Revenge is a dish best served warm? Continue reading
There was a first time for everything.
A first step with eyes unclouded by a slave crown. The sensation of feeling cold. The sensation of her world growing a fraction larger. They weren’t unpleasant sensations but firsts all the same. To a young woman who had spent years under the control of people who thought she was nothing more than a tool, seeing her breath mist white in the wintry air left Terra enthralled with wonder.
Her companions watched her look at the flakes of snow falling gently, eyes alight with the pleasure of a simple beauty with kind looks on their faces. It belied the image of a warrior as they walked with purpose through the snowfields towards their next destination. The layers of grime on their bodies had layers of grime. Edgar and Bannon were discussing strategy for the upcoming negotiations. Snow was blowing in every direction, weaving an intricate dance pattern in the frigid air.
It left Locke to keep an eye on the girl. She had marched hesitantly through the snowfields of Narshe in the beginning before the snow had caught her eye and left her awestruck. Their cloaks whipped around their feet as a warm smile broached Terra’s face. Her hand didn’t stray far from the sword belted at her hip in case of any danger but still, there was an innocence in her reaction that left the treasure hunter and the others soon afterwards thinking wistfully of simpler times.
The snow may have gone on for countless miles with no end in sight, but the innocent joy from one who’d forgotten what those feelings were like was enough to melt the heart of even the mightiest of foes.
Note: Well then. It turns out that I hadn’t posted Awakening over here so… here it is! ^^;;
By the time the nurses found him, Kazuto Kirigaya had been exhausted, slumped against the wall when his legs finally gave out on him. His breathing was shallow and he was teetering on the brink of sleep when he felt hands on his shoulders. He peered up through his weary, half-closed eyes praying that Asuna hadn’t found him in his moment of weakness but was greeted by the concerned face of a nurse instead. The fluorescent lights in the hallway made it painful to look at her for too long as he let his gaze fall to the floor. He could feel the cold tiles through the thin gown on his emaciated frame as other nurses began to come and help the SAO Survivor onto a gurney. They were trying to ask him questions but his hearing was not fully functioning at that time. It sounded like muted trumpets were playing as he shook his head weakly.
He’d spent the past two years of his life fighting a game of death and he wasn’t entirely certain if he was awake or still in the game itself. The swordsman felt the gurney move as a thick blanket was pulled over him. He lay there shivering for a few moments, wondering what was this sensation he was feeling. It was strange how his own body felt completely foreign to him after countless battles and incredible loss.
“A…suna…” came his raspy voice as he felt a brief, sharp pinch in the side of his arm. “Wh…ere…is…”
His vision was fading and his body felt heavy as he looked toward the nurse who had found him while fighting the need for sleep. She smiled at him gently before he succumbed to the sleeping medication that was given to him. He lay there in comforting darkness dreaming of his one and only. He’d been through something that had changed everything around him.
When he woke the next day, he was still weak but was slowly coming to grips with the knowledge that he was back in the real world. The lights in the room were dimmed, the curtains drawn as his eyes adjusted to the gentle lighting. He stared at the tube coming out of his right arm for quite some time before he saw the door open. He squinted at the door, attempting to bring everything into a better resolution that never came. He eyed the person warily as they took note of his vital signs before smiling gently.
“Good morning, Kirigaya-san,” she greeted politely. “Did you sleep well?”
He shrugged his shoulders, watching closely for any needles or other implements that he couldn’t see. It left him wishing that his skill set were still available to him as he brought up a shaky hand to motion his index and middle fingers to open the menu. His eyes went wide with surprise as he let his hand fall limply beside him. Had everything he’d fought for these past two years truly come down to this shell of a hero who couldn’t even sit up unassisted?
The nurse watched him, taking notes to share with the Sword Art Online Task Force as the boy before her frowned darkly. He was still trying to process that he was back in the real world and it was proving to be extremely difficult. He was aware of sensations and feelings that had been taken from him again and while logically, this was going to make sense in a while, it didn’t make any sense to him at that point in time.
“Are you in any pain, Kirigaya-san?” The nurse queried.
This woman knew nothing of the pain that would haunt him for quite some time. She didn’t understand what he’d just lived through and what he had to adjust to in the months to come. A lot can happen in two years. He’d just been entering his freshman year of high school and getting ready to build a new computer when everything was taken. He merely shook his head because he wasn’t in any physical pain. However, he was becoming aware of two acute sensations that needed to be remedied as soon as possible.
Hunger and thirst. He coughed several times and cleared his throat before asking for water and food. The muscles that had been used for both basic, every day functions had grown lax with a lack of use and he shouldn’t have been surprised when neither were granted but an explanation was given. The intravenous and feeding tube would remain in place for the next few days.
“Do you know where you are?” the nurse pressed on.
“Hospital,” Kazuto croaked out, a note of irritation could be heard in his voice even though it sounded as if he’d eaten a piece of sandpaper.
Clearly this was going to be an exercise to prepare him for any interrogations the Japanese Government was likely to have. Over the next few days, a series of blood samples were taken, a full body scan was completed and Kazuto was finally given a small amount of clear soup broth. It wasn’t a large amount but he realized that it was all he could stomach at that time and leaned back with a pleased look on his face.
He’d likely feel like a human pin cushion by the end of all these tests but for now, he was just happy to be awake.
Note: I had many requests for a continuation of Awakening that I wrote late last year. This version is not beta’d so if there’s any errors, please let me know! Thanks for reading!
It was a new day for Kirito. The feeling of being awake and not in a game of death was still surreal to him as he woke more easily than the previous day. He stared at his shaking hands and quickly glanced to his left and sighed in defeat. The concept of reality was foreign to him after being online for two years straight and he’d been hoping that Asuna would be beside him, smiling sweetly. All he found was the metal railing of the hospital bed and the baggy fabric of the hospital issued gown. He struggled to sit up before he saw movement out of the corner of his eye.
“Kirigaya-kun, let me help you,” his nurse offered as an arm wrapped around his shoulders and guided him up the rest of the way. An oversized pillow was propped behind his body that he sank into gratefully despite the frustration that he felt.
His third day awake after Sword Art Online had brought forth many new sensations for the teen. It wasn’t until he had begun his physical therapy that he realized that his hair was considerably longer than he recalled. Add in the fine fuzz growing on his upper lip and chin and the hero resembled a vagabond more than the black swordsman. The therapist began with a series of stretches to loosen up the atrophied muscles before moving on to massaging his body.
To say that the experience was pleasant for Kirito would be a lie as he tried to muffle the painful yelps that escaped his mouth. It was the most physical activity he’d participated in and found himself thanking the powers that be when the session was over. The tired smile on his face was enough indication to the therapist and nurse looking after him that the boy had had enough for that day.
He wasn’t used to feeling this weak and ocassionally swiped his left hand in a downward motion to bring up SAO’s menu. It was an old habit that was going to be difficult to beat, as the therapist eased Kirito into a wheelchair. The boy was ready to protest the wheelchair, insisting that he could walk on his own as he stood up from the wheelchair on quavering limbs. His nurse was quick to shut that idea down after she’d tapped his knees and much to his chagrin, they buckled beneath his too-thin frame. Kirito fell to the floor with a pained and frustrated growl. He begrudgingly let himself be put back in the wheelchair but glared darkly at the nurse who smiled sweetly at her stubborn patient.
“Say…” he said softly after a few minutes.
“What is it Kirigaya-kun?” the nurse asked.
“Could I get a haircut and a shave?” he returned with earnest.
The nurse looked down at her patient over the rims of her spectacles and smiled softly. “After you rest, Kirigaya-kun. Besides, I’m sure your family will want to see you soon.”
Kirito’s eyes widened at the mention of his mother and sister, Suguha. The black swordsman made a mental note to apologize to both of them for causing them so much worry. The sooner he got those apologies out of the way, the sooner his life would go back to normal. He still couldn’t eat anything and his body felt like lead. He’d sooner take on a barrage of orange players attacking him en masse again but getting another massage.
The boy grunted painfully as the therapist helped him back into the gel-based bed before he sank into the coolness and sighed in relief. A pillow was behind his head as his eyes began to close against his will. It hadn’t even been an hour and Kirito couldn’t remember the last time he’d felt so physically exhausted. It wasn’t a bad feeling to know that he’d actually sleep without medication as the nurse pulled a blanket over lower body and stroked his hair while checking his pulse.
“If you need anything Kirigaya-kun –” the nurse cut her thought short as she looked down upon a rare sight.
For the first time in two years, Kazuto Kirigaya was sleeping without the Nerve Gear on his head. There would be no fear of his brain being fried as his body sank into the comfort of the bedding, his breathing slow and even. The nurse quietly pulled the curtains closed to block out some of the light to let her patient rest. He appeared to be at peace for the time being but once the nightmares started, he’d be awake in no time.
Her patient hadn’t spoken about the SAO server yet, but he’d lost much more than she would ever be able to comprehend in those two years. She could see it his eyes even though he tried his best to hide it. The therapists could aid him in working through those issues for the time being.
“Sweet dreams, Kirigaya-kun,” the nurse whispered with a gentle pat to his shoulder.
Sheryl was her worst critic as she sat on the couch in her hotel room glaring at her performance. It had to be one of the worst she’d ever given. Her voice had cracked more than once and she’d become pitchy near the end. She was highly considering throwing the remote through the TV when it was plucked from her loose grip and the channel was changed without delay.
“I was watching that,” she huffed out in annoyance before glancing up and spotting Alto.
Alto changing the channel without permission was even worse than when Grace would turn it off completely.
“Funny,” he shot back. “It looked like you were about to kill the TV with the look you were giving it.”
“And your point would be…?” Sheryl snapped irritably before snatching the remote and flipping the channel back to the music program she’d been watching. “Do you have any idea how hard it is to get on that show much less perform on it?”
“You’re singing your latest single, what else is there to watch?” Alto retorted. “It’s just a show, why don’t you just record it and get it over with?”
“Because I’m watching it right now and you changing the channel isn’t helping things, stupid Alto.” The diva rebuttled. “This isn’t like the videos of you from your Kabuki days which I’ve seen at least three of in the past two days. Really Alto, who did your makeup? It was terrible.”
“It doesn’t matter who did my makeup,” Alto countered. “These shows are on all the time. Did you even think to check the listings?”
Sheryl stood up then and pointed the remote at Alto. “Last I checked, this was my hotel room, not yours.”
“And I’m saying that there are better things on TV than preening while watching your own interview. Honestly Sheryl, why can’t you just sit back and read a book or something?” Alto said with exasperation.
Sheryl spun around and flopped back onto the couch with a disgusted look on her face before glaring at the television screen instead. “I’m not talking to you right now, Alto Saotome.”
“Excuse me?” The pilot flared. “You’re such a child Sheryl.” He said irritably before reaching down to grab the remote and turn the television off. “There’s a billion other things you could be doing right now.”
She shot him a challenging look. He certainly had a lot of moxy for a pilot that was more trouble than he was worth. “So is this what you always do when you’re with Ranka-chan?”
She watched with great amusement as Alto’s cheeks blushed in embarrassment at her insinuation. It may have been taking things a bit too far but sometimes you had to take things to the extreme. Sheryl knew exactly what buttons to push to get Alto out of her hair and it worked like a charm as he slammed the remote on the table behind the couch and stormed away.
“Do whatever you want then Sheryl,” he practically shouted at her. “Don’t come crying to me because you don’t like your performance.”
“And who said that I was going to do any sort of crying over my performance?” Sheryl said tartly. “I’m a Pro and I deal with criticism as any pro would. With dignity and grace.”
“Yeah, your definition of dignity and grace is implying that I’m doing something with Ranka when you damn well know better.” Alto replied with a bitter tone.
“My definition of dignity and grace?!” Sheryl snapped back. “At least I have dignity and grace unlike some uncouth pilot who doesn’t know his head from a hole in the ground!”
Alto was glaring daggers at Sheryl by that point in the argument. They both knew that this was a stupid argument to be having and if they continued it any longer it would only spiral into a trainwreck with disastrous results. Finally, knowing that he’d never win an argument with Sheryl when she was like this, Alto decided to take the high road.
“I’m leaving,” he said flatly before turning on his heels and let himself out.
The slam of the door spoke volumes more to Sheryl than his words ever could and she stood there glaring at the door before reaching for a notepad and pen. A song of anger was burning in her mind and she had to get it out.
Just who was this person standing before him?
Kurogane wasn’t sure just who he was looking at. Was he looking at the magician who was a proverbial pain in his ass or was he looking at the broken shell of a man who was bordering on losing everything dear to him. It was like the ninja was meeting Fai again for the first time and the irritation that he’d felt then was bubbling up inside of him now.
They had just defeated Ashura and recovered the Princess’ feather. Everything should have been fine. The pork bun should’ve been transporting them to another world. The four of them should’ve been on their way and continuing their desperate searching for Sakura’s feathers. Instead, Celes was falling apart from the inside and Fai was at the very center of it.
Four of them would be able to escape Celes today but it just wouldn’t fly for Kurogane. Everything had become a blur at that point. There was too much going and there stood Fai urging him to forget him and go ahead with continuing their quest. Didn’t the damn magician realize that they were friends now? The ninja wasn’t about to dessert his comrade, his friend like this and their words were a jumbled mess in his memory by now.
Something had come over Kurogane as he cut off his own arm to leave it in Fai’s place. The ninja hauled the other out of the center of Celes in the nick of time as they were transported away from the dying world. Fai was coming with them come hell or high water. Magicians and Space Time Witches be damned to the underworld and back. Kurogane wasn’t willing to lose any more people when he had to protect them. He’d lost enough strength on that damn world as it was. Losing an arm imbued with Fai’s magic was a necessary sacrifice.
A sacrifice that left him weak and delirious with fever. He now stood in front of a mirror staring back at someone who didn’t seem like himself. In fact, Kurogane is looking at the man that he used to be. The man who had lost his way and forgotten what true strength was. He’d learned much in his travels with Syaoran, the Princess and Fai that looking back upon that surly ninja who was adamant in feeling that everything going on around him had nothing to do with him was just so different from the man he was today.
He remembered why he’d wanted strength in the first place and found new people to protect with that strength. There was a magician hiding behind a mask that wasn’t what he truly was, a Princess with no memories searching for who she was and a Kid possessing more true strength than he had possessed at Syaoran’s age. Little by little, Kurogane had come to aid the three on their quest more often than he wanted and naturally, the four of them had formed a close bond.
“You’re not who I am anymore,” he said to his reflection and watched as it faded away. “I have the power to protect my friends and Princess Tomoyo and I will never let myself go back to the way that I was. My strength may have faded after killing Ashura but the Gods be damned if I let those who would do them harm take them from me again.”
The mirror remained and to break it would surely mean he could escape whatever dream he was trapped in. With a dangerous smirk on his face, Kurogane broke the mirror in his dreams with ease. His world was slowly getting lighter by the second before he was staring up at the ceiling half awake.
It was time to face the person he had become and was still becoming.
It was late at night, and everyone had retired for the night. It was cold and starless, and Locke could see his breath misting in the air despite being nearest to the fire. Scanning the placid faces of his companions, he realized that the girls had curled up together near the fire. Sabin’s loud snoring made Locke debated the pros and cons of stuffing a pair of the Monk’s socks in his mouth.
Even as Locke smirked at the idea, the treasure hunter didn’t have a death wish and decided against it. The rest of their companions had lucked out and won a coveted place in one of their tents. He found himself cursing Setzer because he knew he’d been swindled. They all could choose their game or deciding factor of choice and Locke was terrible at poker. One hand had decided his fate and left him feeling that the Gambler had stacked his deck.
“Next time, rock paper scissors…” Locke breathed out softly as he stretched his calloused hands out toward the fire. They were stiff with cold. Getting stuck with first watch without the luxury of a sleeping roll, to wrap himself in was making it difficult to focus on looking out for monsters.
Before long, his thoughts had wandered from monsters and back to a happier time.
He was young again. Happy again. An innocent boy of eight, playing with his childhood friends in Kohlingen. Their preferred game had always been rock paper scissors. The Treasure Hunter had become quite adept at the game and never had to go up to the unsuspecting girls scaring the daylights out of them.
All of them except Rachel. She’d always given chase to the boy charged with the task to the delight and unrestrained delight of those who’d sneaked out of their certain doom. Her sharp screams as she gave chase to the boy who was practically begging for mercy always made Locke smile fondly. Those were peaceful times that ended when the Empire invaded Kohlingen. The childhood friends were all gone after that, and a sharp guilt had encased Locke’s heart.
He expelled a shaky breath he hadn’t realized he’d been holding and was greeted with the piercing stare of Celes peering at him curiously. He jumped up from his perch near the fire, heart racing and eyes practically jumping out of his head.
“You’re supposed to be keeping watch,” she said matter-of-factly.
“O-oh… right,” he admitted. “I was just –”
“—Thinking about Rachel,” Celes finished for him.
Locke sighed as he sank down next to the former General and stared into the glowing embers their fire had become. He poked it with a nearby stick before tossing another log onto the blaze. “I’m that easy to figure out am I?”
She placed a gloved hand on his shoulder as he placed his own over it. “You’re a fairly easy read,” she supplied coolly.
With a sheepish laugh, Locke looked over at her as she placed her sword across her lap. “How long was I daydreaming?”
The General shrugged her shoulders. “Long enough for your watch to be over. Get some rest, we’re heading out at dawn. Here,” she said as she produced her neatly rolled bedroll. “Yours is in the tent. Use mine.”
Locke was genuinely surprised by this. Eventually, his surprised look softened into a grateful look as he took the bedding, unrolled it and made himself comfortable. He felt Celes’ hand running through his hair, and it felt calm and was lulling him to sleep.
“Thanks,” Locke mumbled tiredly, wondering if she was casting sleep on him.
“You’re welcome,” she said with thinly veiled humour. “Rest now.”
I’ve got everything I need to make this cake, including directions. I did everything properly and my stupid cake is still burnt! The ruined cake pan and its contents are chilling out in the sink, the smoke is still clearing from the kitchen when the door opens.
“What the hell happened in here?!”
I turned around to see Zell standing there and I smile sheepishly. “Uh… well… y’see, I was trying to bake a cake and uh…”
“A cake? Weren’t you banned from the kitchen Selphie?”
He sighed. “Didja even think to change the temperature on the oven, Selph?”
Prompt was “baked goods” courtesy of ffviii_100 over at dreamwidth.
They don’t happen very often but there’s times when Selphie needs a break. She needs some peace and quiet and a shoulder to lean on as I’ve come to learn through our journey together. She’ll talk to Irvine and Quistis about everything but when she wants a bit of time to herself, she comes to me. She talks for a little bit but eventually, she goes silent and leans against me. Of course, everybody wonders where she’s run off to without so much as a word. I can’t say that I blame them for that but if she wants time to herself, I’m not about to deny her that liberty.
We all want time alone sometimes.
Like this very moment where she’s curled a small hand around one of mind and her head is bowed to the point where I can’t see her eyes through her bangs. I can tell when someone needs time to think as the others have learned about me over these past few months. Even as her hands tremble, shoulders start shaking and she sniffles a few times, I won’t make her talk about it until she is ready for it. She doesn’t need to be as strong as she appears all the time and that’s all she wants.
Sometimes, Rinoa will be there and they will do the same thing that we’re doing right now. They’ll talk for a little bit, Rinoa will wrap her arms around the smaller girl and Selphie lets it all out. All the anger, frustration and disbelief that she keeps inside. It’s amazing how someone who can be so full of energy and spirit can truthfully be so damaged inside. She doesn’t need to say a word, the two of us just know that she’s hurting; we all do.
I look down at her, genuinely curious. “Yes, Selphie?”
“Is it okay if I stay here again tonight?” She asks me shyly.
She seems to find comfort in my being nearby. I’ve been there when she’s woken up in the middle of the night screaming from nightmares and held her close until she calmed down. This is the side of Selphie that only those that she trusts inexplicably will ever get to see.
She’s just as weak as the rest of us as I nod my head. I’d been given the bonus of a double sized dorm room since my return and Selphie knows that she’s always welcome here. I’ll let her take the bed and I’ll claim the couch. We’re all working through the issues that came up thanks to the war and sudden celebrity status that comes along with it. A lot of people figured that Selphie would be the perfect spokesperson for Garden. She surprised everybody when she declined the offer that the Headmaster made.
“I’m a SeeD,” Selphie had stated firmly. “I can’t protect the people I care about if I’m always out and about telling people how great and wonderful Garden. If you ask me, that’s something for people to decide on their own.” Were the words that came out of her mouth that day as everyone in the room stared at her for quite some time.
Nobody knew why she’d refused the position in the end. Selphie is Selphie and if she doesn’t want to do something than she’s not going to do it. I would hear occasional whispers about it but the surprise it left behind in its wake died down after a couple of days. SeeD doesn’t have time to gossip when there are still people out there who need our help. We had accomplished our main objective for the time being and helping with relief efforts had taken top priority.
A quick squeeze of my hand brings my gaze down to Selphie.
“You’re doing your overthinking thing again,” she teases as I roll my eyes at her.
“I’ve got a lot of things on my mind these days,” I replied after a prolonged silence.
“Well, you can always tell me. Or any of us really.”
A smile forms on my face as I nod and she curls in closer in response. “I know, Selphie.”
I glanced up at the clock and said, “It’s getting late.”
I didn’t get a response. Looking down, I saw Selphie’s eyes were closed and she looks peaceful curled up against me asleep. She’s easy enough to move to my bed as she burrows into the comforter after it’s pulled up over her.
This room just isn’t my sanctuary.
It’s late and the room is dim with the exception of the lamp by my bedside. I can’t quite seem to settle down and I can’t stop smiling.
You see, there’s this girl and I’ve liked her since we were kids in the Orphanage together. I knew from right then and there that I was meant to be with that girl whose eyes were so full of life. I’ll never leave her and she’s the reason why I gave up chasing skirts.
Really. Irvine Kinneas is officially a retired womaniser thanks to one Selphie Tilmitt. Like, being head over heels in love with your best friend can have a crazy effect on a guy. One second you’d do anything to get a date with the newest, prettiest cadet in Garden and then Selphie came back into my life and reminded me of who was my one and only. I’ll forever hold her above all the others and I’ll treasure her always.