh?”

You swore you saw the corner of his lips tilt up just the slightest at your remark. Leaning your head into your free palm, you began to relax, eyes now watching him work. “The irony is...I was trying to learn Cure today.”

He let out an amused huff, fingers deftly tying your wrappings. “...Is that why you’re awake this late?”

“Sort of… Merlin gave me some reading, but…”

You paused, hesitant to continue, before the words seemed to tumble out of your mouth regardless. “...My memory is returning in these...dreams and I- I find it a little hard to sleep, I guess.”

“...Are they bad?”

Squall’s question was almost hesitant, voice gentle as his hands paused in their work.

His inquiry threw you off guard, mouth opening and closing for a moment before it settled into a smile.

You realized that you hadn't dreamed of your fall since arriving in Hollow Bastion. You no longer felt the cold wrapping around your throat like a vice, or heard Squall call out your name with such sorrow, or felt the sacrifice of descending into darkness...

That haunting memory had begun to be replaced by happier ones, like the first time you used magic, or met Aerith, or when you taught your first class, or when Yuffie insisted on having brownie sundaes for dinner and you were too damn tired to care-

Or when Squall kissed you for the very first time.

Your eyes met his, and with confidence you finally answered him.

Never.”

The brunette scoffed playfully, finishing your wrappings before dropping his hold on you. He leaned back in his seat, crossing his arms over his chest and raising his brows. “...Even when Yuffie set Cid on fire?”

“You mean on my birthday? One of my absolute favorites.”

Squall shook his head in disbelief, eyes briefly shifting to your necklace before he stood.

“You should get some sleep.”

The tiredness in own voice was hard to ignore, your own no doubt just as bad. But, even if for just the briefest of moments, his sudden departure had your heart dropping in your chest. You had gotten a taste of more than just shy glances and household conversations- and sure, it was such a small interaction, but you wanted more.

For the briefest of moments, you felt like a teenager again.

Taking your silence as a goodbye he turned to go to his bedroom, halting at the sound of your chair scraping the floor. Before you could even register what you were doing, your uninjured hand gently reach out to grab his upper arm, your eyes connecting with his as he regarded you over his shoulder.

“Squall, I…”

I remember.

But the words stopped on the tip of your tongue, too heavy and tangled in the thought of rejection to escape. You found your hand slipping off of him to dangle lazily at your side, and the only thing you could say was a meager ‘thank-you’.

He nodded, slowly, and the both of you took your leave.

You would toss and turn all night, but it wasn’t because of your dreams, nor the dull ache of your injury.

It was because of him.

Ten years was a long time, but you knew he was worth it- any chance at rebuilding your life with him, no matter how tedious, was worthwhile.

You could only hope that he thought the same of you.

Chapter Text

Cid leaned against the kitchen sink, arms crossed at his chest as he stared down his housemate. Currently occupied by his coffee and a smattering of blueprints on the kitchen table, Leon remained unfazed.

“Ya know, you could’ve just used Cure.”

Blinking, the brunette paused in his writing, and for the briefest of moments felt like a child being caught with his hand in the cookie jar. 

“...Whatever.”

He stared down at the sketch of the water system with mild irritation, both at the complicated outline before him and the unwavering stare he felt from across the room. Cid had been persistent as ever, a teasing lilt to his voice whenever you were mentioned, or a grin that resembled a cheshire cat whenever he was caught admiring you across the table at dinner.

Aerith and Yuffie were surprisingly quiet, tiptoeing around the subject for the most part, partially due to being too occupied on getting you acclimated.

And Leon, for the first time in a long time, didn’t know what to do.

“Mornin’, sunshine. Coffee or tea?”

As if on queue you appeared in the doorway, mumbling a quiet good morning and, probably due to a lack of sleep, a request for coffee in response to the mechanic. Despite how much he tried not to look in your direction, Leon’s eyes inevitably wandered, even for the briefest of moments.

You sent him a tired, but genuine smile, lips tilting up just the slightest. You looked like you had just crawled out of bed, the outfit you had on last night still hanging off of your form. Your arms were crossed in front of your chest, hair mussed and pushed out of your face as best as it could be, while pink dusted your cheeks from the chill of the morning air.

‘Cute’

Cid cleared his throat, causing the both of you to jolt, the pink deepening on your cheeks. Leon did his best not to shoot him an irate glare, instead engrossing himself back into his work. Every once in a while your conversation would drift to his ears, the pencil in his hand pausing as if to make sure the mechanic didn’t say something stupid.

“Hurt your hand from cooking up too much magic?”

You scoffed, pausing for a bit before waving your free hand nonchalantly. “Just...burnt myself making some tea. I think I’d rather it be from magic, though.”

Leon’s lips titled up in amusement, falling just a bit when he failed to notice the two other presences who had entered the house. Yuffie had crossed the small living space in seconds, bounding up to you to gently examine your hand in concern. “Ouch- did you have to wrap this yourself? You should’ve woken us up!”

A beat of silence, and for a second Leon looked from you to Aerith, who had taken a seat across the table with a knowing smile on her face. He had a feeling she knew- she always did.

You shrugged nonchalantly, voice surprisingly steady when you spoke. 

“Cato used to get scraped up all the time when he was little, so I’m pretty used to it.”

A cheesy smile took over your features as you lifted your bandaged hand to playfully poke Yuffie on the nose. “Plus, if I recall correctly, there was also a certain someone who used to get into quite a bit of mischief, too.”

She blinked, cheeks puffed out in embarrassment as she mumbled to herself. 

Yeah, yeah…

“So, what are the plans for today?”

Aerith’s calming tone had everyone immediately looking in her direction. She looked from Cid to Leon, hands crossed in her lap and expression softened. Straightening his posture, Leon glanced over at the mechanic before tapping into the to-do list that was constantly running through his mind.

“The restoration site near the castle entrance could use extra hands restoring the walls. Cid can go to the reactor since power is still cutting in and out in the east…”

The brunette stopped for a moment, letting out a frustrated sigh.

“I’ll go to the castle, since there are still some of Maleficent's vines blocking off some of the rooms.”

Everyone nodded in understanding, except... you .

“What can I do to help?” 

Leon blinked, taken aback by your sudden inquiry. You had helped with minor tasks around town, patching up homes or helping Aerith with the gardens at the world’s entrance, and it was designed that way.

He was pushing you away from anything that put you near the edge of town, anything that could put you in danger.

He was…

“Leon, why don’t you take (y/n) with you?”

Aerith was regarding him expectantly, green eyes connecting with his. He clenched his jaw, biting back the harsh ‘no’ that wanted to crawl from his throat. Her intentions were kind- she didn’t mean it.

But it took every ounce of control Leon had in his body to give a steady, affirming nod.

There were still Heartless, far and few between but they were still there . The vines were nothing but a nuisance, seeing as their source of power had vanished-

And you had no magic. No weapon. Nothing .

You would be company, at most. Company he wanted .

But what the hell would he do if you got hurt?

Leon watched as Cid slapped you on the back, nearly having you tumble forward with coffee in hand. “Well, it’s settled then- breakfast, and we’re out.”

 


 

Your footsteps echoed ominously upon the scuffed tile, the darkened hallway having a shiver run up your spine.

This was not a palace that was free of sins, that much you remembered.

“Do you...always go here alone?”

The brunette at your side glanced your way, nodding solemnly before turning his attention forward. He was stiff, the tension in his shoulders and expression undeniable. His gunblade rested on his shoulder, hand curled tightly around the hilt as if ready to strike at a moments notice.

This was a clean-up job- a search to find a solution to rebuilding the land faster than by the hands of the small group of citizens that were left.

But Squall was acting downright off, his chilly exterior having your stomach drop. He was hiding something, but did you even have a right to pry?

You continued to pass by broken rooms and crumbling walls in silence, so enamored by the prospect of what had happened within this place that you barely registered the gentle tug on your arm that brought you to a halt. As your eyes connected with Squall’s in confusion, you moved to look forward. Vines, dark and angry completely covered the doorway before you, effectively blocking your path. Aerith had explained that witch’s role in the world’s destruction just days prior- these remaining roots were just a snippet of her power. She remained, even in apparent death.

Squall released his hold on you, stepping forward with his blade drawn.

“Step back.”

You easily complied, a feeling of frustration passing briefly at being unable to help him. 

‘One day…’

He moved gracefully, blasting at the vines with a few fire attacks, their weakened state causing them to crumble quite easily. He reached for the handle, pushing the door open just slightly to survey what lay beyond. A few tense seconds, and he waved for you to follow.

“Another research space…”

You brushed past him, the sound of Squall flipping through discarded files that lay upon a nearby computer desk filling the room. Your eyes roved over shattered beakers, blacked-out computers, files upon files, and...

A pedestal in the far corner of the room.

There, remaining unaffected by the chaos around it, rested a large, shimmering stone.

The familiarity had you immediately stepping forward, a sense of peace washing over your form like a balm. Your lips titled up into a small smile-

“A holy stone… I can see why she had this sealed off.”

You stepped carefully around the rubble to pick up the blue gem, examining it with interest. With glass crunching beneath his boots, Squall moved to stand beside you. “What...is it?”

Holding it out for him, he gently took it from your grasp.

“I used to help Gran run the jewelry shop back in Twilight Town. Every once in a while, the Moogles we traded with would bring rare stones from other worlds...And that one-”

It began to glow, feeding off of the energy around it.

“Is a physical formation of pure light, something that, if cared for and wielded correctly, can perform phenomena beyond our comprehension… I gave Sora one, it was smaller, of course, to protect against the darkness.” 

“...Do you think it’ll help?”

You tilted your head at his inquiry, a fondness blooming in your chest in response to the curious expression on his face. The tension he held all day was appearing to wash away, blue eyes soft as he looked from the stone to you. “I can only hope. It’s powers are hard to track, but if it’s willing, maybe it can assist in restoring the world to what it once was. Though if we find more, the chances might go up...”

Nodding, Squall handed it back to you, and you placed into the satchel at your side.

“Let’s grab the undamaged files and head out.”

You followed his lead, gathering as much information into your arms as you could.

 


 

By the time the two of you made it out of the castle’s winding hallways and up the ravine trail, the sun had already begun its descent. Leon watched as you cradled the paperwork to your chest, recalling your resistance at allowing him to help.

He scoffed, lips tilting up in a small smirk.

You were still so stubborn.

“What?”

You were looking at him with a raised brow, eyes glinting in the orange glow of the sunset. He looked away, his attention returning to the path ahead.

“...Nothing.”

You hummed, the comfortable silence that followed only broken when you reached the edge of town. You had begun to slow down, eventually coming to a halt, eyes trained upward. For the briefest of seconds, a flash of worry crossed Leon’s features, before he took note of your softened expression.  

“I saw this everyday, twenty-four hours a day, for nearly ten years...”

His eyes followed yours, taking in the wisps of clouds that were painted in some mix of pink and tangerine. And, with a sense of amusement at his own self, realized that he had been back in his home world for over a year-

And he had never really bothered to look up.

He was always enamored with the thoughts of everything else- of the things he lacked, things that he wanted, things he had to get done and get done now. Being stuck on a world of inky blackness for years, one where the few lights that dotted the skyline would blink out and die, knowing those were worlds…

He didn’t want to look.

“...but I don’t think I’ll ever get over how beautiful it is.”

Leon shifted his attention back to you, watching the way your hair moved gently in the breeze, before one of the many questions that had been gnawing at him slipped off his tongue. “Do you miss it?”

“Yes, I always will… Gran and Cato, they’re family, and I love them, I love them with every ounce of my being...”

Slowly, you turned to gaze back at him, a faraway expression on your face.

“But I always knew I wasn’t meant to be there. I had to line the pieces up- I just didn’t think it would take so long... I'm were I belong, I'm sure of that.”

Your lips slowly lifted up into a smile, your arms shifting to hold the files just a little tighter, and Leon couldn’t help but suck in a breath. With the sunset behind you like that, you were nothing short of stunning.

He was, to his own annoyance, totally and utterly awestruck-

But he shouldn’t of been surprised- you were, and would always be the one to bring out this side of him. This welcomed force that made him breathless and left him fumbling, this force that knocked his usual confidence down in seconds flat and he liked it. He liked the way your eyes shone in the light, the way that the features he had loved so much had changed and conformed over time yet they remained the same.

He loved the way your lips tilted up, and he loved remembering the way they used to feel against his.

He loved how daring and kind and stubborn you were-

He loved you then, and he still does. He always would.

“Squall, are you alright?”

The brunette blinked once, then twice, and turned to leave, his heart still pounding in his ears. 

“We should hurry back… the edge of town can be dangerous at night.”

He needed to ask Merlin a favor, after all.

Chapter Text

A small buzz, a sharp ripple of energy in the air, and the sound of a bolt of lightning striking stone reverberated around the postern. Standing stock still, your eyes widened as you glanced from the borrowed wand in your hand to the sizzling ground, watching as tiny sparks danced upwards before they dissipated entirely.

You had done it.

Shock turned into excitement, childish glee taking over your features as Yuffie jumped up and down. 

“I knew you still had it in you!”

You laughed, still trying to comprehend what you had done, voice breathless and scratchy from yelling one spell after the next. Aerith clasped her hands together, her eyes shining with pride and a smile on her lips. 

“I knew you could do it.”

Lowering your arm, you placed the wand back into its small sheath on your side, and wiggled your fingers experimentally. You swore you could still feel the energy flowing underneath your skin, the sensation not painful, but surely foreign in its nature. Still smiling, you tilted your head to the side.

“I’m glad you two did, I was getting ready to call it a day-”

Well, look what we have here!

The voice, familiar but strangely disembodied, nearly had you jumping out of your skin. With a sudden ‘pop’ and the waving of smoke, Merlin made his appearance. He looked from the slightly darkened stone you had hit to you, his wide smile lifting up the corners of his mustache. 

“Thunder? My, how impressive! And what a lovely surprise to stumble upon, too.”

Yuffie chimed in before you could, her eyebrows raised and hands placed onto her hips. “What do you mean ‘stumble upon’? You didn’t mean to check in on your only pupil?”

Merlin raised a finger, his other hand moving about wildly as it so often did when he spoke. 

“Ah, I believe (y/n) is quite capable of conjuring magic at her own pace. I’m confident that she will handle my old wand with care, hm ?”

You nodded sheepishly, hand instinctively moving to rest on the wand at your side. For a second, you had worried that it had somehow skittered off on its volition.

Aerith shifted to clasp her hands behind her back, leaning forward a bit with an expression of interest. 

“Did you need help finding something, Merlin?”

He turned to the brunette, scratching his beard in thought. “Not a something, Aerith, but a someone . Do any of you happen to know Leon’s whereabouts? He’s quite hard to catch, if I do say so myself.”

Yuffie rolled her eyes, pointing to the side entrance that lay a few feet ahead. 

“Eh, he’s in the computer room, like always .”

“Splendid! C’mon (y/n), off we go.”

Thrown off by his sudden invitation, or demand , you looked between your friends for some sort of explanation. Yuffie only nonchalantly shrugged her shoulders, and Aerith simply waved goodbye, solidifying your fate. Giving a nervous wave in return, you bounded up to the wizard to walk by his side, passing through the entryway of the perplexing structure.

Besides his humming of an enthusiastic tune, silence fell over the two of you before you worked up the courage to break it.

“Merlin, why did you ask me to come with you?”

His eyes remained transfixed on the winding hallway, a scrunch in his brow as if concerned that he had become lost.

“Well, the discussion is relevant to you, and it would be a bit rude to leave you out of it, if I do say so myself.”

“...What do you mean?”

The two of you came to a halt in the circular study, your eyes roving over the cluttered space before returning to your guide. You had yet to find yourself in this part of the castle before, but your curiosity would simply have to wait.

“Leon, coincidentally, beat me to the punch in regards to asking in assistance in getting you to Twilight Town.”

You sucked in a sharp breath, your expression mixing between disbelief and confusion-

You had been too scared to ask, too worried that the wizard would inquire on your behalf and Squall would brush him off. You didn’t want to know what he would say, your constant fear of rejection keeping you in place. But you didn’t fear Squall in any capacity- you had just become so rapted with this feeling of not belonging over the years that you had applied it to so many aspects of your life now.

You were letting fear hold you back, but for what?

And of course Squall, for all his hard-shelled glory, had read you like a book.

“Merlin, I-”

He cut you off with a wave of his hand, expression softening. 

“My dear, I have seen you grow into one of the most powerful mages at a very young age, watched you push back against the darkness that ripped you from your very home…”

Merlin smiled and tapped his hand on the nearby wall, revealing a hidden entryway.

“...Your heart is strong, and its connection to those around you even more so. You are ready for this trip as long as your heart remains open to what the worlds have to give, do you understand?”

Letting his words sink in, you nodded, trying your best to will away the emotion that had begun to bubble in your throat. 

For Merlin had never treated you as fragile, nor had he ever seemed disappointed in you for losing your powers. What’s more is you remember him teaching you; you remember him cheering you along when you controlled fire as a young teen, you remember him gifting you your staff on your fifteenth birthday-

You were starting over, and there is still that part of you that felt discontent with that, but you were happy to have such a supportive force in your journey.

“Leon must go with you, that is imperative, (y/n)...”

“I understand, Merlin.”

He shook his head, a smile on his face. “You will understand with time, my dear. Just write to me when both of you are ready, and remember this…”

With a ‘pop’ he disappeared, his final words echoing off of the walls of the study.

“...Love is the greatest force in all the worlds.”

For a moment, you stared at the spot in which he stood, your heart hammering in your chest. 

Merlin’s implications were not lost on you-

Your heart needed a strong connection in order to use this unconventional, and quite rare, way of travel. And that connection did not need to be grown anew, it always remained, even as the shadows tore away the memories that had made it so.

The soft call of your name and the outline of Squall in your peripherals had you blinking out of your musings, eyes looking up to connect with his. He was standing in the once hidden doorway, arms crossed over his chest and expression something akin to concern. You opened your mouth to say something, anything, but failed. Instead, your hand instinctively flew up to grasp onto your necklace, a gesture that always brought you comfort.

Patiently he waited, the only sound in the room being the buzzing of whatever machinery lay behind him.

You took a deep breath-

“Squall, did you…did you ask Merlin if you could take me to Twilight Town?”

The brunette stiffened, blue eyes widening for a split second before he settled. 

“You...shouldn’t have to choose one family over another. I thought it might be good for you.”

And maybe it was the gesture in and of itself, maybe it was the way his voice turned into this gentle hum when he spoke to you, or perhaps it was the flash of nervousness that had broken his visage, as though he had done something wrong…

But you couldn’t cease your feet as you moved to close the distance between the two of you. 

You wrapped your arms around his middle and pressed your face into the fur that lined the collar of his coat, mumbling a quiet ‘thank you’ as you relished in the familiarity of his warmth. For a moment, Squall stood still, arms half lifted at his sides, before he moved to wrap them around your waist. 

Gentle uncertainty faded into something more heartfelt, and as if fearing one would fade from the other, it took another moment for the two of you to finally let go.

You let out this breathless laugh, and looked up at him with an expression of amusement, the action having his features contort in slight confusion. 

“That bad, huh?”

You laughed fully this time and shook your head no, your hand reaching up to re-fluff the fur on his coat. “No, you’ve just gotten taller, is all.”

Squall let out a small sound of amusement, his lips curling up just the slightest.

“I would hope.”

You hummed, eyes moving to glance at the grandfather clock across the way, before they looked back up at his. As if with an air of disappointment, your hand dropped back down to your side.

“We should head back soon for dinner, Cid’s actually letting me cook for once.”

The brunette nodded, turning to knock gently on the wall next to the strange doorway, causing the passageway to seal shut. 

“I guess that means I’m on dish duty, huh?”

It took you a minute, but as he moved to grab his gunblade that rested in the corner, an image of the two of you standing side by side at the sink flashed across your mind. You were both so young that you had to stand on stools to properly reach, dividing the task by having Squall dry while you washed.

Flashing him a smile, you held open the study’s door for him to pass through.

“For old time’s sake?”

Squall hummed, glancing over his shoulder as he led the way. “For old time’s sake.”

 


 

“So about all those puppies you fretted over...”

The brunette next to you didn’t even pause in his drying of the plate in his grasp, his blue eyes glancing at you for just a moment before they returned to the task at hand.

“They were exaggerating.”

You gently brushed up against his shoulder, a teasing lilt in your voice. “You know it’s alright to have a soft spot, Squall.”

“...Whatever.”

You laughed, handing him a pan you had just scrubbed down, before delving your hands back into the sud-filled sink. Apart from the buzz of the radio and the sound of running water, a comfortable silence fell between the two of you.

Cid had escaped off to Merlin’s, mumbling something about tweaking the security system before lighting a cigarette. Aerith and Yuffie had bounded off to help Wedge at the armory, allegedly to ‘help with inventory’ -

You say allegedly, because you did that just yesterday.

Wordlessly you picked up the final glass, moving to hand it over to Squall, when you heard it.

You stopped in your tracks, hand still suspended in the air, as if to push your entire focus onto this…

This song .”

The melody, the instruments, it was familiar in a way that a candle’s scent could remind one of home. It had you staring at the water droplets that moved down the sides of the sink, as if their reflection in the light could hold the answer. You were delving deep into your thoughts, the memories you had already acquired, nearly removing yourself totally from the moment at hand.

But Squall only took the cup from your grasp, eyes trained on you to make sure you were alright.

He didn’t dare interrupt.

You spoke again, voice rising from a mumble to a confident recollection as you moved through the memory.

“...The flower festival, the one the castle sponsored every Spring...They always had music…”

You closed your eyes, taking a deep breath as scattered images flashed from one to the other. Decorations, vendors, the band, you twirled in a dress in front of a mirror, with Aerith looking on with a smile…

You descended the ramp to the center courtyard, and he waited, dressed in all black lined with golden trim.

And just as quickly as you were pulled under, you were shoved back into the present, eyes fluttering open to look up at the man by your side. You felt heat rise to your cheeks in slight embarrassment, shaking your head as if to will it away.

“I’m so sorry, that was… unusual.”

“Do you remember?”

Your eyebrows knitted in confusion, head tilted to the side as Squall scanned your features with interest. “I...I remember going to the courtyard, you were there, but I don’t…”

Your voice trailed off, shoulders slumping a bit in disappointment. But the brunette only turned to place the towel on the counter, and moved to turn the knob of the small radio on the table, effectively raising the volume. You watched him step to the center of the room, your heart beating rapidly in your chest-

He raised his hand, expression calm.

“...Come here.”

His request was gentle and tender, eyes softening as you stepped forward to place your hand in his. With unexpected expertise he guided you towards him, his one hand coming to rest on your lower back, while the other held onto yours. As if instinctively, your free hand came up to rest on his shoulder.

You had done this before- you could feel it.

But that realization still didn’t stop the nervousness that took over your entire being. Eyes focused on the movement of your feet, you stumbled a bit as you both began to step lightly to the music.

“Hey.”

You looked up at your partner, his voice so quiet that it barely broke above the radio. 

Relax ...it’ll come back to you.”

You nodded, slowly, and caved in enough to let him lead. You instead became hyper aware of his touch, of the way his hand felt on your back, of the light tapping of the rhythm he played on your knuckles-

Of how right this felt.

You smiled, moving to rest your head on his chest. “How many times did we do this?”

Squall released an amused puff of air, the sound at this point becoming endearing to your ears.

“That festival ran every year, and we started to participate in the ceremony when we were fifteen... Two years in a row, though I can’t say we didn’t tend to practice when no one was around.”

You lifted your head to look up at him, a knowing look on your face. “Ah, I’m sure I’m the one who needed to practice.”

“It’s not like I didn’t enjoy it.”

His eyes shone with a playful mirth, and you couldn’t help the heat that rose to your cheeks once more. In what you knew was a feeble attempt to hide your embarrassment, you rested your head back onto his chest.

The radio played on, the both of you moving along with it until the sun began its descent, and until the inevitability of the mechanic walking in on you two became a bit too close for comfort. You left with a cup of tea in your hand, slipping across the courtyard with a slyness that made it seem you had done some dubious act, and made your way to bed.

The next morning you pulled out the photo of you two from its burial in the bottom of your dresser drawer, and displayed it with a smile.

Chapter Text

“Do you think it’s going to work?”

Squall eyed you from his position at the town’s mainframe computer, fingertips pausing in their rapid movement as his face contorted in exasperation.

“If I did I wouldn’t be telling you to leave.”

He watched as you crossed your arms in front of your chest, followed by your lips falling into a deep frown, and he found that he was suddenly struck with a small pang of guilt. But he had been insistent on his stance since this morning, trying to convince you to stay behind with the others, and he had refused to budge out of concern for your well-being.

“...It’s an embodiment of light, Squall, I’ll be fine.”

The brunette let out a deep breath, his attention returning to the keyboard and screen before him. The machinery within the space buzzed with life, its bright glow nearly overwhelming, reaching beyond the room and into the Heartless Manufactory. 

ENCOM was being responsive enough, allowing him to access the town restoration controls with ease. It was providing the energy to have it done that had become the problem-

But another Holy Stone had been found, and testing its capabilities was the next logical step. 

It was the fact that it was a test that had his heart rate rising, had him pause for a moment before jumping to the next screen. Because he didn’t quite care if he got hurt, never really did, but you-

He remained silent, knowing that starting an argument with you wasn’t something he wanted to do, because the last time he did…

“You’re reckless, and one day it’s going to kill you.”

Squall didn’t even know if you remembered it, didn’t even know if you’d care, but he did

That day, he had failed you in more ways than one- he could still taste the sour words in his mouth, a deep insecurity that lashed out in the form of cruelty. 

Squall felt like the scar across his face wasn’t enough of a punishment for that, it wasn’t enough for leaving a burning land behind, it wasn’t enough for being cowardice enough to let the darkness take you away-

He jolted slightly when your hand came up to rest on his upper arm, knew that he had stopped moving, and without looking your way proceeded to continue his work, a mumbled apology falling from his lips. 

“And you say I apologize too much…”

He cracked a small smile at that, and proceeded to enter the code to zone in on the castle entrance area of town. On his right, the two stones rested on a small, round platform that had protruded from the side of the mainframe, a discovery that was made quite late the other night.  

Taking a deep breath, Squall straightened his spine, and took notice of you readying your wand. 

“Are you sure you want to stay?”

His words were soft, gentle, an automatic tone when it came to you, and you could only smile, your eyebrows raised.

“Did you suddenly learn defense magic, Squall?”

He scoffed in amusement, almost choosing to lie to you as a last ditch effort to get you out of there, but he knew you would pick up on it in an instant. Over time, you had regained a large part of your memories, and a sharpened ability to perceive him with it.

Not that he minded, of course.

Taking his silence as an answer you stepped into the center of the room, and nodded in his direction. 

“...I’m not leaving you, so whenever you’re ready."

Checking once more to make sure the correct area had been selected, he proceeded to finish the code, hand hovering over the ‘enter’ key before he caved in and slammed it down.  

He took a few steps back to stand by your side, blue eyes narrowing in trepidation as green code flashed across the screen at an unreadable rate. The platform carrying the stones lowered, spinning as it did so before snapping into place, a metal slide coming out to secure the top.

‘Come on, come on…’

As sparks began to fly out from the system, Squall felt your free hand move to entangle with his, and his instincts had his grip on you tightening.

Followed by a loud mechanical shriek, the screen blacked out, and you instantly raised your wand.

“Reflect!”

For a moment, nothing happened, but you held the shield steady, eyes narrowed as the barrier shimmered around the both of you. His heart pounded in his chest as seconds ticked by in silence, but he felt the shift in the air, knew that something was coming.

Leon pulled you to his chest just as a blinding light overtook the room, his body shifting so that his back faced the computer. It was a split second of warmth, nothing seemingly volatile, but he found that even as the light dissipated and his eyes flickered open, he hesitated to let you go. You had your face buried into the fur lining of his jacket, your wand still pointed upwards even as your spell faded.

“...Are you alright?”

You blinked up at him, wand lowering as he finally dropped his hold on you. “Yeah, yeah… are you?”

Even as he nodded to reassure you, your eyes continued to rove over him in concern, before they shifted over to the computer that had revved back to life. A bold text flashed onto the screen, a simple enough thing that had a rare sense of hope rush through his veins.

Castle Entrance Restoration - Complete

His lips titled up into a smile, one mainly built upon disbelief, and in an instant the two of you were out of the lab and on your way to assess the results. If it weren’t for the intricate hallway that stood out from its dilapidated brethren, you would’ve found yourselves lost. 

Leon watched as you stared at the space that was woven in cedar and gold, eyes shining as they landed upon the large blue doors that lay ahead. He brushed past you to push one open, allowing sunlight to stream in and a glimpse of what lay ahead to appear. 

“You first.”

You turned to look at him, your lips still upturned into a smile, and nodded before stepping outside. He followed suit, eyes widening as he tried to process what laid before them.

Gray stone stairs descended downwards to an awaiting white metal gate, and beyond it lay the courtyard that retained too many memories to count. The great maw, in all its mangled glory, no longer separated the town from the castle, and residents had slowly trickled out of their homes to take in the transformation with awe. He looked back to see that the front half of the castle had been repaired, though most of it still remained in a dilapidated state.

It could wait.

And then he looked at you, saw your shoulders trembling and that one of your hands had come up to cover your mouth to suppress a sob, and his expression fell. 

His hand moved to hover in the air, his instincts turning to comfort, but he found that he didn’t know what to do. He was, uncomfortably, speechless. You sniffled, your hand dropping to cling onto your necklace, and turned to face him. 

“...I-I’m sorry, it’s just-”

Leon could see it in your expression, could see how overwhelmed you had suddenly become, and felt his heart drop.

“I didn’t think I’d ever get to see it like this again.”

Without a care for the prying eyes of all who stood below, he quickly pulled you to him, and let you cry. It wasn’t until the sound of a wolf whistle from none other than Cid and Yuffie, who were awaiting at the gate with Aerith, did he finally turn his attention away from you. Even then, he only scoffed, arms still wrapped around your waist.

“They’re obnoxious.”

You laughed, the feeling of your breath running along his neck having, what he hoped, was an imperceptible shiver run up his spine. Slowly you let go of him, and looked down at the three with an undeniable fondness.

Your voice was raspy when you finally spoke.

“Families usually are.”

 


 

Leon watched as you talked with Yuffie and Cid, eyes alight with excitement and hands waving about wildly. You were unabashedly happy, your tears long gone, and he found that he craved seeing that expression on you more than anything. He wanted you to look at him like that, wanted you to feel comfortable enough to ramble on about your favorite topics while he listened on in amusement.

Like you used to.

“Leon.”

Aerith’s voice was gentle, as it often was, but it was just enough to snap him out of his reverie. She had appeared next to his side, done examining the lilies that had appeared around the area.

“You need to tell her.”

Leon looked down at her from the corner of his eye, taking note of how she was watching you as well. 

“You’ll have to be more specific.”

He heard her sigh, a sound that was a mix of sadness and frustration. “...The heart is an intricate thing, Leon. But there are parts of it that are more visible than most, more...well, obvious.”

Aerith smiled when you reached out to pinch Yuffie’s cheek, the ninja’s face flushing in response.

“It will give us hints when things are meant to be, this feeling of warmth that can’t quite be placed… You feel it when you’re around her, don’t you? The same feeling you had when you first met?"

Leon found himself unable to respond, his head turning to look at a patch of flowers that swayed in the breeze. He knew that Aerith’s abilities extended far past the healing of physical wounds, knew that she could understand matters of the heart far beyond the researchers who once resided in the castle-

And knew that he wasn’t the only one who lost the other half of himself that day. 

She, too, had felt that pull to another heart once, that connection.

Aerith began to step ahead of him, heading towards the group that awaited them across the courtyard. But she came to a sudden halt, her green eyes connecting with his as she regarded him over her shoulder.

“Tell me, Leon, what makes you think that you two are exempt from finding the happiness that everyone deserves?”

As he watched her move away and his eyes turned to you, who shifted to regard him with a soft smile, he found...that he didn’t really know.

 


 

Night had fallen, and with it came libations aplenty, the courtyard buzzing with life as all those around came out to celebrate the first step of the world’s reconstruction.

You mingled from one group to the next, introducing, or in some cases re-introducing , yourself to citizens who you had yet to stumble into during your time here. There was a bumble of those who were around Yuffie’s age, and as Aerith walked you over, you realized that some of them had been your students. 

And you couldn’t help yourself when you reached out to fret over them like a mother would- teasing them over how much they had grown and how you were so undeniably proud of them. They smiled and blushed, and you felt both old and born anew. It was an indescribable thing, seeing the outcome of your sacrifice, all while standing on the very land in which it had happened.

A moment later and you were whisked away by a group of older women, and suddenly you were in the same position you had put your students in.

“Oh, aren’t you beautiful , dear.”

“One of the greatest young sorceresses this world has ever seen…”

“You should let us treat you and the committee to dinner tomorrow night, for all you’ve done for us.”

Your free hand waved in front of your face as you shrunk back in embarrassment, heat rising to your cheeks. “That’s...that’s so kind of you but I, I’ll be leaving tomorrow.”

Their eyes widened, their lips falling into a frown at your words. In an attempt to reassure them you smiled, though a bit sheepishly.

“Oh, no, no...I’ll be back. It’s just a vacation, of sorts.”

“You’re going to travel all by yourself? I’m not sure if that’s so wise, dear. You should really-”

You felt a familiar hand fall to your shoulder, the leather glove that adorned it and the tall presence suddenly at your side having the women fall to silence. Their expressions immediately shifted, all of them now adorned with mischievous glances or knowing looks.

Squall’s voice, homely and comforting, served as a balm to your overworked nerves.  

“Sorry to interrupt...I think it’s time we get going. Cid asked us to check on the claymore system, remember?”

It took you a second longer than you liked to process his words, because no , you don’t remember him asking that- but any excuse to take a breather was welcomed. You glanced up at him, his blue eyes looking at you with something akin to tenderness, and could only manage a slow nod in agreement.

Because, for an undeniable second, you were awestruck.

You were close enough to admire the sharpness of his jaw, the way his hair fell into the front of his face, and the scar that ran from his forehead to his cheek. You wanted to run your fingers along each feature, to take them all in, but instead you looked away, and relied upon what you remembered to push down your wants.

You bid the women goodbye and instead followed Squall to the quiet area near Merlin’s house, unaware of the multiple sets of eyes that had turned to watch the two of you disappear.

The breath you were holding finally slid past your lips as you leaned against a nearby brick wall, eyes closing momentarily before they fell upon your company.

“We don’t...actually have work to do, do we?”

Squall’s expression shifted into one of amusement, his arms coming up to cross in front of his chest. 

“No...”

“...Thank you.”

Your voice was soft when you said it, but you meant those words more than he might ever know. 

He shifted to stand next to you, head tilted to upwards to take in the stars as he relaxed just enough to let the wall support him. For the briefest of moments, you watched him instead of the sky, still enamored.

Still feeling that pull.

“...Are you sure you’re ready to have your ear talked off tomorrow?”

The brunette’s lips titled up just the slightest, eyes roving over you before returning upwards. You had given him a brief rundown of your found family a few days prior, noting that being interrogated by Gran and Cato, perhaps even a couple of the town residents, was simply an inevitable thing. He, thankfully, seemed unbothered by the prospect.

“I’m sure they’re nothing compared to Yuffie.”

You laughed, shaking your head a bit in amusement.

“I might do a few shifts at the shop, so just be prepared to fend for yourself. Think you can handle it, Leonhart ?”

You bumped your shoulder into his arm playfully, and looked up at him with a teasing smile. 

And you aren’t quite sure what had shifted in that moment, but as he let out a sound of fond exasperation, he turned to face you, and you instinctively did the same. He raised his hand, slowly and gently, to untwist the slightly tangled chain on your necklace, the feeling of his fingers ghosting over your neck having a shiver run up your spine.

“I handled you for twelve years...I think I’ll be fine.”

His voice was tinged with a gentle tease, a rare thing that you loved so much, a tone that you heard behind closed doors or in deserted flower fields all those years ago. It was a break in his serious visage that had you wanting to grab his hand and put it back when he had finished his task.

The sound of giggling teenagers had the two of you snapping out of your reverie, your eyes widening a bit as a pair ran past you and further into the neighborhood, their hands clasped tightly. Suddenly buried in a shyness that was evident by the heat that had raised to your cheeks, you found that you couldn’t look up at him.

“...We should probably get back.”

He was voicing the obvious, because the longer you stayed there the more questions and raised brows by the others awaited you both. You nodded in agreement, albeit a bit reluctantly, and began to make your way back. Before you turned the corner you stopped, and Squall did the same, looking back at you curiously.

When you voiced your request, it was a contrary mix of confidence and implorement.

“You’ll stay with me this time, right?”

Squall didn’t even mull over his answer.

“Always.”