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Shrouded Earth

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Disclaimer: I do not own Kingdom Hearts and never do I hope to. If I did for whatever reason end up involved Birth by Sleep would be getting a completely revised reboot that includes expanded story arcs, more information about the lives of the characters and perhaps most importantly: OPTIMIZING THE MIRAGE ARENA FOR SINGLE-PLAYER! SERIOUS ENIX! Rant out of the way: I am simply playing with a scenario and the characters. Please enjoy and let me know what you think.


 

 

Aeleus could feel the disturbance long before his eyes saw the ground tremble. The earth spoke of protecting its own but he could not feel for what the element sought to protect only that it surged under the surface towards the town square. Aeleus only knew for certain that a few of the keyblade’s chosen were there training and felt concern wash over him as he recalled which bearers were present.

 

“You sense it too then Aeleus? The power building in the distance.”

 

“Yes Dilan, though I cannot profess to know what the source may be. I can tell it is not a threat to the castle nor the people; but no more.” Aeleus replied to his companion, taking in the tension set into the other guard’s shoulders.

 

“We’ll keep an ear out and keep sensing. I have a feeling this is a conversation we’ve been avoiding for far too long. Let us hope that we have not been too reckless in our bid to distance ourselves from that young man.”

 

Aeleus nodded silently, running the possibilities through his mind. When Terra had met them a few months ago the young man had been conflicted and fairly nervous to be anywhere near them, understandable given his previous situation. Aeleus could remember the overwhelming urge to put a reassuring hand on the lad’s shoulder, to encourage him to listen to what his heart was saying to him but had thought better of it as the tension became palpable. Though Master Aqua now often visited the castle for assistance with magic training, it was rare that Terra would set foot on the grounds despite the longing he had seen in those blue (so, so blue) eyes that peered from behind brown tresses marred by silver streaks.

 

I can only hope that the powers do not manifest all at once. It would be difficult enough to help him master just one of that man’s abilities. Xemnas had Xehanort's will and many  years to perfect his control…Terra will not have nearly as long to adapt to his bodies remembered skills.

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Disclaimer: Please refer back to the prologue chapter.


 

Terra felt uneasy when he saw his name pulled from the lottery hat that determined opponents. Though he could not explain why he had this sinking feeling inside, there it was making him regret agreeing to participate in this training tournament that Sora and Ventus put together with help from the Restoration Committee. Terra wondered briefly if he should mention his reservations to someone but it slipped his mind the moment a shock of red hair came into view: Lea.

 

“Yo, its all fun and games remember. Don’t look so worried. Earthshaker doesn’t still vanish mid-swing does it?”

 

“No, it stays the whole time I train now. Thank you Lea. I’m probably just overthinking it. It’s just…Radiant Garden is a sore spot.” Terra admitted as a gentle smile chased the seriousness from his face. For the first couple of weeks Earthshaker would vanish mid-swing or wouldn’t come unless Terra was in actual danger. It had been difficult to swallow and had riddled him with anxiety about his heart. Master Yen Sid has assured him that it likely meant only that Terra’s heart was still damaged in ways yet unseen not that the Darkness still has a strong foothold.

 

Lea nodded his head in understanding; Radiant Garden was a sore spot for many people (himself included) but he was also intimately aware of what Master Xehanort had been using the older man’s body for. Lea walked a short distance forwards but kept close enough to watch Terra’s body language. The redhead had yet to tell Terra that he’d found him levitating a good two feet above his bed when he went to wake him from a nightmare the night before their last sparring session. Lea had grown pretty fond of Terra and often wondered just how he was so unaware of the power that was left over from Xemnas.

 

“Okay Terra, it looks like you’ll be going up against Leon.” Sora called over, waving the older brunet down. Terra gave a shaky smile as he nodded coming to stand face to face with the other man. Terra took a deep breath, steadying his mind as he pushed out all thoughts but the best way to play the match.

 

Leon eyed his opponent, noting with concern the tension roiling off of his leaner build. It was ill advised to accept a match with someone who was already high-strung but he could see Terra was planning to go through with it. Just as quickly, the tension died down once his keyblade was in hand.

 

“Don’t hold back Terra. If you pull back too much you can lose control of not just the match, but yourself. Just relax and become part of the flow.”

 

“I’ll give it a try…but I don’t make any promises.” Terra said as he found his ready stance. The stance felt off but Terra refused to acknowledge it even as his left hand tried to move out to his side as if it held it’s own blade. Even during training, his body had grown so accustomed to the two-blade system of Xemnas and it terrified him.

 

“All right! Go!” Sora and Ventus announced and quickly got out of the small arena they had in the square, propped up so as not to disturb the flowers below.

 

Leon charged Terra, blade ready to swipe at the other’s side. Terra reflexively brought up Earthshaker, sparks flying between the blades as he pushes his weight behind the block turning it into a reverse swing using Leon’s own weapon. Leon leapt out of the blade lock, knowing he needed to get the keyblade away from Terra to end the match quickly. That block had shown him all he’d needed to know. Terra was not calm enough to be fighting, his instincts were too raw. There had been a twinge of actual fear in his eyes, fear that shouldn’t have been there for a friendly match.

 

Running around the edge of of the arena to gain momentum Leon charged again, this time his goal was clear: disarm Terra and end the match so they could talk. It had been a simple plan but neither expected what actually happened.

 

Earthshaker went flying but Terra had turned and was about to be struck by Leon’s blade. Terra quickly brought his arms up to try and intercept the blade to keep it from his head only the blade never made contact with flesh. Two sets of wide blue eyes took in the sight of the single blade of deep crimson and white energy that had sprung between blade and flesh. Terra felt the color drain from his face as absolute horror coiled through his entire body and darted back trying to get rid of the blade only for it’s twin to appear in his other hand furthering the cloying feeling in his head and chest.

 

“Terra, calm down.”

 

Terra flinched at the perceived reprimand and wheezing harshly as his heart thundered when he felt the world seem to disappear from under his feet and found his opponents on the opposite side of the square. Terra didn’t remember moving and felt fairly nauseous as his body failed to listen to his plea to relax and calm down. All Terra could hear clearly was the erratic pounding of his heart as his mind ran itself in circles despite his attempts to collect his thoughts. Reasoning with himself was going nowhere, even as he tried to remind himself he hadn’t hurt anyone a tiny voice in the back of his head said: yet. A questioning hand on his shoulder tripped the last wire of his control.

“Terra?”

It happened faster than it took for Terra to realize that he wasn’t being attacked. The ground quaked slightly as a stalagmite rushed up into the owner of the hand that had touched his shoulder and he felt everything go still and quiet as his eyes found Aqua curled up on the ground gripping her abdomen as the ground held her up. Terra could feel the tears starting to form in his eyes as he felt his legs backing up against his will. Terra wasn't even aware Aqua had finished her magic practice with Ienzo and Kairi to begin with and now...he'd hurt her.

 

Again.

 

“A-Aqua, I…I didn’t mean—“

 

Aqua couldn’t get the words out fast enough to reassure her friend and could only watch as he came close to his flight response. Then she saw someone she recognized approach and place a comforting hand on Terra’s shoulder, the man unfazed by the second pillar that didn’t even budge him. Aeleus gently turned the smaller man to face him, kneeling enough to make eye contact without having to look down.

 

“I believe perhaps…that we should have had this conversation sooner…Terra.”

Chapter Text

“I…I…” Terra couldn’t get his breathing to even out, a sensation rising in his throat that he hadn’t felt in a long time as moisture began to gather around his eyes. Aeleus gently settled a hand on the younger man’s other shoulder and gave a slight squeeze; expression solemn.

 

“I think perhaps you should let the emotion ride itself out young man. You may find it easier to breathe.”

 

All at once Terra’s remaining composure broke, a ragged sob finally breaking the spell that had paralyzed his lungs as the tension bled out of his body and his knees gave out. Everything felt like it was crashing around him and yet…it felt like a release. Almost like he had been waiting for the confirmation that it was okay not to be the strong one for a while.

 

Aeleus eased the brunet to his feet when he felt certain Terra could maintain his own footing. It was unlikely that the young man would be ready for the conversation at hand, making him smile with relief when Aqua approached them.

 

“Terra…look at me okay?”

 

Terra was sluggish to respond but he slowly looked up as Aqua got closer, only flinching slightly when she placed her smaller hands on his face her own expression firm and determined.

 

“It was an accident. I’m only a little sore Terra and you didn’t mean to hurt anyone. Now repeat what I just told you okay? It. Was. An. Accident.”

 

“It…was an accident. Aqua…I’m so sorry…I just…,” Terra took a deep breathe, he needed to admit it. Let the cloying emotion be named, “I’m…scared out of my mind.”

 

Terra felt himself lean against Aeleus as his strength began to wane. Mild tremors entering his body as a deep pain radiated from his chest, hands unconsciously rising towards the source of the pain.

 

“Terra don’t!”

 

Aqua quickly intercepted her friend’s hands, worry filling her mind as she watched his face contort in pain. Something was very wrong. Very wrong indeed. Terra fought her grip on his hands body arching inwards as Aeleus wraps his arms around the keybearer to keep him from being able to claw at his chest as a pained scream escapes him.

 

(It hurts! Why does it hurt so much? What’s happening to me?)

 

“You're not yet whole as you should be.”

 

Darkness started claiming his vision as the familiar voice wrapped around his mind, the mild tone somehow comforting for all the unease it wrought within him. A voice that felt like it was coming from inside his own being and yet…not quite of him. As suddenly as it came the pain receded and he collapsed in a heap against Aeleus, unable to do aught but try desperately to regulate his breathing. Terra was aware that he was being spoken to but he could neither make out the words nor care to; his sole focus was remembering how to breathe and move his body. The panic was already setting back in as the flesh refused to obey him. For twelve years he had been robbed of control of his own body and now he was unable to move again!

 

“Aeleus, you’ll have to carry him. I don’t believe his body is going to heed him right now.”

 

Terra knew that voice. Slowly he managed to turn his exhausted gaze to see Even, the man’s expression unreadable to the younger man. Fear and adrenaline caused a sudden surge of energy to flood his body painfully and before he could even mildly protest being carried he was again not where he had been a moment before. Aqua could only watch as her friend continued to suffer whatever was causing his distress, wishing she could just pull all that pain out of him and repair the damage herself.

 

“Why does he keep warping away like that?”

 

“The best way to explain it Lady Aqua,” Even spoke concisely, “is that his body is going through some very painful changes, indicating that he was not properly restored to himself. Terra is rapidly gaining access to power he does not currently possess the will or emotional strength to control. It is causing his mind and heart to spike with fear which triggers some of the more flexible of Xemnas’ prior abilities.”

 

“So…he’s…losing control?”

 

“That’s not quite accurate and yet correct. What it means is that Terra is gaining access to his Nobody’s abilities too rapidly for him to have any true understanding of what’s happening. Usually it’s a gradual process, where only one ability triggers at first. For Terra though there are multiple trying to attach to him at once. That can only happen if something went wrong when his pieces lined up again.” Even replied, already regretting what they would be forced to do if it kept up.

 

While he did not wish to stress the young man further, he knew that it had to be one of those who had known Xemnas thoroughly enough to recall the multiple mishaps he had the first week with his own powers. As well as someone who had known him in his guise as Apprentice Xehanort. Even would not risk a new rift creating itself between Terra and his friends after they had been reunited less than a month. No, this fell to himself and the other apprentices and if need be Lord Ansem.

 

“Even…we’re going to have to trap him or he’ll warp himself somewhere he could well and truly be hurt physically on top of his current emotional and mental states.”

 

“I know Aeleus. I just…wish I knew how to comfort a boy we barely know.” The scholar replied as he summoned his ice shield, preparing to freeze Terra when he could pinpoint him again. The boy may not have physically moved from where he warped but his body was visibly winding tight like a spring the could be sprung with very little provocation.

 

“I think you will find that you know him far better than you believe Even.”

 

All head turned to regard Ansem the Wise, the man leaning heavily on the walking stick he was using to get around for the time being. Many amends with the town had been made and surprisingly all were pleased for his return to the throne of governing their world. Ansem made a point to keep open communication with his citizens and the Restoration Committee and many good changes had come about. The man was walking slowly and did not stop until he knelt in front of the now trembling keybearer.

 

“Terra, would you honor this old man with your company for a cup of steaming tea and perhaps a slice of pound cake?”

 

The request was so familiar that it made Terra’s heart twinge with several emotions all at once, more tears welling into his blue eyes as he took a deep shuddering breath and smiled slightly. For that moment he didn’t feel the sudden overwhelming circumstances of the last twenty minutes. Swallowing, Terra managed to stand although it was rather fawn-like.

 

“The h-honor would be mine Master Ansem.”

 

Those words made something inside him ‘click’ into place, like a tiny piece of him that had been missing before the familiar reply flooded him with memories that were hazy to him. It was like watching someone else’s life through his own eyes. Terra was startled gently from his thoughts as a familiar hand rested against his shoulder blades comfortingly. Blue eyes turned to meet deep crimson orbs.

 

“Shall we then, Terra? Perhaps once you’ve had some tea and time I can begin to explain what is likely causing you all of this distress. Would you find that agreeable?”

 

“Actually,” Terra gave a tired but relieved smile as he subconsciously moved to grip the older man’s lab coat like he had done twelve years ago when he was but half of a young man with no memory and every insecurity in the book it seemed like, “I would like that very much.”

Chapter Text

All Disclaimer Information is on the first chapter.


 

 

The walk to the smaller tea room felt like it took ages to Terra but he found he didn’t mind. Ansem the Wise was a steady presence and not overwhelming; he reminded him of Master Eraqus but with far more patience and knowledge of how to deal with anxious people it seemed. Aeleus was another comforting anchor, the older man seeing after him in case his body gave out again. Aside from Aqua or Ven, Terra couldn’t recall anyone who made him feel so secure and though he had assumed these men wanted nothing to do with him it seemed he was wrong.

 

Ansem kept a watchful eye over the young man would in theory should have been at least thirty-two but was barely through his early twenties. For his part the older man was thankful some of the stolen years had been returned to Terra. The wiseman had been waiting for a time he wasn’t busy to speak with Terra but duty kept getting in his way until that morning. It was very alarming noticing just how much of his former apprentice clearly stemmed from the breaking man beside him.

 

“I hope you don’t mind something in the herbal category versus our usual. It may help with some of the pain stemming alongside your distress.”

 

Terra jumped slightly, not having expected the words but quickly recovered with a soft smile. Nearly all of what Ansem was suggesting sounded like music to his ears and not just the familiarity but the acknowledgment that he didn’t realize he’d wanted; the acknowledgment that Terra had been part of this family, broken and trapped as he was. This sort of casual acceptance that so much of ‘Xehanort’ had been him was a soothing balm for his nerves and fraying psyche.

 

“Just don’t expect me to drink the ‘lemon zinger’ flavor that Even concocted as a means to wake me up. I couldn’t stand that, it was worse than overly sweetened tea.”

 

Three sets of soft laughter filled the hall at that particular memory and Terra felt another ‘click’ in his chest as more of the pain died down and he found he was not only feeling exceedingly better but also dramatically more tired, as if events were finally catching up to him. Gradually the trio made it to the tea room, a small drawing room set aside fro afternoon tea with a balcony that overlooked the primary gardens. Terra swore he melted into the chair that Aeleus had to help him down into.

 

Terra managed to drink a single cup of tea and finish half a slice of tea cake before he pushed the plate away almost violently, trying desperately to keep it down. Ansem quickly abandoned his own seat to stand beside the nauseous keybearer and placed a hand to his forehead then his own. The younger man was running a bit warmer than he should and looked thoroughly exhausted. Explanations would have to wait until Terra was in the infirmary being properly tended.


When Terra woke again it was to a small weight pressed against his side and a cool hand on his face. Instead of jumping as his body wanted to desperately he leaned into the cool hand, already knowing the hand belonged to Aqua and the unobtrusive weight to Ven. Slowly he fully opened his eyes to look up at his oldest friend, still feeling to tired but also feeling far more comfortable in his own skin than he had since he was freed.

 

“When did I pass out?”

 

“Lord Ansem brought you down to the infirmary about an hour ago. You’re feverish and showing signs of sleep deprivation, granted we knew about the sleep since all three of us have trouble with it. Terra…has it been hurting you? Not to be here in Radiant Garden?” Aqua asked gently, running a hand through the silver-stained hair softly with a speculative smile.

 

“To be honest…I'm not really sure. But the longer I’m around them, when memories surface and I can actually ‘connect’ I feel…better. Like I’m still getting pieces of myself back and then they just ‘click’ back into place as if they were there my whole life. I feel more at ease that it’s acknowledged that I was here.”

 

Aqua nodded, though she would not lie and say she understood exactly what he was dealing with because she didn’t. All she could do was be supportive and listen to her friend, debating when to tell him what she and Ven had spent an hour discussing with Ansem and the apprentices now or waiting until he was at least a bit more well rested. Ven was fast asleep, acting as a consistent weight against the older keybearer.

 

“Do you think you’re ready to hear what they wanted to tell you or do you want to sleep some more?”

 

“I…I want to talk to Braig.” Terra found himself saying before he even fully thought about it, a 'lost child' sort of expression on his face as uncertainty and what looked like longing filled his eyes as if fearing reprimand for wanting to speak with the one apprentice who was on full-detail parole, unable to use his abilities and only allowed to wander outside the castle grounds with either a Restoration Committee member, another apprentice or one of the keybearers. It was with great reluctance that they had accepted having to deal with the sniper but Terra and surprisingly enough Sora had vouched for him, believing there had to be at least a little good left and that enough pain had been dealt for everyone involved that had survived.

 

For his part, Braig had been fairly behaved aside from the snarky behavior he’d been known for his entire life. The apprentices despite themselves had welcomed him back after a month and had easily shown to each other and the residents what sort of bond they had. It had been seeing this bond that had stung Terra, he realized. Part of him missed being able to open up to them, a part of him he had all but ignored since being freed because he was too scared to make the first move. Seemed both parties were of the same mistake.

 

“Why Braig?”

 

“I…I don’t know but…I think he’d be able to explain what is happening to me better than Even can. Braig knows that I’m a simple guy and gives simple explanations that don’t make my head hurt.” It was…odd. Terra was finding it so much easier to express himself with words where before they always seemed to escape him. Perhaps accepting ‘Xehanort’ and Xemnas as pieces of himself was actually helping him in more ways that one.

It didn't take long for Aqua to find Even and ask about having Braig sent in to visit. Even had been fairly skeptical at first but did flag down the sniper to inform him he was wanted in the infirmary. 

“So, Even says you wanna talk to little old me. You must be fallin’ apart pretty badly to want to deal with me.”

 

Braig was standing in the doorway, close enough to speak to Terra but also far enough to easily escape if things went south. While he had been occasionally speaking to Aqua and Ven during their visits he had yet to approach Terra even though he swore he could see the more vulnerable parts of ‘Xehanort’ in him. Braig could admit to himself he didn't like how pale and drawn the younger man looked the last few visits. Now he knew why the others were regretting not approaching him sooner.

 

“You still owe me a drink. I won that bet; you never found proof of the existence of the creature you called a 'Snipe'.”

 

Braig burst out laughing, realizing exactly what was wrong with the young man and likely already repairing itself. Terra had just made a reference to a bet he had with Xemnas once over the existence of a creature called a 'Snipe'. It had actually started as a joke when Xigbar swore up and down a snipe ate his report for a mission Xemnas had assigned personally. Braig had nearly forgotten all about it.

 

“Yeah, I guess I did make that bet. Tell you what, we get your unification fiasco sorted out and I’ll buy you any drink you want.”

 

“I’ll hold you to that. I heard Even mention it a little while I was out but…what does he mean this isn't normal and that I didn’t merge properly?” Terra asked, relaxing further into the mattress. Ven and Aqua’s presence was calm and helped him to remain calm even though he felt the same nausea and pain threatening to overtake him again.

 

“Basically your heart didn’t line up right. Likely because you had trouble accepting that you were part of them. You know who I mean. Didn’t help that we didn’t come talk to you ASAP. It boils down to you needing it spelled out for you: it’s not just the three of you anymore. You got family here too. Lemme guess; whenever you accept a memory it feels like a little piece of you fits back into place?”

 

“That’s part of it but…I also feel sick, exhausted and my body aches horribly. That and I can feel this... build up that I don’t know how to get rid of because I don’t know what is building up.”

 

“I think it’s your body trying to adapt to the changes Terra. Even mentioned you’ve been cycling through some of Xemnas’ abilities, your abilities. It’s partially because you were unsure you could even acknowledge some of them memories were yours. It will probably get worse before it gets better but hey: you’re recovering and you’ve got people to lean on. I’m sure blue bird won’t let you forget that and I plan to go back to harassing you.” Braig replied, now standing next the bed and ruffling Terra’s hair earning an irritated swat at his hand despite the tired genuine smile on Terra’s face.

 

Maybe, just maybe everything will work itself out. But…does it really have to get worse and if it does…can Terra handle any more as he is now? Aqua thought even as she laughed with the two men, one of which she never though she could grow fond of. Maybe flat out moving here would be more of a benefit than she had first imagined since their sealed home…it was still too fresh to actually stay there and it seemed that even Ven was enjoying the annoying hair tousling that Braid doled out.

Chapter Text

Darkness and pain were the first things that flooded him when he regained consciousness. It made fear rise up into his core as he struggled to recall where he was. Terra couldn’t see anything but inky blackness as the pain continued to ravage his body before centralizing itself into his arms and intensifying. Terra stifled a scream as something burned and pierced his hands all at once from the inside until he could no longer hold back the strangled cry as he rolled onto his side still unable to see anything even the blades he was dangerously close to embedding in his stomach.

 

“Terra! Wake up! You need to wake up immediately!”

 

Terra felt he should know the owner of the concerned voice that was acting like he was a sleep. The voice sounded eerily familiar but he was in too much pain and confusion to respond as a fresh wave of pain bloomed in his body and the darkness suddenly ripped away from his vision as blue eyes flew open but still unable to focus. Terra could make out a worried voice and two sets of hands, one on each of his own arms as their owners tried to pull his arms away from him. Why were they doing that? Why did his arms hurt so much? What was this voice in his head trying to reason with his fear?

 

“Even? What the heck is goin’ on? I thought he couldn’t hurt himself with these!”

 

“I never said that Braig. I said that they shouldn’t, not that they couldn’t. It means that Terra truly does not have control. Just keep him from curling around his arms or he’ll impale himself. Terra isn’t coherent enough to banish them or likely realize what he nearly did.” The scientist and chief medic called back as he finally got Terra’s left wrist in the padded cuff that would keep his arm from moving…or so he hoped. They had left Terra almost alone for less than an hour and came back to find him screaming in his sleep with the ethereal blades in their original raw form from the very first time they’d ever been unleashed. Terra was awake now but clearly still unable to interact with his reality.

 

Braig cursed as he finally got the boy’s other wrist restrained then quickly dove backwards as wisps of darkness began to roll off of the younger man, coiling and fading into pieces as new ones took their place. Even paled considerably as he narrowed green eyes to take a better look at Terra’s heart. Terra’s heart was…mangled and battered and the ice mage could sense something both natural and foreign trying to keep the boy’s heart from shattering but he could not tell for the life of him who or what had managed to help Terra survive as long as he has.

 

Terra felt the pain receding from his arms as he slowly saw the world come into focus with an exhausted gaze. Terra couldn’t remember the last time he felt so much pain at once. The pain in his chest however remained even as another ‘click’ brought him a modicum of relief. Slowly he let his eyes fall to Even, his gaze still filled with fear but also pleading for something he couldn’t name.

 

“Are you with us Terra?”

 

“I…think so. Wha-what happened?” Terra barely recognized his hoarse voice as Even laid a chilly hand to his face to try to relieve some of the fever.

 

“The short-hand is you lost complete control in your sleep. We came back to find you screaming after having summoned the ethereal blades in their original raw forms, which would have burned their way along while piercing through your palms. You nearly impaled yourself on them and may have succeeded if we had been any later to check on you. Terra…what do you remember?”

 

Terra wasn’t sure what Even meant. Terra still had so many blank spots but he never wanted to mention them to anyone. If it meant Even could help though he guessed he should come up with an answer.

 

“I…hear a voice in my head, deeper than my own but familiar. I remember him telling me I had to wake up. Almost violently in his intensity. What does it mean?”

 

“What you heard is likely whatever force is keeping your heart in one piece. Terra…your heart is, for lack of another analogy, like Humpty Dumpty. I doubt it would take much to shatter it entirely and I fear that if this force had not been around you might not be either.” Even responded, holding Terra’s searching gaze. Whatever Terra had been seeking it seemed the younger man had found it for he let out a breathy sigh and relaxed entirely against the bed a tiny weak smile that crushed Even.

 

Terra’s smiles were once far more confident and charming. These frail smiles…I doubt he has any idea how much they make the hearts of others ache for him to smile freely once more. Could it be…that Xemnas still lives inside him in some form?

 

Terra thought long and hard about what Even told him and wondered if there was any way to discern what was happening to him and if there was any possibility of repairing his damaged heart if only so the constant random losses of control and bouts of pain would cease being so frequent. It was this mind set that lured him into the castle library for hours on end. The first people to take notice of old habits were Ienzo and Aqua.

 

“I don’t know what to think of his current thirst for knowledge. Unlike his time as ‘Xehanort’ it does not seem to be for any sort of gain. Granted I’ve no clue what he is looking for.”

 

“This is actually pretty normal Ienzo. Terra likes to read, especially when he’s trying to learn something specific or just wants a story to escape into for a while.” Aqua replied, smiling softly at the familiar way Terra treated the tomes with such care. Terra may have been far more athletically inclined but let it never be said there was any lack of scholarly behaviors.

 

“If it has to do with his heart…perhaps Master Yen Sid would be better suited to assist him in figuring out what is wrong. While Even can diagnose he can’t do anything to help without further intervention.”

 

“I’ll try talking to him after his session with Lea and Riku tonight. They’re going to try easing him into Xemnas’ powers one at a time starting with getting him accustomed to opening portals and closing them. It’s supposed to help him get comfortable with the fact that the abilities are there and the more he knows about them the less likely he’ll lose control of them.” Aqua responded as she pulled down her own book from a shelf. The volume the bluenette chose was a directory of spells that Ansem had mentioned she may find of interest.

 

“Talk to me about what?”

 

Ienzo and Aqua both jumped slightly, the later nearly dropping the book. Terra was looking down at them from the banister to the upper level of the library with an expression that looked so open and pure Aqua could cry seeing him look so untroubled for the first time in days. It was also nice to see him wearing what appeared to be winter pajamas instead of his usual attire or the black leather jacket he had grown partial to wearing unzipped when it got cold. Terra swore it was the most warm thing he owned and Aqua had to give him that one, Land of Departure rarely got cold enough to need warmer clothing than what they typically wore.

 

“How long exactly have you been up there?” Ienzo ventured, embarrassed that the older man got the jump on HIM, the ‘Cloaked Schemer’.

 

“Long enough to hear that you guys have a lead I might want to hear about.” Terra replied, a tired but hopeful smile on his face now with his eyes shining bright.

 

“Ienzo thought you might want to talk to Master Yen Sid about what Even told you. I think he’s onto something. If nothing else he might have an idea if there is any knowledge to fix or at least stop more damage.”

 

Terra mulled over their words, it certainly held weight but he was uncertain. Then that nagging feeling pulsed through him again and he heard the now familiar deep voice speak to him softly enough that he didn’t feel overwhelmed.

 

Their logic is sound and their feelings in the right place, you should see Master Yen Sid sooner rather than alter. Complete tonight’s training and call ahead then leave by morning’s light. It may be some time before you can again hear me inside you but remember this: Earth bathes in light, houses darkness and burns with molten light. Earth is void and Void is earth, perhaps one day these words will make sense to you.

 

Terra only felt more confused but decided he agreed with the voice if he let his damaged heart do the talking for him. Another ‘click’ rang in his mind and he felt a tiny flow of relief for a tension he did not recall. Terra smiled softly as he thought over things: Maybe…maybe there is a reason these powers are tied to me so strongly after all.

Chapter Text

“Really? You couldn’t even make it two feet from your starting point?”

 

“I don’t see you trying to control two opposing forces to move from point A to point B Lea!” Terra snapped, his temper slowly getting the best of him. It was true that he hadn’t teleported more than three inches successfully by will but having it called out was grating on his nerves and something inside of him sent cruel images of what he could possibly do to make him shut up.

 

“Hey, knock if off you two. Terra, take a breathe. Lea, he has to start somewhere and we’ve only been working on this for twenty minutes. Now, you’re sure that Even said you have to channel both of them to teleport properly?” Riku tried to diffuse the fight and get to the bottom of what was hindering Terra from any real progress. So far all he had learned was that Terra always looked apprehensive when he tried to channel the power of his own accord and he could hardly blame him, but he was also unsure of what Even said allowed him to ‘warp’ around. Braig’s was temporal magic and anti gravity so Riku thought he would have been the better teacher here.

 

“Yes. Even said that for Xemnas it was creating a rift by generating negative space from the two colliding to create ‘nothingness’.”

 

Terra wasn’t ready to admit it but he had a feeling why he couldn’t quite get it right: fear. In truth he was still terrified that the powers even existed inside him. They were a reminder of the last thirteen years of his life trapped in uncertainty, hardly aware of the world around him after his time as half of apprentice Xehanort. Could that fear be the only factor though?

 

“Try clearing your mind first.”

 

All three young men startled slightly at the calm voice, their eyes raising to where Aeleus sat on the concrete edge of the central entrance to the water purification facility beneath the outer gardens. Aeleus kept his gaze firmly locked onto Terra’s own less certain azure gaze, a soft knowing smile on his features. Watching Terra reminded him of when he had first started training Xehanort; the skill was present but fear and doubt prevented him from attaining the level of focus he needed. Even now he was certain he knew the problem had stemmed from Terra.

 

“Clear my mind?”

 

“Yes. Terra, try clearing your mind of all thoughts except where you want to warp to. With that in mind, let the energy build inside you until you feel the distortion. It will take time until you can obtain the same level your body had gotten used to, but it does remember. It is a physical memory as well as a skill. Rushing into it will only see you back in the infirmary.” Aeleus explained.

 

Terra thought about this and processed the information. It was true that he wanted this to be over. It seemed though that his wish to rush through learning this to get away from it had stemmed from the fear of not truly understanding what he was doing. The fundamentals he understood, but the ever nagging questions of why he had retained the powers made him unsteady. Taking a breath, he closed his eyes and began filtering through his thoughts. Another soft ‘click’ resonating in his heart and body as a memory came unbidden into his thoughts.

 

“I think perhaps we should call it a day.”

 

“B-but I almost got it this time!” Xehanort exclaimed, slowly pulling himself back to his feet if a bit fawn-like.

 

Aeleus took in the younger apprentice and noted the boy looked as if he hadn’t been sleeping well again. Thankfully his appetite was healthy enough for his age. Indeed, Xehanort had almost managed to land a successful hit against him. The problem was that too many thoughts clouded his judgement. Perhaps a bit of advice was in order.

 

“Xehanort, it is obvious to me that you are not a beginner despite your lack of memories. Your body remembers what your heart and mind do not. Try clearing your mind of everything but myself as your target. If you manage to land one strike we can consider today progress.”

 

Xehanort took these words in, the conveying feeling processing to a part of his heart that he hadn’t heard actively speak in a while. The small voice was weak but he could tell it was his own and it encouraged him to listen. Taking a breath, Xehanort emptied his mind of frightening memories and horrible thoughts of darkness and focused solely on the one advantage he had over the redhead before him.

 

It was as if a switch had flipped. Xehanort opened his eyes and darted around and below the larger opponent and struck out, wooden training blade smacking into Aeleus’ shoulder blade. That same night, Aeleus had granted him a rare proud smile and placed a large hand on his shoulder as joy seemed to fill every part of him.

 

“You definitely improved. Just keep in mind to empty thoughts you do not need in the moment before training and I think you’ll find yourself improving further. Now, I think you’d best get back to Even for lessons before he sends Dilan or Braig to collect you.”

 

Terra smiled, the memory flooding him with a sense of peace. That memory was HIS and he could still feel how thrilled he’d been to have verbal approval and that reassuring tough on his shoulder. Terra let it pass and finished clearing his mind of everything except for the spot next to the older man; his target location was set. The energy slowly pooled in his core, but instead of the irritating and fearful ‘rub’ he felt them glide into one another and before he could even truly think further he was seated right next to Aeleus with the man’s arm draped around his shoulder.

 

“Does it still feel like a power to be feared?”

 

“No; it feels…like breathing.” Terra smiled, blue eyes bright behind silvered bangs. For the first time since these powers of Xemnas’s began to emerge, one of them felt as simple as breathing. Soon he felt he could do it with the same ease as Xemnas.

Chapter Text

Terra felt nervous, as he usually did internally prior to meeting with Master Yen Sid. It may have been at his own request that he meet with the elder, but it didn’t mean he lacked any reservations. The sorcerer had elected to come to Terra rather than have him visit the Mysterious Tower. Yen Sid’s reasoning had been uncertainty regarding Terra’s ability to reach him reliably. Terra had very little control over portals and his keyblade refused to stay in glider form longer than ten minutes. Warping from one world to another didn’t work (he had tried warping from his room to Wonderland and instead ended up popping up in the middle of Dilan and Aeleus’s sparring session and just narrowly escaping a beheading).

 

“Terra, dear boy, relax. At the rate you are pacing about you will be required to picki out a new rug for this room.” Ansem the Wise chuckled, beckoning his apprentice to sit down at the table with him. Terra had been fairly relieved the older man wanted to wait with him. Ansem, like Eraqus was a father figure after all albeit it an admittedly better one. Terra could actually follow what Ansem wanted of him. It had given him a sense of peace when Ansem asked if he would return once more as his apprentice. The intellectual work over the week since the powers started up had been like a balm. Aqua said he looked more at peace and had smiled without concern.

 

“I can’t help it Master Ansem. The last time I saw Master Yen Sid face to face…was thirteen years ago.”

 

“You were quite the reserved young man and difficult to read.” A deep but warm voice spoke up form the doorway. Master Yen Sid took in Terra’s changed appearance and felt relief rather than alarm. While it was true Terra’s heart was still horribly mangled, he could sense the slow healing within it. That was a promising sign. What did trouble him though was how quickly Terra’s body was acclimating to Xemnas’s powers. It was doing so at a rate that the heart and mind could scarcely keep up with it seemed.

 

“I was unaware I was ‘difficult’ sir.”

 

“You misunderstood me Terra. I meant that it was hard to tell what you were thinking at a given moment. You are more at ease with your emotions now than you were then.” Yen Sid clarified as he took the offered seat across from Terra at the table to he could better assess what was going on.

 

“Now, you are certain you wish to know what sort of havoc your heart has been left in?”

 

“No. I don’t want to know but…I need to know. Sometimes what we need outweighs what we want.” Terra replied, still uncertain about giving such access to his heart to the older man and getting close to warping from the chair. The only thing grounding him right now was Ansem’s hand resting comfortingly between his shoulder blades. Physical contact kept him in the now and also prevented too many memories from flooding him all at once.

 

“Very well. We shall see what I can glean that Even could not.”

 

Terra’s entire body tensed as he let his eyes drift shut, Yen Sid’s hand barely an inch from touching his chest and sensing his heart. Yen Sid frowned, eyes narrowing as he felt the strange pulse surrounding the young man’s damaged heart. This energy did not belong as he had assumed to Eraqus, in fact Eraqus’s heart had visited him before departing to the Beyond properly. The man had been ready to pass on, saying he felt reassured in Ansem’s ability to guide Terra. The energy...felt as if it stemmed from Terra himself without being directly part of him. Almost as if it had been severed at some point from him and then returned but unable to fully reconnect. While it held darkness it did not feel like a threat to himself, rather a shield to Terra's heart which he could feel was mangled almost beyond recognition on the surface level. Memories lay in broken 'frames' left and right of the central dream self who looked rather...lost. The dream Terra that dwelled in the heart held traits of Xemnas and Xehanort the apprentice as well as Terra's own where the physical Terra kept only the silver stains to his hair and the messy length of Xemnas' hair. Hollow blue eyes stared blankly at him, a slightly older pair of orange eyes floating in the shadow next to him. It was this presence that Yen Sid could see was holding the boy together with everything it could muster. Eyes that were as tired as the heart felt.

 

“You seem troubled.” Ansem spoke quietly, hand still splayed over Terra’s back as the keybearer’s breathing evened out into calm slumber to give Yen Sid a better glimpse into his heart.

 

Yen Sid merely nodded, giving the man a look that said he would explain once he was sure. Finally, he brought his hand directly to Terra’s chest and felt something very peculiar: two intersecting ridge-like indentations, he was fairly certain they were scars.

 

“Lord Ansem…has Even had the opportunity to give Terra a full physical?”

 

“No, not a proper one at any rate. It has only been a week and Terra lashes out blindly at the mere mention of it. Is that part of why he is not recovering correctly?” Ansem felt alarm bells in his heart as a trembling hand reached out and latched onto his lab coat. Glancing down he noticed Terra had gone fairly pale and his entire form was shaking almost as if the prolonged exposure to Yen Sid’s magic was causing a reaction.

 

Yen Sid was quick to remove his hand from Terra’s chest, the magic that had started scanning Terra’s heart retreating swiftly as tendrils of darkness pushed it out before retreating back into the damaged heart, circling it almost…protectively, like a shield.

 

“Terra’s heart is not the only thing affected by the damage of Xehanort. I recommend a proper medical examination and building fresh memories with him. Terra’s mind and heart are not properly connected due to the amount of chaos left in Xehanort’s wake. Each new memory has the potential to properly let him associate what of those selves belongs to him. Even unrelated events or people can trigger an association that can help alleviate the damage. Nothing further can be done to help him until he can get at least half of Xemnas’s power under control.”

 

Ansem did not like the sound of the certainty that it would take so long. Terra had only just barely gotten started on warping at will and making portals over short distances (none of which were fully stable). It could take a very long time for Terra to get to such a point but then he remembered, this was a recovery. Recovering took a long time, especially when one’s heart was as mangled as Terra’s had apparently been left. There was also the matter of this ‘voice’ Terra mentioned occasionally. Just who was it that was watching over Terra from within and what was their purpose? Ansem knew he would need to find the answers soon, even as a small form of certainty filled his mind. What worried him though was not what was inside Terra but rather...what he now sensed was not.

Chapter Text

Even was fairly surprised the following morning when he found Terra shuffling nervously inside the infirmary. One would think the young man had done something worthy of guilt to be making such an action but he was growing more and more aware that it was a nervous habit. The blond had been informed that Terra required an up-to-date physical and had honestly thought he would have to hunt him down as he had his last two incarnations that he’d dealt with.

 

Xehanort avoided him because of fear, his amnesiac state left him with very little apparent knowledge of most procedures and he’d had to resort to having Aeleus sit down with him to keep him calm (the syringe issue was understandable given how sensitized his nerves were that first month with them).

 

Xemnas simply didn’t care for physical contact unnecessarily. If he sensed Vexen approaching and it was a ‘check up’ day, the Superior of the In-Between would make himself scarce one way or another until he actually collapsed and required said attention. Once in a while though Xemnas did willingly show up when called for. It had gotten to a point Xigbar, Xaldin, and Luxord took bets on how long it would take before Xemnas willingly showed himself before Vexen.

 

Terra though, seemed to view it as an evil he needed to face. Even had a good idea what was under those layers Terra was wearing lately, he had seen the vicious scar on his chest when tending Xehanort the day he was brought into the castle barely able to function. As Xemnas, the scar had looked even more gnarled. Almost as if the fiasco with the warring hearts had made it worse. The doctor shuddered to think what it looked like now that Terra was slowly unifying properly.

 

“Terra, you do understand this isn’t a funeral?”

 

“I know that…it’s just…I don’t like situations I can’t control.” Terra admitted. This admission told Even plenty about why Xemnas didn’t like letting matters slide out of his control. It was not solely Xehanort, but also Terra. Terra’s insecurity stemmed from his lack of control for thirteen years and his heart ached to reassure him; no, possibly further back than that.

 

“Well, did you or did you not step foot into the infirmary willingly?”

 

“I did…but I was also instructed to.”

 

“Terra, just because you were told to didn’t mean you had to. You and I both know that I’ve had to hunt you down in the past to get anything done, but here you are standing before me when you could have just as easily run off.” Even countered, not about to lose what progress Terra’s self-esteem had made in the past few weeks since his freedom was granted. Terra had chosen to appear, that was a decision he controlled.

 

“I didn’t mean about coming for the physical Even. I mean…what’s happening with me.”

 

That made things a little different. Even now had a better idea of what was going on but he didn’t pretend to understand it. In theory, Terra should be one whole entity but that was not the case. Something was missing and another piece of him was disconnected but still part of him. For now he could focus on getting Terra to calm down and relax. Perhaps some tea was in order.

 

“I think that before we do anything, we’ll have some tea to settle your nerves. I can’t say I understand fully what Yen Sid has told me of your heart situation, but I know a troubled mind and body will not help the situation. Terra?”

 

“Yck! You’re sure that’s tea? It’s so…bitter and strong.”

 

Xehanort wasn’t so sure this was tea anymore. It didn’t taste like what Master Ansem gave him or what Aeleus brewed in the evenings.

 

“Try adding some sugar to it. Maybe you’re just not ready for pure tea.”

“You’re not playing me again are you? Like the time you said that those cupcakes were actually corn muffins.” Xehanort at least seemed to be catching on that Braig was not always an honest man. Braig had used cupcake batter to make ‘corn muffins’ and they subsequently discovered that there was a limit to how sweet something Xehanort consumed was permitted to be.

 

“Nah. It’s just grown-up tea. Right Even?”

 

Xehanort looked up at Even expectantly, hoping the blond would tell him the truth rather than side with Braig. Even looked like he wasn’t sure which answer to give then sighed almost in resignation.

 

“I’m afraid that Braig is being quite honest Xehanort. You see, ‘grown-up’ tea is a type of tea that is meant to keep you alert and awake rather than relax and destress.”

 

CLICK!

 

“You’re not giving me coffee.”

 

Even laughed as he recalled what conversation had sparked this response. It had been humorous to see his reaction when he told him Braig wasn’t lying. Xehanort hadn’t learned the ‘truth’ about coffee until he’d become Xemnas. Xemnas HATED coffee with all of his ‘non-existent’ being. It had gotten to a point that if he ever found coffee in his tea cup he would hunt down however was assigned to kitchen duty. The only one who seemed to respect his disdain for coffee other than Xaldin and Saix had oddly enough been Marluxia. When the pink-haired nobody had been on kitchen duty he never forgot that Xemnas only accepted tea.

 

“I assure you Terra, that when I say ‘tea’ I actually mean tea and not coffee. You have to admit though, it was impressive how long it took you to correct your knowledge at the time.”


“I have to admit no such thing.” Terra was flustered with embarrassment. The very fact that he had fallen for that obvious lie meant that SOMEONE (probably Xehanort) decided that while they were fighting for control he wasn’t capable of spotting a deception.

 

Even chuckled, Terra was successfully out of his nervous mood but he still felt tea was in order and walked into the kitchenette to brew some. Terra settled down on the observation bed, looking fairly exhausted once more. It troubled Even just how exhausted Terra seemed to be sometimes. Aqua and Ventus had mentioned it got better slightly after he made progress with warping. Even could only hope that the more control Terra gained, the less drained he would be.

 

Once their tea was finished, Even waited while Terra slowly shed his jacket (apparently he’d grown quite partial to it) and then his uniform above the waist, leaving his torso exposed. Even winced when he saw the angry criss-cross of the scar over the silveret’s heart. It looked nearly as gnarled as it had on Xemnas, made worse by his naturally lighter skin in comparison. Not for the first time, he wondered what had left those specific scars. While they were bad they weren’t what caught his attention and raised an alarm bell.

 

It was the new one that ran between them, intersecting both scars vertically. It made the ‘X’ now look more like a six-pointed star. The middle scar started at his collarbone and ended all the way down by his navel. This scar was angry and pulsed with darkness, as if the wound was infected and the dark was trying to purge that infection.

 

“Terra…have you seen this scar?”

 

“What scar? There should only be the usual two right?” Terra didn’t see what Even could see, but he did often feel a phantom pain when he remembered Xemnas’s last moments. The feeling of Sora’s Ultima keyblade piercing through his body as Riku’s Way to the Dawn unlocked and removed Xehanort from him, replacing Terra’s battered heart and soul back where they belonged.

 

Even frowned as he examined the scar. It was severe enough that Terra should have felt the pain plain as day and deep enough it should still be tender but when he pressed his hand against it…the skin felt normal to the touch. A familiar presence wrapped around his wrist and he knew exactly why Terra could not feel it: Xemnas. Xemnas was still separate from Terra and doing all in his power to shield his original from unnecessary harm and suffering. Then…what was it that Terra lacked? Taking a deep breath, the Chilly Academic took a chance.

 

“Xemnas, there is a fine line between protecting him and hiding things from him.”

 

Terra’s body tensed for a moment before his eyes flickered burning orange, the only discernible change other than his neutral facial expression, but Even could see that this Xemnas was not the same one he had served. No, this was a version that belonged solely to Terra. No trace of Master Xehanort lingered in that gaze, only a natural darkness that felt wholly Terra.


“Even, I know my body’s limits. If that wound was not under a dissociative barrier I wouldn’t be able to regain mastery of myself. I’d be stuck in a hospital bed in constant pain because I’m not whole enough to heal properly.”

 

Looking at the wound Even had to agree. There was simply no way that Terra would be up and moving with that injury in the state it was. It did NOT however mean he agreed with the boy’s darker half. Even could tell that unlike Vanitas, this entity was still mostly one with Terra but had enough awareness to separate itself for the time being. What was missing that kept them from being completely whole? That prevented Light and Darkness from being one cohesive version of Terra once more? Could it truly only be the memories and the lack of acceptance?

 

“Even…do you need me to bring that barrier down. Knowing what it will do to me?”

 

Terra looked conflicted, one eye still the deadpan orange and the other expressive semi-fearful blue. Even knew this would set Terra back the entire week of progress but a grievous injury just could NOT be ignored any further.

 

“I am sorry Terra, but injuries have to be allowed to heal. If that injury has been with you since you were returned…that could very well be part of why you lost control of everything so rapidly. With your body trying to heal at the same time as your heart and mind it became too much to handle so something had to give. It will be easier to heal your body than your heart and mind, so please let it do so properly before we go any further in trying to master your abilities.”

 

Terra swallowed heavily, and orange eyes glowed faintly as he lay his body against the bed not yet dropping the barrier.

 

“You’ll have to strap me down. When the pain sets in…it will get bad Even. Really bad.”

 

Even had been afraid of that. It meant the darker side of Terra was trusting him to take care of the situation.It meant that the Terra he’d been talking to for the past week would break further and be in agony and Even would likely have to sedate him and operate to find the full extent of the damage. Silently Even wished he had noticed something wrong with the boy sooner.

Chapter Text

The moment the restraints were in place all hell broke loose. Orange eyes faded back to blue as an anguished scream escaped Terra’s lungs, the scar materializing fully into reality, revealing it was not even a fully closed scar. Terra thrashed against the restraints, tears starting to flow freely as he struggled to breathe through the pain, small ethereal bombs forming all around him before the lasers absently struck the walls and anything in the area. Even had to throw up his shield to avoid being hit head on by a few, one still finding his shoulder making him grunt. Right now getting Terra calmed down or tranquilized so he could actually treat the injury was his top priority. Never had he been happier to see Dilan enter the infirmary.

 

“Even, what happened?”

 

“I’ll explain later Dilan, I need you to pin him down if you can get close enough. I have to get him sedated so I can treat him.” Even responded, getting the compound he needed to the right dosage. The sooner Terra was rendered unconscious the better. This was far worse that what he’d expected.

 

Even if I can stitch the wound itself shut…the damage is progressively worse. Terra’s very heart is damaged worse than I imagined. It would almost be better to let him shatter and then try to piece him together. If someone had noticed sooner. If he’d talked to someone sooner. Too many ‘if’ situations!

 

Dilan nodded and quickly created a small isolated whirlwind around himself as he approached the younger man. This wouldn’t be the first time he’d had to restrain him, just the first time as Terra. If Terra was anything like his nobody had been though… the whirlwind was very necessary. 

 

Terra continued to thrash as the injury pulsed. The pain felt like something was actively piercing through him and trying to shatter the tattered remains of his heart with it.

 

How did I get this injury? Why does it hurt so much if it’s mostly scarred over? Why am I attacking everything? I don’t understand!

 

“Terra, you need to take a deep breath. Block it out and breathe!”

 

Terra’s mind went blank as a deep, accented voice called out to him. Familiarity flooded him and he tried to focus on that voice. It was familiar, but whose was it? Everything hurt so much and he couldn’t see!

 

Dilan managed to get next to the bed and draped one arm over Terra’s shoulders so he would stop pulling at the restraints, wrists already raw from the struggle. With his free hand he twined his fingers with the brunet’s, giving him something to squeeze.

 

CLICK!

 

“Xehanort, stay with me! Don’t you DARE close your eyes.”

 

“Di…lan?” Xehanort could feel pain vibrating through the back of his head and his breathing coming harder as the older apprentice  gently pulls him up into his arms.The last thing he remembered was taking a shortcut across the fountain court to deliver a borrowed book to Merlin then the ground going out from under him. Had he slipped on the ice?

 

“I didn’t know the fountains were frozen over when I told him about the shortcut.”

 

“Right now that’s irrelevant. What is important right now is getting Xehanort to Even and making sure he’s not broken anything on top of his clear concussion.” Dilan snapped, irritated that Braig had this bad habit of aiding Xehanort in bad decision making through misinformation. It sometimes seemed as though Braig knew just how to pull the younger apprentice’s strings.

 

Xehanort wasn’t certain what was going on, only that he was being carried in Dilan’s arms as if he weighed nothing and Dilan seemed angry. Automatically he could feel the burning sensation in his eyes, nose, and chest as he equated the older man’s state to being caused by himself.

 

“I-I’m sorry Dilan.”

 

Dilan swore under his breathe. Leave it to Xehanort to misinterpret other people. Dilan gently bounced him slightly, pleased that the silveret had at least regained enough function to cling to him as a result.

 

“I am not angry at you Xehanort. Just that you are in this situation at all. Just stay awake; we are almost to the infirmary. Believe me when I say if I were angry at you that you would certainly know it.”

 

Terra let himself breathe as the last dregs of energy seeped out of his body, tears streaming silently down his cheeks as he gazed unseeing at the ceiling. Dilan took a moment to examine the trembling young man and frowned. The wound was oddly blade-shaped and turned the criss-cross scar he had when they found him into an asterisk. The silveret’s eyes were glassy and unable to focus, his hair plastered to his face and his breathing dangerously irregular. Whatever had caused the damage to his chest…likely occurred during the final battle.

 

“I recommend sedating him while he’s weakened and not moving.”

 

“I agree.” Even spoke in reply, already gently swabbing Terra’s arm and administering the sedative. In theory it would keep him under for at least a few hours, as it had been designed for Xemnas’s bouts of insomnia.

 

Even sighed heavily, heart aching as he brushed the marbled bangs from the boy’s now feverish face. Heart and mind made up, he knew he needed help from someone with more knowledge of Terra as he had been than he currently possessed.

 

“Dilan, would you find Master Aqua and have her come down to the infirmary? I think it best to have assistance from someone who knows what he’s like at his core.”

 

“Certainly. I would advise caution though Even. Make sure you explain to her why Terra is in critical condition after ‘seeming’ physically fine the last few days.” Dilan acknowledged as he went to seek the mage.

Chapter Text

“How was Terra even able to function with an injury this severe?” Aqua asked, voice tinged with emotion as she stroked her friend’s face soothingly with one hand. Terra looked so fragile laying in the bed, cuffs keeping his limbs in place in case he woke as Even cleaned and inspected the wound before carefully stitching it shut and casting a very low level cure on the wound. Due to the dangerous proximity to Terra’s heart they both felt it better to let his body heal slowly and on it’s own once the spell kick-started the process.

 

“Terra wasn’t even aware of the injury himself. Xemnas, as I’ve now dubbed his innermost darkness, placed a dissociative barrier around it to prevent it from slowing him down and left it up in hopes Terra would heal without ever noticing it. It is part of why he has little to no control over the inherited powers. You already know the state of his heart yes?”

 

“Only what Master YenSid was willing to tell me, that it’s nearly shattered. Could his physical condition also be a reflection of the damage in his heart?” Aqua met Even’s gaze and felt an odd mix of emotions but she felt one thing was certain: this man was just as worried about the man lying in this bed.

 

“I believe they have everything to do with one another. Terra’s heart was likely already under severe strain during Xehanort’s occupancy and was damaged further when the man was forcibly removed. This wound is likely why his heart has been so slow to recover. It is difficult to repair mind, heart, and body at the same time if all three are in some way damaged. Not to mention the dissociation that ‘Xehanort’ had from being a combination of the two with amnesia. There were days I swore he had a split-personality disorder.”

 

Terra stirred slightly with a pained hitch in his breathing, head rolling away from the light shining in from the infirmary window. Even concentrated and took another look at Terra’s heart, frowning when he found what he could only describe as a crack expanding. Aqua could tell he was concerned about something but she knew now was probably not a good time to ask.

 

“Terra may be unconscious for a day at the least. All we can do now is make sure he rests like he should be and hope he doesn’t have any fits of panic without someone in the room.”

 

~Kingdom Hearts~

 

It was three days before Terra regained consciousness and he was rarely ever left completely alone. Kairi was sitting in with him when she heard a soft murmur and a slight tug on the edge of the violet shawl that Ienzo had brought her to fight the chill of the infirmary. Slowly violet-blue met eyes like the deep ocean.

 

“Highness...when..did you get so big?”

 

If Kairi hadn’t heard the tone she’d have worried he was trapped in a memory. Terra’s voice was soft and almost sad but not in a way that told her he wasn’t aware how old she was. It was like when an older sibling or parent looked at you after a long time, really looked at you.

 

“I guess sometime after I washed up on Destiny Island. How are you feeling Terra?”

 

“If I’m honest…I feel like just breathing is a bit troublesome.” Terra smiled weakly as he answered the wine-haired girl. Kairi could tell he was still fairly weakened and she didn’t want to push him so soon but she was curious and still had watch duty for a few hours.

 

“Terra…what was I like when you knew me through Apprentice Xehanort?”

 

The question took Terra by surprise and he felt a tightening in his chest and groaned before he felt several ‘clicks’ resonate in the core of his heart, where the memories he was less familiar with seemed to move and it released some of the tension he didn’t realize he had. A small smile replaced the slight expression of pain.

 

“You were a kind, sweet girl who wasn’t afraid of the man with no memory.”

 

Xehanort wasn’t sure how he’d gotten separated from Aeleus and lost in the middle of town but it had happened and he felt scared. Radiant Garden seemed huge to him even though he was not a small person and with memory issues aside he was socially awkward and nervous at the best of times. There were still days he forgot his own name and would start crying in frustration like a child and could only apologize repeatedly when he was called out on the childish behavior. Lord Ansem was patient and calm in dealing with him, giving him a name tag to keep in his pocket in case he forgot his name again. Eventually the crying fits stopped as he gained more control over his emotions.

 

Looking around he frowned and fidgeted, this area was very unfamiliar to him and he could feel the familiar burning sensation that came before crying when he felt a tiny hand tug lightly on his lab coat. Looking down, doe brown eyes met violet-blue framed by maroons hair and a shy smile. Princess Kairi had once again escaped her grandmother. Xehanort knew very little of Lord Ansem’s niece, only that she was very sweet and soft-spoken until she got passionate on something.

 

“Are you okay Mr. Xehanort? You look like you want to cry.”

 

Xehanort did in fact not want to cry, but his traitorous body had other ideas as the tears started rolling down his cheeks and he dropped down to her level not ashamed in the least as she ran a small hand through his now rumpled silver hair.

 

“I..I don’t know where I am.”

 

Kairi nodded softly, being lost was not fun and she knew this. Carefully she wrapped her tiny arms around his neck.

 

It’s okay Mr. Xehanort's Real Self. Someday, the people you care for most will be with you again.”

 

Kairi’s cryptic message didn’t make sense to him but he felt infinitely better as he sniffled and rubbed his eyes with his sleeve, allowing the girl to tug him up to his feet. Eventually they were found by a worried Aeleus who instead of reprimanding him as he’d feared would happen, expressed his relief and gratitude before taking him back to the castle.

 

Kairi’s words that day finally made sense to his weary mind as a watery smile crept onto his face. Terra’s heart was free, even if it was damaged extensively. That day a tiny girl had seen his suffering heart and lo and behold, she was right. Eventually Aqua and Ventus had been reunited with him.

 

“A-are you okay Terra? You’re crying.”

 

Terra slowly reached the one hand up to his face and sure enough, tears were sliding down his face but they didn’t feel like the oppressive tears of that memory. Instead it felt like a release as another memory flooded his mind.

 

“Mr. Xehanort…will you help me with something?”

 

Xehanort looked up from his book on social cues (apparently something that Even demanded he figure out as he was apparently socially impaired) to regard the tiny girl. Kairi looked nervous and uncertain, emotions he knew very intimately since first waking inside the castle’s infirmary. Emotions that ran right through to his very core. Sliding a piece of paper between the pages he closed the book and knelt down on his knees so he was now almost eye-to-eye with the girl rather than seated in his chair.

 

“What would you like me to assist you with highness?”

 

Kairi shuffled, tiny hands cradling her necklace as a small light seemed to pulse from it her eyes a little tearful.

 

“I need your help to find a light to go to.”

 

Time seemed to stand still as pain erupted in his head and heart, a pained silent cry as he felt a moment of total clarity for one instant as a hand not quite his own reached out and he saw an outline of armor around it as it touched the charm a single thought radiating through to his core which felt like it was waging war upon itself: I will not let Xehanort harm her! But wasn’t he ‘Xehanort’?

 

Terra gasped sharply in pain, uncertain when his hands had reached for his chest but that memory was clearly his own and not just Xehanort’s! Terra remembered now, regaining enough control to activate Aqua’s magic by putting it in contact with Xehanort! How could he have forgotten his one moment of total cognition?

 

“Terra? Do you need me to get Even?”

 

Kairi’s concerned voice pulled him out of the frenzied thought, bringing him back into the moment. Slowly he pulled himself back from the memory and forced his battered body to relax lest he unwittingly trigger those damned blades again. One near-miss was enough for one month. Taking a few deep breathes he managed a weak smile even as the tears left their stains on his face.

 

“No, but…could you get Aqua and Ven? I just…really need to see them right now.”

 

“Leave it to me. I think I should still tell Even that you’re up though.” Kairi said, gently tousling the older keybearer’s hair.

 

~Kingdom Hearts~

 

When Terra next woke about ten minutes had passed but he felt less like his chest was being repeatedly stabbed. A small smile slid onto his lips as he realized there were hands wrapped around each of his own. Dragging his eyes up from their view of Even checking the bandages and stitches he slowly met the worried gazes of Ven and Aqua, who gazed down at him fondly.

 

“Sorry…I didn’t know.”

 

“Terra it’s fine, Even explained what was going on a few days ago. Including why you didn’t realize it anything was off to that degree. Did he explain it to you or are you still fuzzy on what happened?” Aqua replied softly, a smile on her face as she drew small circles on his hand soothingly. The blue-haired woman pointedly didn’t tell him that Even had to talk her down before letting her enter. Aqua had initially planned to scold him angrily before Even could explain why one of her best friends, no, her brother, was lying bed ridden with an injury the size of a book’s spine. Terra was clearly still exhausted despite his best efforts to stay awake.

 

“I’ve got bits and pieces of it. Something about a dissociative barrier I think?”

 

“Correct. We needn’t dwell on it though. Part of why you lack control or conscious memory for Xemnas’s power is due to how much of you is trying to heal at the same time. You suffer from physical injuries, mental scars and a nearly destroyed heart. Frankly…I’m amazed you managed to cease Xehanort from destroying you entirely for twelve years.” Even interjected, now satisfied that the wound was not at any risk of infection. Initially he had wary of the scar tissue already present before the newest injury, there was every chance for the flesh to rupture and merge into asterisk form entirely. Thankfully the original wound held shut.

 

“You’re oddly quiet Ven. You okay?”

 

Ven didn’t give Terra an answer other than squeezing his other hand and stifling a sniffle. It was all Terra needed to hear to know that Ven was not in fact okay. The younger boy was on the verge of crying so Terra did the one thing ht could think of, he reached up and wrapped his arm around the blond.

 

“I’m not okay Ven, but I’ll get there I think.”

 

“Thanks for admitting you’re not okay now that you know Terra. It felt like…you didn’t trust us to be okay with the fact you’re not in top shape. Even hearing that you didn’t know about it…I didn’t get how you couldn’t know. ” Ven said at last and leaned down hugging his best friend, hiding his face against his stomach. Worrying that Terra was going to actively tell him he was okay was exhausting. If Terra noticed that Ven was actively soaking his shirt with tears he chose not to bring attention to it and just smiled as he let sleep claim him once more.

 

“Even…Terra wasn’t lying was he? Things will actually get better for him right?”

 

“That depends entirely on Terra and on those around him. If we accept him as he is, even though he is severely damaged, he can start to heal properly. Even though he isn’t whole, if he feels accepted despite his fears and traumas, then there is a very real possibility that he’ll get next to normal. I’m afraid no amount of happiness can undo the stains and scars entirely. Terra will not be perfect but he will be okay.” Even replied to the blue-eyed boy with a serene gaze. Lord Ansem’s words made sense to hime now.

 

“Even, could you accept Terra as he truly is? Battered and scarred he may be, but still the young man we have been getting to know better?”

 

At the time the blond hadn’t understood entirely what that meant. Treating Terra however, that had shown him what the older man had meant. It meant to be there for the younger man even should he finally shatter. Even though Terra was missing something he couldn’t name, he could accept that Terra was here and held so many memories.

 

‘Terra, something tells me that there is more to you than what I first believed. You still house darkness, but yours is…protective rather than destructive. What is it that you lack that keeps you from being able to truly be the current you?’

Chapter Text

It was another week before Terra was considered healed enough to leave the infirmary. Even told him his limitations and made him promise if he felt faint that he’d seek him out again. Terra readily agreed while praying he wouldn’t need to see Even so soon. While he appreciated the thorough treatment of his injury, it felt so good to be free of that bed where he’d spent a week recovering slowly. Terra was fairly certain if nobody visited him he’d have gone insane with boredom and started trying to orchestrate pranks from his very bed.

 

“So, heard you’re allowed back out of bed.”

 

Terra froze, his pulse growing rapid as a sharp pain radiated from his heart. While he knew that Braig was still around and on world-arrest probation, the man had thankfully stayed away from him until now. Terra wasn’t certain if he could handle dealing with the older man, there were too many mixed memories and feelings about him. Terra felt regret, longing, sorrow, fear, a twinge of happiness as well but…there was an emotion he thought should be there as well but instead it felt hollow.

 

“What do you care Braig?”

 

Braig wasn’t surprised by the question in the least. The sharpshooter had been trying to give Terra as wide a berth as possible, the younger man was still…unstable. Even may not have seen the whole picture but Braig had an idea, after all: he was partly at fault for Terra’s condition the day he agreed to work with Xehanort. That didn’t mean that he didn’t have regrets about it. Braig had genuinely started to care for apprentice Xehanort and had a strong hunch that most of his mannerisms had actually stemmed from Terra to begin with.

 

“As if. We both know you won’t believe a word that leaves my mouth Terra.”

 

Terra felt irritated but he still felt something was wrong. Like there was something he needed to feel but it wouldn’t come to him. Like the emotion…didn’t exist within him.

CRACK!

 

“Gah!” Terra gripped his chest, falling to his knees while pressing his head against the ground beneath him as the pain erupted through him. It was an intense pain that felt like it was capable of destroying him simply by the realization something was missing after all the progress he had made. Power surged within him against his will and he could feel what was coming, tears springing to his eyes at the remembered sensation of hurling debris at Sora like a child throwing blocks during a tantrum. Terra could faintly make out Braig trying to get his hands away from his chest but he was too tired to be certain.

 

“Terra, this ain’t funny! Are you trying to rip that open again?! It wasn’t funny six years ago and it ain’t funny now!”

 

Click!

 

“Xemnas, what the hell are you thinking?!”

 

Xigbar’s voice pierced through Xemnas senses, bringing him back to himself slightly as genuine pain registered where his hands had been clawing at the irritating ‘x’ shaped scar on his chest almost madly. Not even waiting for Xemnas to speak or acknowledge he’d heard him, the sharpshooter walked over and grabbed the younger Nobody by the wrists and slammed him back against a wall so his one golden eye bore a hole into the Superior of the In-between and actually made him…feel small. Like a child caught doing something they shouldn’t be doing.

 

“B-brai…”

 

“Shut up.” Xemnas couldn’t explain why he listened, only that he felt like giving into the emotions and memories that had prompted him to try clawing his tattered heart from his miserable chest. This anguish his nightly nightmarish fragmented memories brought about was starting to drive him insane. There was something inside him that didn’t belong there and he wanted it gone with all of his non-existent being!

 

“You listen to me Xemnas, all you’re doing is hurting yourself. Now, why the hell are you trying to destroy yourself?”

 

“It doesn’t matter.” Xemnas answered, unable to produce the emotion he had seen in his most recent nightmare. The emotions had been both felt towards and from himself with had been confusing. Towards Xehanort and from…the man who wore his Xemnas’s face. What was the dream trying to tell him? That he wasn’t…that he was NOT in fact…Xehanort?

 

T he moment that question passed through his mind he felt a sharp pain through his skull and chest, a scream being culled from his lips as something jammed itself into his chest and squeezed around his heart.

 

“Hey! If you do that you’ll flat out kill yourself! Dammit TERRA!”

 

As if nothing had happened, Xemnas fell limp to the ground as the name was spoken eyes wide and unseeing as the pain intensified then went silent all at once, the ethereal blades dropping from his hands. Xigbar carrying him to Vexen was the first thing that registered and then nothing several years until..Roxas.

 


“Braig…”

 

Braig hated how fragile Terra sounded, defeat written on nearly every feature of the younger male’s body. This was what Braig had been worried about: pushing Terra so far over the edge that he would lose control. Around them lay battered chunks of masonry and pillars of ground surrounded in the black mist of nothingness that warped them out into the buildings. Terra had lost control because he was still incomplete and didn’t know how to cope without the one emotion that had led him to this state. The emotion itself was not what would grant Terra control, but being able to express it: Rage.

 

“You…tried to make sure I continued to exist…even though you were aligned with Xehanort. Why?”

 

“You really gotta ask? I may be an asshole Terra, but I ain’t a murderer. I couldn’t let you flat out die. I got attached okay. You were the part of ‘Xehanort’ that I didn’t have to tolerate, I flat out accepted you. Sure, you’re why I’m a cyclops but that was my bad for provoking you to that point. So, you figure out what is really keeping you from being whole?” Braig replied, mindful of the blue-haired lady warrior behind him and still unsure why she was convinced he’d help Terra figure it out. All he knew was that Terra’s power was definitely more in the lines of matter distortion than darkness.

 

“I…should be angry and frustrated over my inability to recover but…it’s like that emotion is something I’m not capable of.”

 

“You are capable of it, but only when you’re whole. Wouldn’t you say that your temper was part of who you once were Terra?” Braig asked. Strict observation from the shadows while on his probation had helped him figure out tidbits of what was going on. Terra would have to return to the most painful place for all who had survived the war with Xehanort. Aqua and Ventus had at least talked about the place but Terra…would avoid the subject by almost any means possible.

 

“Why can’t I be angry?”

 

Terra was confused, he knew frustration and anger should be what he felt not anguish. Slowly he felt Braig tousle his hair and look down at him with a sad smile, Aqua standing behind him now where Terra could see her.

 

“Terra…do you remember the battle that cost you your body to Xehanort?”

 

“I—“ No, Terra didn’t quite remember. It was like a huge whited-out chunk with only pieces that he could actually see. This…troubled him. The distress must have shown on his face because Braig forced him to meet his eye.

 

“Try thinking about what isn’t currently in your possession Terra. Why would you only be able to use your own keyblade only a portion of the time and for short bursts? What is not physically in your possession that you may have put a piece of yourself in?”

 

Terra’s eyes widened as he recalled the armor that had been part of his life since he was 10 years old and grown with him. He remembered it’s autumnal color palette and how it felt like a cocoon of warmth around him, keeping out the chill of the darkness in the Lanes Between. How had he forgotten that integral piece of his past and all that had happened at the end. Why did this lack of memory hurt so much worse than the rest of the disruptions in his heart? Was it really because the lack of expressing anger caused it to build up in his system waiting to break free? The thought terrified Terra and he felt another surge of power and immediately backed away from Braig, arms wrapped around himself as he shook. Something was flowing through him and he couldn’t stop it.

 


An anguished scream tore from Terra’s throat, his heart in even more disarray as the strain finally shattered the fragile cracks it had held. Terra’s sorrow, fear and anxieties were too much for him to handle so he did what his heart told him to do: shatter; let go of the you that you thought you had to be and let the pieces repair themselves properly.

 

Braig watched as Terra’s eyes went dull and almost lifeless. Something had happened and he wasn’t sure what it was, just that Terra had finally shattered entirely. Aqua quickly ran forward as he began to fall back, catching him against her and slowly lowering herself to her knees while cradling his head to her shoulder and placing her free hand over his heart.

 

“Terra’s heartbeat is too slow. What just happened?”

 

“I believe my dear, that Terra’s heart has shattered and drifted into a deep sleep.” Ansem’s voice chimed from the portcullis as he approached with a large plush blanket of browns, oranges, and yellows. Carefully they wrapped it around Terra and carried him back into the castle to set him to bed. Once the silveret was tucked in properly, the three witnesses to his shattering sat in the drawing room.

 

“Do you…think Terra can ever recover Lord Ansem?”

 

“I do indeed, but it will likely take him a very long time to recover the ground he had started to gain. Terra’s heart is not whole and his mind itself if far too marred by his shared time with Xehanort. I believe there will always be little things he cannot tolerate, but that in the end he will be a functioning young man. What Terra needs from those around him is patience, encouragement, and no small amount of positive association and interaction.” Ansem replied, hoping that Sora and Riku were successful in their pursuit of the missing piece that would finally allow an healing to become permanent.

Chapter Text

“This was your brilliant idea Sora? Why did you tell it I was Xehanort?!” Riku exclaimed in irritation, dodging another swing of the massive blade the armor wielded. For something so large and made of metal it certainly moved with a weightlessness that rivaled Xemnas when he did his floating battles!

 

“I needed to set him off and have him distracted with you so I can knock his helmet off! You’re doing great Riku!”

 

As suddenly as the barrage began, it ended. The Lingering Will paused, sensing something in the area that was…familiar to it. Fixing it’s nonexistent eyes on Sora, the metallic behemoth tilted its head and slowly approached the boy who had bested him in battle a year ago now. Sora swallowed heavily, hand in his pocket clinging tightly to what he was told would make the armor follow him.

 

“Show me what you have in your pocket.”

 

Sora shuddered as the hollow screeches of wind through armor put words in his mind but did as he was told and withdrew and orange and yellow trinket shaped as a star. The Lingering Will collapsed and compacted itself into naught but a gauntlet lying on the dusty ground. A faded presence stood in it’s place, no more than a shadowy outline surrounding a mirror of a heart.

 

“How did you find that?”

 

“It belongs to you. You’re the only part of you that is missing now Terra. We’ve come to take you home to your body, to your friends.” Sora replied, fear replaced by a warm smile as he held the wayfinder out towards the faded figure and watched as the image smiled tiredly and disappeared into the trinket itself, making it glow faintly.

 

“Do you…think Terra of now and this remnant of the Terra that was can really get along and merge properly Riku?”

 

“Actually, yeah. Without Xehanort in the mix I really do think Terra has that chance to be whole and become gradually comfortable with himself again.” Riku smiled as he spoke, gathering the rusted gauntlet into his arms and remembering fondly a promise with the strange man who came to the island so many years ago. Riku didn’t blame Terra for what his life became; rather, he hoped that Terra too could recover from his demons.

 

 

 

Even was looking over the data again when he heard the faint pained whimper from Terra’s bed. Glancing over at the younger man, he noticed Terra’s complexion was more akin to the bedsheets than it was the healthy apricot pigment he usually held. Approaching the bed he gently rest a hand on the other’s face, frowning at how chilled his skin was.

 

I expected a fever, not clamminess. Please Kingdom Hearts…this young man has suffered more than enough for the crime of being naive enough to fall for Xehanort’s lies.

 

“…xen?”

 

“No, I’m afraid I’ve not been Vexen for some time Terra. You know this.” Even replied patiently, moving about the room to get an extra blanket and a basin of warm water. Terra’s eyes were only partially open now and thankfully remained mountain blue rather than burning orange as he’d feared hearing his Organization XIII name. Careful not to accidentally press down on Terra’s still healing chest, he pulled the extra blanket up to just under his chin.

 

“Even…am I…burdensome?”

 

“Terra, please refrain from asking me stupid questions. You are not well and are therefore not able to think completely straight. If you were a burden I would not hesitate to grumble about it. Not even when you were Xehanort or Xemnas did I believe you to be a burden.” Even snapped, green eyes fixated on Terra’s wide and started ones. Satisfied that Terra had gotten the point he dipped a cloth in the basin and wrung it out, trailing it over Terra’s face.

 

Terra eventually drifted back out of consciousness but Even was pleased to note that he looked a bit better off. The sound of a portal opening behind him didn’t surprise him anymore, but the individual who came out of it most certainly did.

 

“So, how’s he holding up?”

 

“Couldn’t be bothered to use the door Lea?” Even replied with a chuckle, turning to regard the fiery redhead. Lea was not the first person to drop in on Terra today but he was among the ones that Terra had grown rather close to outside of his limited bubble of two friends willingly. Lea and Terra had butted heads at first due to Terra’s then overabundant self-deprecating mannerisms when he woke as himself for the first time in 12 years according to what Aqua had told him. Lea had gradually helped Terra find the confidence he had needed to willingly participate in training with Sora and the Restoration Committee.

 

“Nah, too sensible. So, gonna gimme the scoop?”

 

“Terra’s body temperature is lower than it aught to be and his memories are utter chaos right now to a point he looked at me and said ‘Vexen’. Thankfully he’s getting sleep but I fear if we don’t return his missing piece soon we’ll lose him entirely. A shattered heart…has very little chance of recovery when pieces are missing.”

 

“What if we told you the final piece isn’t missing anymore?” Sora’s voice chimed triumphantly from the doorway, the glowing wayfinder in hand and Riku behind him. Though the boys looked a little roughed up, their success was clear.

 

“So, the last piece of Terra’s heart is inside that little star?”
“It wasn’t his heart that was missing at all Lea. Terra’s will, his rage, his desire to defeat Xehanort is what was missing. Without it he couldn’t properly come to terms with everything. Coping doesn’t happen correctly if not all issues can be addressed by the individual.” Riku answered, placing the rusted gauntlet on the bed next to Terra.

 

“I think…it needs to be you Riku. Your power is to wake a sleeping heart.”

 

Riku considered what Sora was saying. In a way it made sense that it was himself who needed to pull Terra back from the brink of losing himself entirely. Yet, something still felt wrong. Terra was already regaining color and looked less distressed but he worried what would happen if that pent rage was suddenly reintroduced to a man who had survived months without even knowing it was gone. The decision was taken out of their hands.

The wayfinder began to glow and seemed to stalk over to it’s owner, a ghost-like figure forming around it that greatly resembled the man lying in the bed as he had been prior to Xehanort’s deceits. What struck Lea was the lost expression and conflicted glimmer in those blue eyes. This was not a simple case of ‘rage finds body’. Lea was right; this was indeed a fragment of Terra’s very heart and mind and like the rest of the man…he was scared.

 

“Will I…have to choose between my memories?”

 

The question wasn’t aimed at anyone in particular, but it left a weight about the situation. In remembering everything of the past would Terra be permitted to be among any of those he cherished or would he be torn too many ways? It wasn’t something anyone but Terra could really control.

 

“That’s entirely up to you isn’t it?”

 

All eyes turned to the unexpected source of the answer: Riku. Terra’s fragment didn’t recognized this man but he felt…that his more complete portion did. Riku slowly approached the phantom and placed a hand over it’s chest, a calm smile on his features.

 

“That decision still lies before you Terra, but I think you’ll find your answer easier once you’re whole again. Repair your heart and try to sort yourself out. When you wake up I can assure you that everyone here wants to help you figure it out.”

 

No longer as fearful, Terra closed his eyes and allowed himself to disappear into the fragment he was. The sliver drifted gently into its body and he could suddenly remember a tiny boy when he thought of the young man he’d seen. It was time to see what had become of the rest of him and line the pieces up where they belonged.

Chapter Text

Darkness was the first thing that Terra recalled seeing as he reached the innermost reaches of his heart, soon followed by what remained of his Station of Awakening. The image it presented was distorted beyond recognition, gaping chasms and cracks through the stained-glass structure and in it’s direct center…a hovering figure floating as if unconscious upon calm water. Terra could instantly recognize it as himself, despite the mostly silvered hair. The skin tone was his own and so were the hauntingly empty blue eyes. Whatever had happened while he was gone…it had truly left his heart in the lurch. Looking back at the damaged station itself, he saw the picture was very different than he remembered. In the center was himself and who he could only assume was Xemnas and his possessed self. What he found peculiar was the way their arms were wrapped around him almost protectively, as if they were trying to prevent him from disappearing. It was…oddly comforting.

 

“We’ve been waiting for you, Terra.”

 

Terra spun around with a jolt of fear, keyblade at the ready only to come face to face with his Nobody. Xemnas did not summon his own weapons, simply stood his ground looking as tired as Terra felt.

 

This was Xemnas wasn’t it? Then why does he have my eyes? That doesn’t match what little I know about the darknesses.

 

“I am not the Xemnas that you would have heard of for I contain nothing of Xehanort but the memories your heart claimed as its own. I am your darkness; a natural part of you that wants only to sleep once more. To do that I need you to accept all of yourself, even if you cannot yet do so with all your being. Do you wish to meet the part of you that was able to grow these twelve long years?”

 

Terra did not hesitate to nod his affirmation, refusing to let go of Earthshaker should this be a trick. Terra blinked and realized he was now in a place he personally couldn’t recall but a thought provided itself: Radiant Garden.

 

Sitting next to him, supported by Xemnas, was the main body of his heart. From what he could tell they were sitting on the edge of a balcony overlooking the most expansive and beautiful garden he’d ever seen. Nervous all of a sudden, he turned to meet those faded eyes.

 

“Why are we here?”

 

“I needed you to see what I’ve been fighting to hold on to without you.” The other Terra said with a tired smile, sweeping his gloved hand in a gesture down below. In the garden Terra saw five men he didn’t personally know, Braig, Aqua, and Ven. The gathering were setting up for some sort of festival and they all looked happy and waved up at them. Any anger he may have felt upon seeing Braig died instantly when he felt what his more complete but shattered self thought of him.

 

Terra felt so full of emotion he could burst, just seeing them all together. Soon he was seeing his other self’s memories with the strangers and he could recall occasionally feeling impressions over the years. They felt…like a family. A smile slowly graced his own lips as he took in the memories, accepting them and dissolved into flecks of golden light, allowing himself to return to his shattered heart and fill in the gap he had left behind.

 

“Are you ready to line the pieces back to where they need to be, Terra?”

 

Xemnas gazed down at his main self with a smile as he too began to fade back into him where he belonged. The Terra who remained looked back at him, a tearful but content smile on his paler features as his hair grew out to match his physical body a few streaks of brown marbling into the silver tresses.

 

“I don’t know about you Xemnas, but I’m ready to really heal this time. Thank you, for staying with me while the Light part of me heals itself. Without Master Eraqus…the loneliness after shattering might have destroyed me.”

 

“Never forget: I am but a part of you. Should you ever need to remember you are not Master Xehanort or Superior Xemnas, call upon the memories or seek out those who knew both sides of me.” Xemnas said, holding Terra to his chest as he finished fading into his being as a bright light engulfed the scene around them.

 

 

 

“It is done. Terra’s heart is repairing the extensive damage it accumulated now that the last piece has returned. It will take time for him to full accept any changes in his heart, but he’ll heal steadily this time.”

 

“Actually, I’m not here about Terra right now.” Aqua replied with a grateful smile. That Even wanted to tell her first was truly appreciated and so was the effort that the blond had put forth to help Terra. While she wouldn’t call him out on it, she was certain that the man was fairly attached.

 

“Really? Why else would you come to the infirmary my dear?”

 

“I came to check in on this amazing doctor-friend who needs to take a break for at least some coffee.” Aqua said in reply with a smile. It wasn’t the first time she’d seen him down here without having taken much of a break. Even was probably worse than Terra about taking breaks. At least Terra usually set himself a specific time to take breaks. Even laughed in a way that told her he got the hint loud and clear.

 

“Point taken my lady. I’ll be sure to go at least drink some tea. I’ve just been so worried due to how low his pulse and temperature has been. Terra is stabilizing slowly, but he is stabilizing so a brief break won’t hurt. May I ask you to sit in with him until I return?”

 

“That’s part of why I came down in person. I know that we’re all a bit leery of leaving him completely alone at this point. Now go take a break.” Aqua was smiling exasperatedly at this point. Even left with a small bow, leaving her alone with her sleeping friend.

 

Terra looked far from being fully recovered though he looked far better off. Terra’s face was flushed slightly but Even said that had been expected. Terra’s marbled hair was actually growing on her and she decided absently to comb it away from his face. Aqua only blinked and then she was gazing down at partially opened blue eyes framed by a tired smiling face.

 

“Hey.”

 

Aqua couldn’t stop herself from yanking one of his bangs, earning a soft yelp and a bewildered expression from the prone man.

 

“THAT was for worrying everyone. This is for not giving up.”

 

Terra laughed hoarsely as he returned the embrace, struggling to get his arms to cooperate. Even though he felt better than he had since first returning, his body wasn’t making things easy, then he remembered the stitches all along his chest and winced.

 

“Aqua…I think hugs will have to wait. I can feel the stitches tugging. Kinda hurts.”

 

“Oh! Right, sorry. I forgot about them I was so happy to have you awake. Even is on a tea break.” Aqua replied, checking to see if she’d put too much strain on his chest. Thankfully it looked like they hadn’t ripped any of the sutures.

 

“Even? Taking a break?”

 

“Contrary to popular belief Terra, I am more than capable of taking a break.” Even said as he entered the room again with three cups of tea. “Do you think you can sit up enough to drink some tea?”

 

“Only if someone props me up. I can barely move unless I’m actively working every muscle group right now.”

 

“Here then.” Even set down the tray and with some help from Aqua managed to get him propped up against some pillows. Terra managed to hold the tea cup and had an easier time moving after the steaming beverage was in his system.

 

Good. Terra is making progress. It may take some time before he can properly regulate his senses though. We’re not entirely out of the woods until his chest heals fully. I’m just pleased he’s regained consciousness and we can start on some light physical therapy.

 

 

After just a week Terra was cleared to leave the infirmary. Even only caved because Terra started getting irritable and had progressed through physical therapy enough that he could walk around and hold things properly without needing frequent breaks. Terra agreed that he’d wait until his chest fully healed to start up any form of training. So Terra decided he’d had far enough time indoors for a while and found a bench in the gardens by an old willow tree.

 

“ Master Ansem, what kind of tree is this? I don’t think I’ve ever seen one like it.”

Ansem chuckled, looking where Xehanort’s gaze had fallen. The young man had been making steady progress as far as retaining information and showing interest in the world around him. There were times though that he could not determine wether or not the boy was older than his years or younger. Though he supposed it could be both given his state of amnesia when he had been found by Braig. Today, it was clearly the side who craved guidance and to be taught by another.

“That, Xehanort, is a willow tree. We refer to her as Mother Willow, for she is the oldest living tree in Radiant Garden. If you wished it she is even capable of supporting the weight of a grown man in her boughs. That tree is both a source of shade and a safe hiding place if you’re trying to avoid being found but want to be able to get back to the castle easily when the time passes.”

Xehanort was enthralled with the large tree’s beauty and could not help walking over and placing a hand against its trunk. The tree felt…peaceful and warm, inviting as the fresh soil after rain. Without thinking, he carefully climbed up into the tree’s secluded space and for the first time since he’d arrived in this new place with no memories, he slept with ease.

 

Terra smiled softly as he remembered the tree and decided to forgo the bench, and closed his eyes taking a breath and pictured himself in the tree feeling the tug in his stomach he now associated with warping from place to nearby place. Satisfaction gripped him as he felt the tree against his back. It was the first successful warp since he was Xemnas of significance and decided to enjoy the blissful peace the tree provided.

 

That was were Even eventually found him. It surprised the blond to see Terra up in a tree but his peaceful smile was enough to deter him from rousing him. Instead, Even removed his lab coat and set it about Terra’s frame with a note fastened to the sleeve. Though he wasn’t sure how to admit it, he knew he was growing very attached to the younger man. It confirmed that all the affection he had for Xehanort and Xemnas had likely been meant for this young man who not only made him want to comfort him, but who just by smiling at him a little made his heart flutter and feel warm. Perhaps one day he would be able to admit to these feelings and see if maybe Terra returned them.

 

The End (or is it?)