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One Diagonal Scar

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At the end of that lifelong, unending, horrendous day, after all of the heartbreak and betrayal and empty victories, when everything that had been lost had been found, only to be lost again, and nothing seemed as though it could ever be right, eight words played over and over in his head.

Eight words that he carried cradled like spun sugar, afraid to breathe unless they melted away into the air and left him entirely alone. Eight precious words, worth more than all of the worlds.

Eight words, two voices, one promise.

“Take care of her.”

“I know you will.”

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Sora lay on his bed, hands behind his head, heavy boots propped on the footboard, staring at the ceiling, seeing nothing.

She kissed me…

The thought glistened and darted like a shoal of silver fish, scintillant, teasing, impossible to catch.

She kissed me…

The raft was finally finished, lashed tightly to the jetty, the few things she’d made them collect stowed away in readiness. He had wanted to leave there and then, and had run laughing and wide eyed into the foam, shouting and waving, but Riku had pulled him back, saying there was something he needed to do first. He’d trudged sullenly back out of the surf, head hanging, and Kairi had laughingly mussed his hair and told him they all needed a good night’s sleep. He hated it when she did things like that – like she was his mother or something – but then she’d dropped her hands onto his shoulders and

She kissed me…

Just once, a simple kiss, fresh and precious like a child. The fleeting pressure of her lips against his, gone almost before he’d felt it, like snow falling or a gloved hand against the wind. The memory of it glistened and darted, a trout in a stream.

She kissed me…

“Good night, Sora,” she’d said. And then, turning away, “Goodnight, Riku.”


“Sweet dreams, Kairi,” Riku had said, and she’d dragged the toe of one shoe slowly through the sand behind her as she reached out timidly to take his hand in both of hers. Sora had tried to look away, to not see, but his stupid eyes wouldn’t close and his stupid brain wouldn’t turn his stupid head and now the angle of the wooden sword propped against the foot of the bed was the tilt of her head as she raised her face ever so slightly to him and the shadows under his jacket hanging on the door post was the darkness under Riku’s hair as it fell forwards and the curve in the small of her back under Riku’s hand was the sliver of moon in the window and the starlight dancing on the ocean was the look in her eyes when finally she broke away.

…like a child.

Outside the window, a storm was coming.

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Leon glances up from his book, sees Cloud silhouetted in the doorway, his face lost in shadow, black wing blocking out the last of the twilight. He clambers to his feet, laying the book down on the sidetable, a slip of paper marking his place; rolls the stiffness from his shoulders.

"Any good?"

Leon can't tell if Cloud's query is genuine, so he just shrugs, waiting. Cloud's wing beats gently against the air, clawed hand clattering against the door frame.

Leon waits, but Cloud doesn't speak, just stands there in the doorway against the light. Leon can't read his expression, because his face is lost in shadow, but he can hear his breathing, quick and hard, and he can feel the hammering of his own heart, hard and heavy. He turns away from the door, just in case Cloud can see, and shrugs again.

"Just and old training manual. Nothing special." He lays a hand on the book; feels the embossed letters under his fingers; feels his fingers trembling. "So…"

"I'll be gone for a while," Cloud says. His cloak catches the last of the failing light as he turns, dark as heartblood.

Leon lets out the breath he hadn't known he'd been holding and turns back to face the emptiness where Cloud had been.

Hercules had brought him to them, bloodied and unconcious. Aerith had nursed him, stripped him and bathed him and rubbed salves into the long lacerations Cerberus had left in his flesh; bound his wounds and watched with a slight frown creasing her forehead as the healing spells took effect. "Watch him," she'd said to Leon, and Leon had watched, whenever he wasn't fighting the heartless. Through the long days when Cloud lay as still and pale and empty as the spring sky; through the long nights with only the shallow rasp of his breathing - almost too soft for Leon to hear - to show that he was still alive.

In spite of all of Aerith's efforts, Cloud's wounds had festered and he'd grown feverish. She'd stayed with him when she could, but Traverse Town was full of the sick, the homeless, the hopeless, and Aerith was needed everywhere. "Watch him, Leon," she'd said again, and Leon had watched, all through the terrible night when Cloud, burning with the heat of a thousand suns, sat upright in the bed, wide eyed and wild, blind and staring with the tears pouring down his face, the words pouring out of him. Leon had listened, and most of it he hadn't understood, but even so he had understood that it was nothing that Cloud meant any man to ever hear. So he had sat with him through the endless night while the fever danced Cloud along the brink of existence; had held him while he sobbed; had sat unflinching from the blows that rained around his head as Cloud called him the names of all the angels. And when, finally, the fever broke, and Cloud had lapsed back into unconciousness, Leon had refused to leave.

Cloud watches from the roof as Leon heads out into Traverse Town. At night, lit by the soft glow of the lamps and the firelight behind the myriad windows, the little town looks like heaven, it's scars softened and its wounds hidden. Darkness hides a million sins, Cloud thinks, smiling grimly at the irony as he climbs down to the street and softly opens the door.

The book is lying where Leon left it. He picks it up with his own hand, lifting it into the light of the lamp that Leon had left burning. "Let's see," he mutters.

The cover is the rusty red of dried blood, and most of it is taken up by the title, embossed into the leather around a design he can't quite make out. Cloud runs a metalled finger over the ridges and hollows, frowning as he struggles to decipher the title. "Just an old training manual," he mutters, and lets the book fall open at the slip of paper Leon had placed in it.

"O you whom I often and…" his voice fades to nothing as he reads, lips moving silently on the words. He stands for a long while once he has finished reading, feeling the coarse paper under his fingers, staring at nothing, a small flicker of fear guttering alive inside him.