Chapter 1: And They Were Roommates...
It had been a spur of the moment decision. While everyone had been having their victory hangout at the beach, Terra and Isa had started talking. Just small talk at first, but then Isa mentioned not having a place to go next. It had been a quiet, probably not meant to be heard, comment, but Terra had heard it. He had taken the chance to offer them getting a place together. Yes, they were basically strangers, but he was sure they could get along and figure something out. Plus...going back to the Land of Departure felt wrong. After all the damage he'd caused... He didn't think he could walk through the courtyard past where Master Eraqus fell everyday.
Surprisingly, Isa had said yes to the offer, and through very short texts, both of them were new to these "gummiphones", they had managed to find and agree on a place. It was inexpensive, which had been the priority since neither of them had any form of money yet. Unfortunately, inexpensive also meant small and simple. They could manage.
Terra entered the apartment, carrying a bag with his personal belongings, which was mostly clothing. As expected, it had a small common room with a kitchenette. The furniture was plain but looked sturdy enough. Good, Terra liked simple. He saw another door to what he assumed was the bedroom. Wait, was there only one bedroom? It'd be fine. There was probably two smaller beds in there. It wouldn't be a problem. He sat on a chair and set his bag down beside him. He'd wait for Isa before putting his stuff away.
While this had been the most logical decision, and one Isa had agreed to long ago, he was already regretting it. Terra wasn't the easiest person for him to talk to in the first place and, while he'd been pleasantly surprised at how well they'd gotten along, how he'd expected himself to share a living space with the man was beyond his current emotional capability. Said capability was unstable, at best -- nowadays, anyway -- and he seemed to exist in a near permanent state of discomfort. The lingering threat of small talk, as well as actually moving in and discussing his life with his new roommate, had put him into a foul state.
Hence, his already bad mood when he arrived at their shared apartment, shoulders tense and squared, expression frozen into a faint scowl. Fortunately, there wasn't much to move in, since Isa didn't own much. He had a single bag, thrown over his shoulder, containing a few items of clothing and a laptop he'd managed to steal from Ienzo shortly after his recompletion. He looked haggard, hair thrown into a messy bun, and hadn't had the energy to deal with his contacts that morning, which left him in his half-rimmed wire glasses.
And… of course he wasn't the first to arrive. No, Isa wouldn't be that lucky, would he? So he could only let out a heavy breath before nodding an awkward greeting to Terra, adjusting his bag on his shoulder just a bit self consciously. "Hello," he muttered, not sure why exactly he felt so on guard, "I... trust everything is well with the place so far?"
Terra had heard the door open and instantly stood, an old habit from when he was younger and getting lessons from Master Eraqus. It was respectful to stand when someone entered the room. He blinked in surprise at Isa's appearance. It seemed Isa wasn't always as neat as he had been when they'd first met. That didn't matter anyways. It was likely that Terra would see Isa in more disheveled states since they were living together. He could instantly tell how tense Isa was. He supposed moving in with a virtual stranger would do that.
"I only just got here a few minutes ago," he said while smiling a little, "but it looks like so far so good to me. I haven't looked in the other room yet, though. I figured I'd wait for you since you're living here too."
"How... considerate," Isa replied, a bit gruff, pausing to look around the space a bit. He didn't miss how Terra had glanced over him when he'd entered and found himself shifting self-consciously. What the hell was wrong with him? Had his dignity fled entirely with the return of his heart? The more days went by, the more that seemed to be the case.
"Well... " He adjusted his bag and nodded towards the door, having not once met Terra's eyes or returned his polite smile. "Shall we, then?"
Terra could tell Isa was uncomfortable. Had he done something wrong already? He hoped not. Maybe Isa didn’t like being stared at? He looked towards the closed door to the bedroom. “Yeah,” he said, trying to sound more carefree than he felt. No use getting worried and tense just because Isa was tense. Two tense people together just made everything tense. He grabbed his bag, stepped to the door, and opened it.
Isa's self-consciousness diminished just a bit, replaced by curiosity, as he moved forward and craned his neck to look into the bedroom. They were lucky to have found a place that was fully furnished, and relatively cheap, which was important since Isa's income was... significantly less than he'd like it to be. That said, he wasn't thrilled about the possibility of sharing a bedroom with someone else...
...And he became significantly less thrilled when he saw the glaring problem in the center of their new bedroom. "There's... only one bed," he growled, hand tightening on the strap of his bag in irritation. Of course there was only one bed -- things simply couldn't be easy, could they? "That's.... fuck. Less than ideal. "
Truthfully, Terra liked the room. It may have been smaller than what he'd lived in in the past, but it was nice. During various training exercises, most of which were outdoors, he had gotten used to living with other people in a small space, including sleeping in the same bed. Though, he could understand why Isa felt tense about it. They weren't exactly friends yet. He smiled sheepishly at Isa.
"We probably should have checked that specifically," he said while scratching the back of his head, "if you'd like, I'll sleep on the couch until we find a way to get another bed or something."
Isa's quarters in the Castle That Never Was had actually been quite nice -- not that he missed living there by any stretch of the imagination, but he was used to living in pristine conditions that he was able to tailor fit to his nature. This situation was decidedly not so.
At the suggestion that he take the bed, however, he bristled. Somehow the idea of accepting generosity while Terra slept on the couch was worse to him than sharing the space in the first place. "Don't be foolish," he retorted. "I don't require your charity -- and you're bigger, even if only a bit. I insist that you take the bed."
Of course, there was also the fact that Isa didn't... well, sleep. Not really, and not consistently. It would be foolish to claim an entire room for it.
Terra glanced at Isa. He should have expected that response or something similar. He would have countered had Isa offered him the room first. However, he was decidedly going to do whatever he could to make Isa comfortable, and the bed would almost certainly be more comfortable than the couch. Isa did have a point, though. The bed would be easier to sleep in. But that didn't matter. Terra had always been a generous and considerate person, or at least, he hoped he was.
"I wasn't trying to 'give you my charity'. I'm used to sleeping just about anywhere, so I figured I'd let you have the bed in case you weren't," he said. He kept back the fact that he sometimes had nightmares during which he'd summoned his keyblade and broken things. It'd be better if there weren't several items around him to break. But he didn't feel like he and Isa were close enough to say anything.
There was a brief thought of them sharing that Terra quickly dismissed. Isa looked uncomfortable enough already without having to sleep with someone he didn't know well.
The fact that Isa very much wasn't used to sleeping anywhere was not something that he felt the need to discuss. "It's quite alright," he muttered stiffly. "I don't mind. Please, I insist." Isa was the best person in the world at managing to sound both mildly angry and stuffily polite, a skill he put to use right at this very moment.
For some reason, Terra's genuine kindness was becoming incessantly annoying. He was too nice -- Isa could hardly stand it. Especially when Isa wasn't being nice himself. What did that say about Isa as a person, exactly?
Terra knew that tone. The "I'm not going to do what you say but I'm not going to be rude about it" tone. He took a deep breath. He didn't want to argue over something so unimportant. Maybe now was the time to offer a compromise?
"We could always share," he said, "it seems like a big enough bed for two people." He scratched the back of his head nervously. Maybe he shouldn't have offered that since he was a sleep-summoner, but it was too late now.
Truthfully, Terra wasn't wrong, even if the proposition made Isa stiffen further. Hell, when was the last time he'd shared a bed...? A few flings during his organization days, when he hadn't quite managed to slip out on account of his own remnants of conscience...?
Still, it did make logical sense... and he didn't want to sound any more rigid or insufferable than he already had. "Very well," he agreed with more than a little reluctance that he tried very hard to keep from reaching his voice. "If... you don't mind, then neither do I."
A lie, of course. But he tried his best to pretend it wasn't.
Terra hadn't expected Isa to agree. At all. Whelp, he was in too deep now, time to commit to it. Though, he hoped it wouldn't become complicated. He remembered some things Aqua had told him he'd do in his sleep. Hopefully he'd outgrown them. He nodded.
"I don't mind," he said while turning on the lights, "looks like only one dresser too. We can split it, especially since it doesn't look like either of us have a whole lot." He ended the sentence with a light chuckle. It was a smallish bedroom, with only a bed, dresser, and nightstand. There was a small closet space and a door to the bathroom. Other than that, it was empty. That was fine with Terra. Empty things were easier to fill with things you liked.
Well... at least the room was clean. Isa supposed there could be worse.
It wasn't like he much needed a home, anyway. Isa had never stayed anywhere in his life that had felt like "home." All he needed was a place to exist, and he'd be fine.
Or at least, that's what he told himself. "That's alright," he murmured, setting his bag down on the bed and tugging it open. "I don't require many material comforts..." He'd long since learned that sort of thing didn't bring any real comfort.
Terra put his bag on the bed and opened it. He had five pairs of the exact same outfit as he was wearing, a set of pajama pants, and not much else. Once he got a job, he was going to need new clothes. He didn’t exactly need clothing ideal for training or fights anymore… he hoped. He stared at a pair of his pants for a moment, remembering whose they had been originally until he’d gotten big enough to wear them himself. He pushed the thought aside. Now wasn’t the time for that.
“I can understand that,” he said, starting to organize things loosely in his half of the set of drawers, “I never had a lot of my own. Spent too much time training.”
Isa was neatly arranging little stacks of immaculately folded clothing, most of them borrowed from others who’d donated to him after he recompleted. Only a few of his belongings were actually his , bought with the munny he’d gained from a few odd jobs and more gifts than he’d care to admit.
In addition to his clothing and purloined computer, there were his soaps. The one luxury Isa afforded himself, and had, even when he was a Nobody. Calming scents did him good, after all, and this was one of the few things in his life Isa was actually able to consistently control . So, in his opinion, he was allowed this one indulgence.
“I have... in my life... had more than my share,” Isa murmured quietly in response, unsure why exactly he was sharing. “Believe me when I tell you that they’re not worth much, in the scheme of things. You’ve missed little.”
Terra glanced at Isa. Something about how he said that seemed a little concerning, but he wouldn't pry too deep. "I don't know, it feels like I missed a lot. What felt like a short time, ended up being ten years. Suddenly, the two young boys I had run into by chance were the ones rescuing me ," he said while turning back to unpacking. He pulled out his small wood carving set. It'd been so long since he'd just taken the time to make something. He could use the stress relief the task provided.
"What sort of training did you have? I don't think I've ever seen you fight," he said, hoping to use the chance to learn more about Isa. It seemed like there was a lot to learn about it.
That was quite the loaded question, to say the least. Isa froze for a moment, clutching a shirt a bit too tightly in his hands, before managing to convince himself that Terra meant no harm. "Not... much," he answered honestly as he set the shirt to the side. "And all informal, I must confess. I was... shown how to do battle primarily by Xemnas, who wasn't exactly the easiest partner. I must admit, however, that a good deal of my own style was inspired by Ventus... though I don't move nearly as quick. I'm sure what I have is nothing compared to an actual keyblade wielder."
Terra looked at Isa as he spoke. He had a brief flash of some memory that wasn't very clear. It had what vaguely looked like Isa in it, eyes yellow. He was confused at first but pushed the thought aside.
"Informal training can still go a long way, ya know. Plus, people without a keyblade can be stronger than a keyblade wielder if they work at it," he said before pausing, "wait, you saw Ventus fight? When? I didn't know you'd met Ventus before we all saw each other at the beach.
Isa let out a little hum as he stacked his short pile of clothes together and carried them to the dresser, politely claiming a few of the lowest drawers for himself. "Yes, only once, and briefly, though he made quite an impact... We were teenagers, in Radiant Garden. Lea challenged the boy to a fight and was subsequently humiliated. It was rather amusing, if I'm honest," Isa actually laughed, the smallest of chuckles, with a faint smile on his lips. "I'd never seen anyone fight like he did... I must say I was inspired."
Terra smiled himself and chuckled. "Ven's a good fighter, I trained with him for a few years. I feel bad for Lea. He probably didn't stand much of a chance. Ven has always had a bit of a unique style. I can see why it could have caught your attention," he said while folding a few totally not thrown in at the last minute items, "maybe you and I could spar once. I might be a little out of practice, though. It's been a while since I've done much training."
“Hmm... I...” Isa hesitated. He’d never sparred for fun. Every battle had either been intense training or a battle for his life. He wasn’t honestly certain if he could handle fighting without panicking, wondering if he was going to lose control...
He was unable to repress a small shudder before nodding. “Yes, um... certainly. Thought, I’ve had difficulty summoning my weapon since I’ve recompleted... It doesn’t much like to obey me any longer. But I have gotten a bit out of practice lately... and should something happen I should be ready...”
Terra noticed the sudden tenseness in Isa's body and the resulting shudder. He didn't understand why the suggestion of training had warranted that reaction. Training was relaxing to Terra, like stress relief. He'd grown up training to get strong or just to bond with his friends. It seemed like such a casual, calm thing to him. Something told him it had something to do with that Xemnas person Isa mentioned.
"We can wait until we're more settled. Not to mention we'd have to find an area we could actually spar without accidentally breaking something," he said, trying to keep his tone light, "I don't know about your weapon, but keyblades change with the heart. Maybe your weapon just hasn't caught up with you yet."
He kept back any comments about all those what ifs. What if there was more fighting? What if the war wasn't over? What if something even bigger than Xehanort was coming? He tried not to think about it.
"Perhaps..." Isa murmured, shaking his head to pull his mind out of the dark place towards which it had been headed. That darkness didn't have any place with him, anymore -- he'd decided that long ago. His life was mundane, now -- if anything, it was boring. Exactly as Isa had always wanted it to be... right?
"Have you, ehm... seen much of the area?" He asked after a moment, trying to clumsily change the thread of the conversation away from things that hurt his newborn heart. "All things considered, we could have chosen a worse location... especially for the price." Yes, small talk -- a surefire way to make any conversation less awkward.
Terra glanced out the window at the sunset city. It really was a beautiful place, but he hardly knew it. He hadn’t known this world existed until Isa had mentioned it while they had been looking for a place. It was a quiet, peaceful world, which was exactly what Terra wanted and probably needed. He’d only seen some of the city while trying to find the apartment. “No, I’ve never been to this world before now,” he said before glancing at Isa, “what about you? Maybe we could explore it together. After all, we need to know where things are, since we’ll be living here.”
"That sounds reasonable," Isa agreed with a nod. "I've been here before, but only in passing... and I've never had time to enjoy it."
As he spoke, he was in the process of moving towards the closet to hang up his now empty messenger bag. As he did, however, he paused, and found himself murmuring something almost against his consent. "...Then again, I've never really had much time to enjoy anything. I'm not certain I even know how."
Terra had fairly good hearing, so no muttering went unnoticed around him. He had already been trying to remember what he had seen to make for an enjoyable time exploring the town, but once he heard Isa’s muttering, he became more determined. Those words were not going to leave Isa’s mouth again if Terra could help it. Which, now he could, since they lived in the same space.
"Well, there is one place I recall seeing while looking for this place," he started, "there was a restaurant and ice cream stand down in what looked like a busy area. Perhaps we could get something to eat. I have some munny." He closed his now empty bag and dropped it on the floor beside the dresser.
“Well...” Isa hesitated, again, hand frozen on closing the closet door. He couldn’t think of any logical reason to refuse, however, and that led to a reluctant nod. There was also the case of his stomach, which had been empty since the day before, as well as the potential for ice cream -- one of Isa’s few weaknesses. So, as much as the antisocial part of him wanted to refuse, he simply couldn’t. “...Alright. That sounds reasonable.”
Yes, they should go out and scout the town if they were planning on living here... and it only made sense to get dinner together since they were sharing a place... and, for the moment, had limited funds. It all made sense, in theory at least...
That’s all this outing was, right?
Terra turned to look at Isa with a smile. He was glad his idea had been well received. “We can leave in a few minutes if you need to do anything before we leave,” he said, trying to subtly give Isa a chance to put himself together. It was a bit obvious that he wasn’t fully himself at the moment. Not that he looked bad at the moment, but he figured Isa probably had a preference. Terra should probably also fix his own hair. It had gotten in a bit of a mess while he’d been looking for the apartment. Maybe he ought to change into something fresher too..
Isa honestly appreciated the offer, and paused before slowly nodding. He raised a hand self-consciously to his tied-back hair. “Yes, um... would it be alright with you if I took a shower first? I haven’t exactly... well, had a shower to use in more time than I’d like.”
“Not at all,” Terra said, “I’ll try to figure this thing out, since, supposedly, it has a map.” He held up his gummiphone in a way that it was clearly not meant to be held. “Feel free to take all the time you need,” he said while stepping back into the living room. He’d wait till Isa was in the bathroom with the door closed before changing, to lessen the chance of either of them walking in on the other.
"Thank you," Isa replied with a curt nod, moving to gather a change of clothes and the single towel he'd brought as well as his assortment of toiletries.
When he was in the small but thankfully clean bathroom, door carefully locked behind him, he set the objects down on the counter and began his usual routine of undressing and getting ready to bathe without looking in the mirror. He hadn't yet managed to do that -- not without shattering the mirror -- and he was a bit afraid to start now.
He made it, though, even took his tangled hair down from its bun and stepped into the shower to cleanse himself. Honestly, it felt nice, the familiar scent of his shampoo as calming as always. Before he knew it, he'd lost himself beneath the spray of water.
Terra waited in the living room for a few minutes and tried to figure out his phone. It seemed to respond to any touch, so he needed to be careful not to hit the wrong thing. He did eventually find something on there called 'maps', and he tried to explore the area. There was a restaurant in the downtown area of the town, as well as a popular local ice cream shop. It didn't seem too far away from where they were either. So it would be a good walk, but not insanely long through unfamiliar streets. There also seemed to be many things in this downtown area, so maybe they'd just explore there for now.
After a few minutes had passed, Terra stood and walked into their room and went to his things. He, truthfully, didn't have a whole lot. He hadn't wanted to take anything that Aqua or Ventus might need. So, he was left with mostly the bare minimum and the things that were certainly his. So he decided he should at least change, which was the most he could do with Isa currently occupying the shower. He pulled his clothes off and dumped them in a corner of the room to be dealt with later, and he quickly got redressed in a fresh set of the same outfit.
Isa emerged some time later feeling much more like himself. It had been hard to comb his hair while avoiding the mirror, but he’d managed. It now hung freely down his back. It was wet, of course, but neatly combed and smelling nice.
His clothes were clean as well -- that was good. And his contacts were in . He’d also managed to put on a slightly more presentable outfit while allowing himself to be comfortable -- a loose tank and nicer leggings.
He emerged from the bathroom with a contented sigh, ruffing a hand through his hair, and briefly cleaned up his belongings before addressing Terra. “Sorry if I took a while,” he said, voice more relaxed than it had been -- bless hot water and shampoo -- “I found myself relaxing a bit too much.”
Terra had somewhat managed to fix his hair without seeing what he was doing, which he was not used to doing. Hopefully it didn't look like the mess he was afraid it did. He'd gone outside of the room to wait as to not risk Isa having forgotten something and then have an awkward altercation. It was his first day as a roommate, and he was not going to screw it up.
When Isa walked out, he stood from the couch and smiled. "You didn't. Don't worry. I think I figured out a good place to go since this is our first outing. It seems like the main area for local shops and attractions," he said. Isa looked a lot more relaxed. That was really good to see. Terra didn't know how to de-stress someone to save his life sometimes.
"Yes, that sounds alright..." Isa nodded and shook his hair out a bit more before he actually noticed Terra and blinked in slight surprise. "What... have you done to yourself?" He asked, tone slightly scolding. "You look as if you've run through a tornado. Here, if we're going to go out, you have to at least look presentable..."
He didn't even think as he moved over, still holding his own hair brush, and started to fix Terra's hair. After a moment, however, he caught himself and pulled back." Oh -- sorry, I should have... is this alright?"
Terra was a little startled by the sudden proximity and Isa fixing his hair. He stood still, actually used to someone claiming that his hair was a mess that it needed immediate fixing. It had usually been Aqua that fussed over his hair. He blinked in confusion when Isa backed away, then the words registered.
"It's ok," he said quickly and chuckled, "my hair is usually a mess. I tried to fix it, but I guess I failed if you noticed. I don't mind a little help since I can't really see how it looks." He flashed Isa a friendly and reassuring smile.
Isa paused for a moment, looking up at the other, then hesitantly returned the smile with a faint one of his own. “Yes. Understood, and I can’t suppose I blame you.” He didn’t say that he was quite used to fixing his hair without being able to see it. “I’ll fix it, shortly... here...”
In a matter of moments, he’d managed to comb Terra’s hair back into its typical position. After he’d set his brush down, he’d realized there was a bit of hair still hanging down in front of his face, and instinctively brushed it behind his ear with his fingers before catching himself. “I... sorry,” he said quickly, “It’s... better now.”
Terra had stayed still, and maybe subconsciously leaned down slightly, as Isa fixed his hair. It had been a long time since someone had really done this for him. He'd almost forgotten how relaxing it could feel. When Isa had stopped, he stood up straight and was about to thank Isa before he felt a gentle hand fixing the last rebellious hair. He was a little shocked but actually being touched, but he tried not to show it. Instead, he smiled.
"Thanks," he said, "ready to go then? There's a lot of town to explore before it gets dark." He had his munny in his pocket, which would hopefully be enough for this little escapade. If it wasn't enough for both of them, he'd do without. He wanted to have a good start with his new roommate.
"Yes, I suppose," Isa replied with a nod, tucking his hands into his pockets.
His… empty pockets. Part of him felt guilty, like he was taking advantage of the other man. Then again, Isa didn't exactly have any choice. He'd find a way to pay it back somehow, eventually.
"Lead the way, then," he said, backing up to let the other go ahead of him. "No time like the present.”
Chapter 2: Sigil
Terra lead the two of them out of the apartment and into the streets of Twilight Town. Already, he loved this place. Everywhere looked warm and inviting. The sunlight was warm but not harsh or hot. He remembered the way to the downtown area, it was just down the main street that they lived near. He walked alongside Isa, looking around contently.
"This world really is nice," he said, "I'm glad you knew about it."
"Yes, it's rather quaint, isn't it?" Isa replied, glancing around their immediate area. "I've only seen it briefly, but I can see why so many people are drawn to it. It's... peaceful." Isa hadn't really known peace... ever, not even before he lost his heart. Not of this sort.
It had him on edge. It felt, constantly, as if something was lying in wait to tear them apart. This kind of peace, it was simply too good to be true, and Isa was realizing more and more with every passing moment how his body was always tensed as if braced for an attack from behind.
Terra nodded and smiled. This town was truly peaceful. Calm weather, no major problems, heartless stayed in the woods. It was as if the world itself wanted you to relax along with it in an endless summer, regardless of what the actual season was. Relaxing hadn't been Terra's strong suit after everything that had happened, but he was willing to try. At the very least, he wasn't going to let shadows torment his mind now, when he was out enjoying an afternoon with hopefully a new friend.
He clapped his hand on Isa's shoulder. "Well, we could use a little peace, huh?" he said with a chuckle, looking at Isa.
Having not at all been expecting to be touched, Isa jerked dramatically when Terra's hand found his shoulder and he let out a shout, instinctively pulling away from the touch. Wide-eyed, he stared back at Terra for a moment before his shocked, guarded expression turned into a glare instead, and he visibly bristled.
It was, of course, because he was embarrassed. But Terra didn't need to know that, and Isa wasn't going to tell him. "You should warn someone before you touch them," he growled, shoulders tensing somehow more than they already had been.
Terra was startled by Isa's reaction. Maybe he'd expected Isa to flinch or something but not jumping away and yelling like he'd burned him. He saw just how startled, if not scared, Isa had been by the touch. Guilt quickly settled in. He hadn't been trying to freak Isa out, it was meant to be a friendly touch. Guess Isa wasn't as used to that. The following glare didn't help the guilt.
"Sorry," he said, looking away from Isa's glare, "I didn't mean to startle you." Great, now Isa was both more tense and angry. It was just the first day. He should be more patient and try to understand Isa first before doing anything!
Terra's reaction caused Isa to feel guilty, which caused him to become even more frustrated. Fuck, couldn't he do anything right? Was it too much to ask that he be able to act like a normal person for a few minutes of his life? No, he had to react to a friendly touch as if he'd been physically assaulted.
"No, I --" he muttered gruffly, trying to relax as much as he could. "It was an overreaction. Apologies. You... meant no harm."
Terra still felt bad, but he tried not to show it too much. This was just one little slip up that wouldn't be repeated. They could still have a good time together.
"It's ok. I should have made sure you were ok with it first," he said sheepishly, "we're almost to the restaurant." He quickly tried to change topics. "It seems to be a pretty popular local place. I hope we can get in without having to wait long. Then again, there are only two of us," he said, because this was definitely a smooth transition in conversation.
It was hard to miss the crowd gathered outside of the restaurant, and, although in reality it was moderate, the sight nearly had Isa turning and running back to the apartment to happily starve in blissful solitude. He did, however, manage to restrain himself, all while wondering why it was exactly that he was so difficult to have fun with.
"Yes, I... I hope not," he grumbled. "And I truly hope this place is worth it..."
Terra wasn't particularly fond of crowds either, at least, not as much anymore. There was a time that he got excited every time there was a large group coming to visit the Land of Departure. But after all the fighting and hordes of enemies that could pop out of nowhere, crowds weren't as appealing. Hopefully it wouldn't be a problem.
"If so many people want to come, then it has to be good food," he reasoned while offering a hand towards Isa, "come on. Maybe if we do have to wait, we can explore a little bit nearby."
"That seems logical," Isa replied as he tucked his hands back into his pockets. It was unclear whether he didn't see Terra's offered hand or was simply ignoring it. "I suppose waiting isn't the end of the world... I've waited far longer for more important things."
He paused for a moment, and glanced inside, then looked towards Terra a bit nervously. "Would... you mind," he asked a bit hesitantly. "Speaking to the hostess for me? I've been told that I'm too 'mean' to strangers and I don't want to start a bad reputation in this town already."
There was also the fact he didn't mention. The fact that he was. . . well, a bit heard of occasionally, and recognized by his scar. There was always the fear it would happen again.
Terra "subtly" made it look like he was just reaching back to fix his hair. Ok, so apparently offering had been a bad idea too. Got it. He glanced away from Isa for a moment. This was going to be an awkward time getting used to each other, wasn't it?
When Isa started speaking, Terra looked back at him. It was obvious that Isa was nervous, maybe crowds bothered him too.
"Of course," he said, "I don't think you're mean though. Maybe just not used to it yet. I wouldn't worry about people here seeing you in a bad light." He tried to sound kind. He had been planning on talking to the hostess anyways, since Isa had already seemed so tense about being outside in general.
He led them both into the restaurant and put their names in for a seat. It sounded like it wasn't going to take long, thankfully
Isa bit his tongue, holding back a sharp retort he knew he'd regret. "Yes, well... you don't know me as well as I do," was the oh so clever response he managed to force out instead. He moved to stand stiffly beside the door, definitely not using Terra's body as a shield against the crowd.
He was quiet, staring off into the distance, trying to pretend he wasn't actually hyper aware of everything that was going on around him. "Thanks," he said suddenly, bluntly after a moment. "For... saying so. I'm aware I'm not always easy to get along with. That you're making such an effort is... impressive, to say the least."
Terra had moved back to where Isa was by the door once he'd finished talking to the hostess. He really hadn't expected Isa to say anything to him, much less thank him. He glanced at Isa and smiled slightly.
"I'm not doing anything abnormal. You're friends with Ven, and we're gonna be living together. I hope to become your friend as well. So why wouldn't I make a so-called effort?" he said while casually leaning against the wall by the door.
Meanwhile, a young child, clearly too young to know better than to stare, had locked onto Isa as the most interesting thing in the room. His curious gaze lingered for a moment before he tugged on his mother's hand, which he was holding.
It couldn't be heard over the noise of the restaurant, but he said something to his mother, pointing at Isa as he did. Then, at the end of what seemed to be a question, he let go of his mother's hand and made an 'X' with his fingers across his face. His mother looked confused for a moment before glancing at Isa. She looked away as quickly as she had looked towards him. Immediately, she grabbed her son's hands away from his face and started whispering in his ear, almost looking fearful.
Terra didn't notice.
It was hard for Isa not to notice the boy's reaction to his presence. After all, this wasn't even close to his first experience with such a thing. He was occasionally recognized for his appearance, word and rumor having spread throughout the worlds of the seekers of darkness. And, even if someone wasn't privy to the rumor mill, there was always the possibility they'd stare at him simply for his scar. It was clearly... well, intentional, after all, and a bit difficult to mistake.
It was difficult for Isa to hide -- his appearance, or the things he'd done. He knew very well how he was seen.
That didn't make it any easier, however, when the child and his mother looked to him with visible fear in their eyes. He shifted, and ducked his head, trying to let his hair fall like a curtain past his face to at least try to hide the awful sigil. He'd gone tense, and was unable to resist shooting a slight glare in the family's direction, despite knowing it to be entirely counterproductive. He hadn't even processed the last thing that Terra said, and very suddenly simply wanted to leave.
The mother grabbed her child to her closely as Isa glared at her. The action seemed to get a few other people's attention, turned to either the woman and child or Isa. Suddenly, the atmosphere of the waiting area seemed more tense.
Terra, oblivious to this particular thing, was confused that Isa hadn't replied. Had he said something wrong? He glanced at Isa, only to see him far more tense than he was a second ago. Isa's hair was covering his face more, which probably wasn't a good sign. Was the crowd getting to him, and he wanted to hide from it? Somehow, that reminded Terra of Ventus timidly hiding from his first party with him and Aqua. Yet, he got the feeling that there was more to it than just nerves.
"You ok, Isa?" he asked, trying to subtly watch what Isa did.
Isa had started to hug himself, arms clenched tightly around his waist and nails digging into his palms almost hard enough to bleed. He'd started to get lost already in frustration and self-hatred, and jumped at the sound of Terra's voice. This had been the first time he wasn't, well, alone in this situation.
"Perfectly fine," he growled through gritted teeth, not particularly convincing. He was aware that his behavior wasn't exactly keeping him from looking threatening, but he was hurting. And the only emotion Isa knew how to display when he was hurt was anger. Anger was easy -- it was all he knew, really, in a way. "Don't -- think anything of it." The last thing he wanted was for Terra to actually notice what was going on. That was a whole other situation he didn't yet have the patience or mental fortitude to delve into, and likely never would.
Terra faced Isa more, looking concerned. Everything about his body screamed that he was hurting. Not physically, but in his heart. What was going on that was upsetting him so much? He tried to read Isa's face for an indication of the source of the issue, but Isa was staring at the ground. So, he was avoiding looking at something. He saw something that had bothered him. That had to be it. Whether it was Terra himself or something else in the room was yet to be determined. He quickly scanned the room, trying to find something obvious. An old enemy, or someone that looked similar. Especially loud noises, things that sounded like fighting. Anything that would stand out as upsetting. But he found none.
What he did notice was several sets of eyes staring in their direction. It took him a moment to realize just how many people were looking at them… no, looking at Isa. Many of the expressions were tense, nervous, or entirely fearful, but a few of them looked irritated and on edge. Never a good sign.
Terra seemed to have locked eyes with the wrong person, because one particularly self-righteous looking person came towards them. Said man stopped in front of Isa, trying to stand tall and look intimidating, which he in no way accomplished. The guy seemed to completely ignore Terra's presence, which was a little irritating in its own way, but unimportant. What was this guy doing?
"What's wrong with you, freak," he said, clearly not one for self-preservation or manners, "what's wrong with your face?"
Though full of shame and ultimately agreeing with the hurtful stranger's opinion, Isa simply wasn't one to shy away and take verbal accosting. The shame, sadness, and unbridled guilt that the words provoked within him were simply far too much for Isa to process, and before he knew it they were manifesting as the one thing he could.
Thus, he visibly bristled at the man's words, that word running rampant through his head. Freak. Freak. The recusant's sigil on his face seemed to burn, on fire as if it was the same day it had first been carved into his skin.
The faintest of angry growls bubbled up from his throat as he looked up at the stranger from beneath the curtain of hair he'd made for himself, and then he was standing to his full height -- easily over that of the person who'd approached him.
"None of your concern," he snarled, in single angry breath, eyes narrowed and piercing. "But if you don't remove yourself from my presence immediately, I'd be happy to show you how very much is wrong with me."
Clearly, this guy hadn't been expecting much resistance. He looked thoroughly intimidated by Isa's glare and blatant threat, but he seemed emboldened by the crowd, probably out of a sense that others would back him up. So he decided the best way to show how intimidated he was, was to turn the fear into anger. "Don't talk to me like that, freak!" he said while suddenly shoving Isa back by the shoulders.
Terra, up until that point, had been at a loss of what to do. He didn't know why this stranger seemed intent on insulting Isa, but he could tell it wasn't going to end well. Especially when the scar was mentioned. Something about that...seemed like a sensitive topic.
But then the stranger pushed Isa. Suddenly, Terra found his mindset switching to that of the one he had had when he saw Master Eraqus raising his keyblade towards Ventus. Not quite as strong, but he felt protective and angry nonetheless. He instantly got himself between Isa and the stranger.
"Quit it," he said, clearly angry, "we were doing nothing to you. Leave us alone." He stared hard and cold at the guy.
The man was somehow even more freaked out. Who wouldn't be when you had two tall, strong looking men glaring at you? "You've got to be joking!" the guy said angrily, "Why are you defending that....that...monster!" With that he swung his fist. It wasn't clear if he was aiming for Terra or going to try to get around Terra and hit Isa. Either way, Terra grabbed his wrist tightly, glare only intensifying.
"You have no right to say that," he said darkly.
Isa's first instinct when the man had grown physical with him was to freeze. There was, perhaps, some part of him that was ashamed. But since Isa had recompleted, he hadn't been able to fight, both as a result of a disconnect from his powers as well as a deep, dark fear that he'd never admitted aloud. Simply put, he was afraid he'd hurt someone, afraid of losing control
So, even though he could have torn this pathetic creature to ribbons without much effort at all, he bit his tongue and resolved himself to take whatever the idiot threw at him without dignifying the bullying with a response. That was all he was able to do, after all.
But... it hadn't been necessary. Terra had intervened. Had defended him. Isa... couldn't remember the last time that someone had defended him. The expression on his face, behind Terra's back, was abnormally wide-eyed and open, soft in a way that it never usually was. There was an odd lurch in his chest, something warm, sentimental, and, to Isa, entirely terrifying. He was stunned, briefly, and didn't know how to react, except to look towards the other with more than a little awe, respect, and admiration.
Then he'd heard that word. Monster. And Terra had defended him again. All of a sudden, those new, confusing feelings were gone, replaced by an affronted and confused, boiling anger that was far easier for Isa to deal with.
"He has a perfect right," he growled bitterly, reaching out to grab the other man's shoulder. "Don't pretend you actually know me. Now let the idiot go, he isn't worth the effort -- and I don't need your protection."
Terra almost shrugged Isa's hand away, feeling more and more angry with every second he looked at this jerk's face, but he didn't. Instead, he tightened his grip for a moment. "He doesn't get to say that to anybody ," he seethed for a moment in the guy's face before releasing him. The guy took this as his opening to get the hell out of there, which was probably the best for his health.
After glaring the guy off, Terra turned back to Isa. "I wasn't going to let that guy get away with treating you like that. I'm sure you could have handled it yourself, or whatever excuse you want to throw out. But I was not going to just stand and watch," he said firmly, trying not to glare at Isa, but he was too angry for his look to come across any other way.
"Such a knight in shining armor," Isa retorted sarcastically, expression frozen in a scowl. "Do you consider yourself that much of a hero ? Or do you think you've got something to prove? Damn keyblade wielders -- you're all like. Forcing yourselves into situations in which you simply just don't belong. Well, I hope you dressed warmly for your trip to the moral high-ground."
Deep inside, Isa's heart was aching, and he knew he was being unfair. He shouldn't be taking his anger out on Terra... in fact, a large part of him wanted to thank the man. But that part was simply too immature, distant and small to be able to compete with the much larger part of him that was hurt, insulted, and wanted nothing more than to leave.
With a snort, shoulders tensed and hunched, he moved to push past Terra while pointedly ignoring the staring crowd. "I've tired of attracting attention, and dealing with your incessant meddling. Enjoy your dinner." He started to walk away, back towards the apartment, and didn't look back, trying to ignore the wrenching feeling in his chest.
Isa had always been a monster -- always been alone. Why had thought, for just a moment, that he deserved anything different?
There were many things Terra wanted to say back to Isa. What's your problem? for starters, followed closely by I was trying to help, but I'll remember not to next time. He didn't like getting angry, but it was impossible not to at this. Not only was Isa angry at him, Isa was angry at him for doing the right thing and helping him . Like any decent person should do. In the back of his mind, he made a note of how adamantly Isa seemed to reject help as a concern. But the rest of his mind was far too angry to even attempt to calm down and be concerned.
Once Isa left, Terra became aware of all the eyes turning onto him . He hadn't noticed all the stares before, but now that he was tense and angry, every set of eyes seemed to bore into him. He scowled to himself. It wouldn't be a pleasant dinner if he stayed, with all these eyes on him and after what had happened. He didn't feel that hungry anymore anyways.
He left the restaurant and hopefully would be free from further embarrassment and anger. Terra needed time to clear his head before he could even risk running into Isa again. Based on how uncomfortable Isa had looked in public in general, he guessed Isa had gone back to the apartment. Meaning Terra was going to go just about anywhere else he could on this world and calm down. Even if it took hours.
And it did.
Chapter 3: The Aftermath
This chapter is a bit longer. Hope you enjoy!
Isa was extremely thankful that he'd managed to hold the tears off until he was quite some distance from the restaurant.
He was walking so fast it was almost a jog, gaze fixed intently on the ground, vision blurred with wetness that he wasn't sure came from pain, sadness, or anger. Perhaps all three. Either way, it was far too much, and Isa wanted nothing more than to escape it.
But he should have learned long ago that there was no way to escape himself.
His hands were shaking, and he'd nearly entered a bout of catatonia he hadn't had since the days after he recompleted. Forcefully, the thoughts that were causing his trouble had been shoved from his mind, leaving him feeling hollow and somehow
He didn't realize when he'd started wandering with no meaning and gotten himself completely lost.
Eventually, he did notice, when his temper finally wound down, and had to find his way back to the apartment. This, of course, took a great deal of time and pain, and when he finally managed to get inside and slam the door behind him he
and slammed a hand into the wooden doorframe. Had he been using his full strength, the thing would have shattered -- as it was, it let out a protesting creak, and splintered enough to gash a cut in Isa's hand which, while small, started to bleed profusely.
Eventually, he stumbled into the bathroom to wrap the grizzly wound, coherent enough that he knew he couldn't leave a trail of red, and made the mistake of looking in the mirror.
HIs eyes were swollen and red with tears, expression frozen in a snarl, yet somehow
Then there was that hideous mark -- always there, taunting him, marking him as a
A freak. A monster. As the man had said.
Forgetting to bandage his wound and splattering a trail across the pristine counter, Isa nearly shattered the mirror, barely managing to catch himself right before his fist hit the glass. Hand shaking, he let out an anguished sob and squeezed his eyes closed.
Why? Why can't I just get away? Why do I have to keep proving them right?
Once he'd nearly hyperventilated, he finally managed to calm down enough for one clear thought to make its way through his mind.
I can't do this. I'm not strong enough. I never will be, I never should have tried.
Then he was swiftly wrapping a washcloth around his hand as a poor bandage, throwing open the closet door with a crash, and starting to repack his meager belongings.
It had taken a long time for Terra to calm down. When he had been training at the Land of Departure, he'd often take his frustrations out through training. Beating up dummies with his wooden sword. But there was no real way to do that here. Somehow, he found his way to the forest just outside the town. It was quiet, away from people, and a few heartless roamed about.
It was perfect. He spent time defeating heartless and soon had the forest more to himself. Fighting tired him out enough that he didn't have enough energy to remain furious, so it settled into a low annoyance.
Now with his mind a little more clear, Terra tried to think over what had happened. Every way he looked at it, he hadn't done anything wrong. He had just been trying to defend Isa from some jerk that had no idea what he was talking about! Through this, he thought about what Isa had said.
Don't act like you know me.
He supposed he didn't know Isa that well, but that didn't mean Isa deserved to be called such horrible things! Maybe Terra had messed with his ego. That still didn't warrant such an angry and cruel response!
Maybe Terra was a hero type and messed in things he shouldn't. But he had only ever met one person he'd consider a monster, and he had helped kill him.
It was a long time before Terra came back to the apartment. Part of him hoped Isa wasn't there, just so they didn't either argue or awkwardly stare at each other. But the other part wished Isa
here so they could sort this out. Great first day this was shaping up to be. He entered the apartment and didn't see Isa in the main area, not noticing the slight crack in the doorframe. He walked into their bedroom only to find… Isa, clearly emotional, with a rag over his hand, and packing his things.
"What are you doing?" he asked, completely dumbfounded.
Having been lost in thought and focusing on trying not to get blood all over the few articles of clothing he owned, Isa hadn't heard Terra enter the apartment. At the sound of his voice, he stilled, hands shaking and tightening on the objects in his hands, threatening to tear them to ribbons. It wouldn't have been the first time -- there was more than one reason why Isa didn't own much, after all.
He had to resist the urge to turn around and glare, unwilling to reveal the tears still streaming down his cheeks. Instead, he turned his head further away, and tried to fill his voice with as much venom as possible so as not to betray his emotion. The last thing he wanted was for Terra to know how much he'd actually been affected.
"I'm leaving," he hissed. "I should have known better than to try to take up residence in such a simple town, with such a simple person. This has never been my place in life, and never will. I was foolish to believe for even a moment that I would be able to actually --" He was unable to keep from choking just the slightest on his words, and had to cut himself off to hold back a sob.
To actually find a home.
Terra was by no means a professional when it came to comforting others. But he was empathic enough to tell when someone was hurting. Not to mention it was obvious. The facing away. The harsh deflecting tone. The need to stop a sentence before it finished.
He remained in the doorway, both to give Isa space and because of that word. Leaving. The last time he'd left something resembling a home… he'd ended up destroying it and himself. Even if it had only been the first day, he had wanted to stay here. He had wanted to try and find somewhere he could feel safe without the lingering shadows of his past. He thought this new world, void of unpleasant memories, would have been perfect. More than perfect. And even if he hadn't known Isa well, he didn't want to be alone. He'd never lived alone. Whether he just had Eraqus which grew to Aqua and then to Ven. He always had someone around. He wasn't used to being alone. He couldn’t be alone.
However, lingering shadows of anger stirred at Isa's response. "Really?" he said a little sarcastically, "a bad first day, and you're ready to bail. You do realize it takes more than a few hours to actually be used to a place, right? How do you know if you should have 'known better' unless you take an actual amount of time to find out."
"And what, pray tell, do you think would happen should I take this time of which you speak?" Isa growled back, tossing the item he'd been holding into his bag with little consideration for the state in which it ended up. The tears were starting to come harder, and it was only a matter of time until the other man noticed exactly how broken he was -- Isa had no clue that Terra already had an idea of what he was doing.
Isa didn't want Terra pestering him, throwing logic in his face or calling out feelings he already knew to be foolish. He'd never wanted someone else involved in the messy disaster that was his own mind, and so he would now do whatever it took to keep Terra from becoming so. Including, of course, lashing out, which was easy already for Isa to do.
"I will tell you. If I take time and attempt to settle, I will only succeed in drawing further attention to myself and, subsequently, you. I will be forced to either act as a hermit, or put this face of mine daily towards townsfolk who will react exactly as those today have done. They will hate me, and I will hate them. And, eventually, I will break -- I will hurt someone, and prove that I am in fact the
they accuse me of being."
Isa hadn't noticed he'd started rambling, words starting to spill from his lips against his will. "It is far worse to exist within a society while aware that one can never belong than to simply never attempt to integrate to begin with. I may be able to 'get used to this place,' but I doubt it will ever get used to me. I refuse to disrupt the peace of this world, or of your life with my presence -- exactly as I refuse to accept the help of an idiotic wanna-be hero who has
what he's talking about."
"Or," Terra started, shutting his eyes to try and maintain control of his emotions. He didn't miss the insult. He wasn't just some guy with a hero complex to "save" Isa. It was obvious that Isa was hurting. That he needed
. He could hear the cracks in Isa's voice, the subtle shaking of his hands. Terra was by no means an expert, but someone needed to stay. Isa shouldn't be alone like he described.
"By staying, you'll gain attention for a time, just like I will, for being new and unfamiliar. It will take time, but people will recognize you as part of the community. Sure, there will still be jerks like the guy today, but there won't be many. People here are peaceful and calm. Two new, tough looking guys will make them nervous at first until they realize we aren't going to cause any harm," he said calmly but with an edge of irritability.
"But, if you do leave and choose to live completely alone, then you will always stay that way. You will always be silent and alone with nothing and no one. Is that what you want? To never hear another voice? Just because you're scared of lashing out? No one is going to hate you for having emotions and not always having perfect control of them. You are human. You deserve your own peaceful life wherever you wish to have it."
Maybe it was hypocritical. Terra couldn't relax and find peace here either. Not because he felt he'd destroy it himself, not completely at least, but because he feared someone else would come and take it from him again. All it took was one person to destroy his life. He wanted a chance to have one again, more than anything. He wasn't going to let one foul start deter him.
"One day bad and you already want to leave," he muttered, "do you not want to have a home? Some place you belong? Even if you have to work for it?"
The words hurt more than Isa could, or ever would, express. Terra was right, of course, about most everything he said -- except, of course, for perhaps the statement that Isa actually deserved peace. How could someone who'd caused such chaos
deserve peace? Isa didn't think he was even capable of it. The closest he'd come in his entire life was a sort of numb detachment that left him feeling hollow and worse than the pain and anger ever had.
He'd long since stopped his attempts to pack, hands clenched tightly and blood starting to seep through the washcloth around his wound. If no one was going to hate Isa for having emotions he wasn't able to control . . . then why did he harbor so much hatred for
"No," he growled back, voice low and incredibly dangerous. He turned finally to glare at Terra, eyes cold, narrowed and piercing -- but still dripping tears he forgot about trying to hide. "No. Maybe I don't. Maybe I don't
to ever hear another voice -- not if it's as grating and insufferable as those I've been exposed to recently. Maybe I don't want a home -- or to belong. Those people don't hate me because I'm
Terra -- they hate me because they see what I am. It's time you did the same, and leave me alone before I inevitably fuck up and show you."
Terra had known Isa was emotional. It has been obvious. But seeing tears pouring down his face made it much more real and potent. Something in the back of his mind told him this was distinctly
, that Isa
behaved like this. Much less cried.
He grit his teeth and clenched a fist for a moment before meeting Isa's stare with equal intensity. But he wasn't angry. He had made a decision and was about to stubbornly stick to it. Regardless of what the other thought on the matter.
"No," he said sternly while taking a step forward, "I'm not going anywhere, and, frankly, I don't think you are either. Just because one dick hurts you doesn't mean everyone in a place hates you. And you can't just run away from any pain or rejection. Because eventually you're gonna run out of places to go and no one to help you. So you're going to stick it out and
for once." Maybe it was a bit demanding. Maybe it wasn't his place. But he wasn't going to let this happen. It was inevitable that Isa would destroy himself if he maintained this course. And that
going to happen. Not if Terra had any say.
"Now," he said while finally getting close enough to grab the wrist that the bloody rag was on, "you're going to let me take care of this."
Despite the words gathering easily on Isa's tongue, insisting that he didn't care if he ran out of people to help him because he didn't want help in the first place, he was simply too stunned for a moment to say anything. He'd wanted Terra to back off -- he'd
Terra to back off -- he'd scared people away from him by saying
after all. Instead, Terra had come after him, slapping him with knowledge of what he'd already know to be true, and refused to let him stay in his self-created world of darkness and pain.
So why was he insisting on helping, invading Isa's little world and refusing to let him wallow in his infamous self-loathing?
"No, I can take care of it myself --" he bit out, pulling his hand away with a bit of a startled jerk. His words, however, lacked quite the same fire from before, as he cradled his hand to his chest. "Why -- why are you doing this?" He asked through gritted teeth. "And what gives you the right to think you can tell me what to do?"
Terra did not look impressed by Isa's insistence that he could care for himself. So far, evidence pointed elsewhere. He'd seen self destructive behaviors before. Either in himself or others. He knew it when he saw it. And he was sick of seeing it.
"Maybe I don't have a right," he said while looking Isa square in the eyes, "but I'm not going to let someone else destroy themselves through sheer stubbornness. So, I'm going to help. I don't care if that makes me annoying, or a hero type, or any other negative word you want to put on it. I am
He stepped back slightly but was clearly between Isa and the door, instead leaving enough room for Isa to go towards the bathroom. "Starting with fixing whatever the hell you did to your hand," he said.
It was probably a good thing that Terra had moved away from Isa on his own, or else Isa would have made him. As it was, he'd willingly given space when Isa had asked for it. . . yet, he was still making an effort to help.
And. . . well. . . that had shaken him so much -- it was a luxury he was
afforded -- that his anger seemed to drain from his body quite rapidly, leaving Isa feeling hollow and exhausted.
He stood for a minute, shoulders suddenly dropping, and looked incredibly defeated, face tear-stained and suddenly looking far older than he was. He grit his teeth, and avoided Terra's gaze. . .
But he made his way to the bathroom.
When two stubborn wills clash, inevitably, one will have to bend to the other, even if by a small amount, lest they break each other. This time, Terra's stubborn determination won. He was still irritated and tense, but he was also a small bit satisfied. At least this didn't have to get more complicated and strained than it already was. Because he wasn't going to back down. Not until he helped Isa at least the minimum amount of checking his bleeding hand.
He waited till Isa had entered the bathroom before following, quickly grabbing a small first aid kit from his things. Woodworking could cause all sorts of injuries, so he kept the two items together usually. He tried not to corner Isa in the room, but that was hard to do in the somewhat small bathroom.
He set the first aid kit on the counter and held out his hand for Isa's. "Come on, lets see it," he said, stern but not harsh.
Isa had actually cornered
huddling like a threatened animal in the corner farthest from the mirror as possible. He was already so raw and on edge that catching a glimpse of his scar might just break him. . . and he knew that.
"It's only a scratch, you don't have to act like a scared mother," he grumbled, removing the blood-stained rag to reveal the gash running along the side of his hand under the pinky. It wasn't deep, but hand wounds bled a great deal, and it certainly wasn't
"You should be more concerned about the wall."
Terra noticed a few blood drops on the counter. He'd clean it later. He grabbed the necessary supplies to help Isa and set to work. He ignored the "scared mother" comment.
"What? Did you punch the wall or something?" he paused, realizing that must have been the case, "You do realize that there's a whole forest full of heartless to fight to your heart’s content, right? And you don't need to resort to property damage in a place we're renting?" It was more than a little sarcastic, but he didn't really care. He had Isa rooted still while he cleaned and bandaged the cut, and so he was going to say whatever he wanted for a second.
He shook his head briefly. "Why didn't you take care of your hand yourself?" he asked, glancing at Isa before keeping his eyes on what he was doing.
"Specifically, I punched the door frame and cut my hand on a nail," Isa grumbled in response while glaring intently at a hand towel as if it had done him a personal offense. "Whatever damage was done, I'll fix it -- or pay for it. It isn't a big deal, I've done worse. . . " He was thankful now he'd caught himself before he'd smashed the mirror.
At the question, he hesitated, and licked his lips while actively avoiding the other man's gaze. ". . . I . . . didn't have time. I wanted to be gone before you got here, to avoid this very situation."
Terra made a mental note to check the doorframe later, fixing it if necessary.
Oh yes, a convincing response to his second question. He finished wrapping the cut and locked eyes with Isa.
"I was gone for at
two hours. Try again," he said, "since we're going to be living together, it'd be nice if we could be honest with each other. And forthcoming, if it doesn't inconvenience you."
"I . . . didn't come home immediately," Isa muttered in response, immediately cutting his eyes away. He was shocked, actually, that it had been that long. How long exactly had he remained lost in the fog of his mind?
"And I wasn't. . .
. . . for some time . . . " He refused to go into detail. Isa's catatonia had only ever been discussed with one other person, and he hadn't had a choice in that matter. He wasn't about to spread the information to another. "Then I came in here and. . . I tried, for a moment. . . but I couldn't focus. . . and I . . . had to leave."
That wording struck Terra as odd and...carefully chosen. There was obviously more to it, but he got the impression that pressing would likely only end poorly. He wasn't looking to make the current situation any worse. So he made a note of it but didn't say anything about it.
He sighed and looked away from Isa, scratching the back of his head. "I don't see why you think the only solution is going somewhere else. I thought you wanted to come live here. I just don't get it. Don't you
someplace to return to even if you don't feel like you deserve it?" he asked, sounding sad by the end.
The question honestly caught Isa a bit off guard, and he shuffled for a moment, arms crossed across his chest.
"I don't know," he murmured eventually, voice abnormally soft and distant. "I really do not know. I think . . . I do, to be perfectly honest. But I don't know if I'm
of it, all talk of deserving it aside."
He paused for a moment, then let out a bitter laugh. ". . . You're right. As much as I hate to admit that, you are. I don't even know where I would have gone. . . I've always just wandered, without direction or purpose. The opposite of everything I want to be. But it's ever so hard to find purpose or place when you're not even supposed to be alive."
Terra looked at Isa with a mix of emotions. There was concern, obviously, but also a bit of curiosity. This was his chance to learn a little more about Isa. But he had to be careful. He didn't want to press too far too quickly and get shut out completely. He sighed.
"How do you know if you're 'capable' of it if you keep leaving before learning about where you are?" he asked before shaking his head, "nevermind that stuff. Why not try to find something here? Something you want. Something you find meaning in."
He held off commenting about the "not supposed to be alive" bit. It concerned him, but he knew asking instantly wouldn't end well. Though, he could almost understand.
"That's . . . easier said than done," Isa replied with an awkward shuffle of his feet. "But I've nowhere to go, and it doesn't appear that you're giving me much of a choice."
He was tired, sad, and still a bit angry, but there was now a new emotion there as well. Some sort of odd, almost pleasant feeling he wasn't sure he liked. Terra's concern for his well being was incredibly unusual, and Isa simply didn't know how to process it.
So, overcome with curiosity, he licked his lips and raised hollow eyes to finally meet Terra's own before asking "Why are you doing this?”
Terra should have expected the question. It was inevitable for Isa to ask it genuinely. Part of him didn't want to admit his own haunting loneliness and lack of place for him to return to. He looked away from Isa's stare.
"Probably for selfish reasons," he said, "I can't stand the quiet of not having anyone around. Too many… endless and upsetting memories."
He was too tired and maybe too self conscious to go in further detail for now. But if he was going to expect sharing from Isa… he was going to have to say it all eventually.
Isa blinked and looked up in slight surprise, finally starting to relax from his breakdown
a bit. He didn't know the details of Terra's past, of course, beyond those that had affected him directly and what he'd heard vague tell of.
The other man seemed so much more well adjusted than Isa, it was difficult to believe that he dealt with the same problems.
"That, at least, I can understand," he replied quietly. "Though why I both loathe isolation and run to it is beyond my understanding." he let out a heavy sigh and allowed his eyes to drift shut, leaning back on the wall. A moment later he surprised himself by letting out a sudden, barking laugh. What he said next also surprised him. "We're interesting, aren't we? Perhaps. . . Perhaps it's better if we're not alone.”
Terra had tensed after speaking, suddenly worried about the response he would get. The shock made sense. Normally, he forced all thoughts about what bothered him out of his mind and pretended everything was ok, even if it wasn't. He'd mostly figured out how to appear completely unbothered by the living hell he'd endured. But he was going to be honest with Isa, even if it meant admitting things he may not have told Aqua or Ven.
He relaxed as Isa did, glad that something had worked to defuse the situation. He nodded at the statement. Terra was running from Aqua and Ven after all, but he hadn't wanted to be
The laugh jolted his attention. He stared at Isa for a moment, surprised. "Probably is, I'd prefer it anyways, to not be alone," he admitted after a moment.
He thought for a second. He'd successfully convinced Isa to stay and hopefully set them up to become friends. Something told him this would be a long process, but he was willing. There needed to be something to sort of finish the night better.
"Hey, you hungry? I can go grab something and bring it back here," he said, as if they had not tried to get food earlier.
Isa wasn't sure, honestly, whether he preferred to be alone or not. That was honestly a question that was going to plague him until he figured out the answer. He felt better, sometimes, when he wasn't around others. People were overwhelming, and loud, and far too
Then again. . . that same isolation oftentimes played on his deepest fears and left him trapped in his own personal nightmare. Being alone would be far easier if he wasn't alone with
He shook himself out of his thoughts at Terra's question and paused for a moment before slowly nodding. He strongly considered refusing -- saying that he would be alright -- but his stomach betrayed him by letting out an angry growl, and Isa was forced to acknowledge that he wasn't sure when the last time he'd eaten was. "That. . . sounds like a decent idea," he gave in. "Though I'd hate to make you go off on your own, and I doubt my own ability to face the public this soon after a breakdown. . . perhaps we could order in?"
He wasn't sure why he'd said that. Perhaps Isa
prefer being alone.
Terra had initially offered to get the food himself as to not force Isa into public again, since the first attempt didn't end very well. But Isa's suggestion was not one he had considered. It almost made him smile. At least he was pleasant enough company that Isa wanted him around.
"That's a good idea," he said, not commenting on the growl he heard, "since we're so close to that downtown area, it probably won't take long either. So we'll have dinner in no time."
With that, he pulled out his gummiphone, having figured it out
, and started looking for where they could eat and what. It took a little bit, but they decided on something and placed their orders. Ignore the fact they had to look up their own address to tell where the food needed to be delivered.
After that, Terra fell back onto the couch, tired from sheer mental strain of having to do all that.
Isa was thankful that Terra had taken lead with placing the order, since he didn't actually know how to do it. He wasn't typically a man fond of take out -- at all. The place they'd ordered from seemed alright, however, so he wasn't going to protest. Not when he was already this hungry and drained.
He sat down carefully on the edge of the couch, in stark contrast to how his roommate had collapsed, and crossed his legs in front of him at the knee. "This could have all been avoided if we'd had food here," he murmured, almost absentmindedly. "We should try another attempt at an outing. . . tomorrow, perhaps. . . to an actual market. . .then perhaps we could actually
something." There was actually the faintest tinge of something that might have been
in his voice.
Terra had looked up at Isa when he'd started speaking. It was easy to miss that small change in expression, but he noticed. So Isa liked cooking? It seemed like that might be the case.
"Yeah, making food here would be cheaper. Shopping tomorrow sounds like a good plan. Do you know how to cook? I'm decent at it but could be better," he said, running a hand through his hair. By decent, he meant he could cook edible food. Maybe it didn't always taste the best, when it even had a taste, but it worked. Eraqus had done most of the cooking after Terra almost set the castle on fire when he broke the oven at age six.
"I do, actually," Isa answered easily. "I've been cooking for most of my life, in fact. I'd. . . " he shot the other a glance before returning to staring at the wall. "If you're interested, I'd be happy to show you a few things. It . . . only makes sense, really, that both of us should be able to feed ourselves the best we can." Isa hadn't had much of a choice, really, when it came to learning how to cook.
"I quite enjoy it, actually," he said honestly, unsure why he was opening up so much. Perhaps part of him felt he owed it to Terra to at least
not to be an asshole. For now, at least. "Though it's been some time since I've actually gotten the chance to do so."
Terra chuckled and scratched the back of his head. "Yeah, knowing how to feed myself would be nice. Certainly seems like something a man of my age should know how to do," he said with a joking tone.
Eraqus had tried
to teach him and Aqua how to cook when they were young. Terra had heard many times that cooking was an important skill, especially if a keyblade master travelled to other worlds. There was no way to know for certain what food would be in a world, or if it could be easily obtained. So cooking also doubled as a survival skill in Eraqus's mind, that he had tried to impress on Terra as well. Unfortunately, Terra had never seen much of the point when he was younger, and once he was old enough to train, all his time was focused on that.
"What's your favorite thing to make then?" he asked, seeing a potential opportunity to learn more about his roommate, "maybe we can make that first."
The question gave Isa pause. Why, it didn't usually matter what he was cooking. . . did it?
No, he simply enjoyed the process. . . and the satisfaction he gained from people eating his food and enjoying it. It was . . . a rare way that Isa actually brought
things into the world, however inconsequential they are.
The names of several fancy, complicated dishes rose to his mind. . . favorites of his parents, and a show of his skill. . . then the name of
favorite thing he'd cooked (French toast) -- but none of that was the truth, exactly, was it?
". . . What's your favorite thing to eat?" he asked instead of actually answering. "That's. . . what I want to cook. Allow me to pay you back for tonight's dinner."
Terra looked at Isa before turning to think. He liked a lot of different things, mostly out of necessity. The rule had always been "eat what was made" by Eraqus. So he could eat just about anything.
"Hmm, maybe something with mushrooms? But don't feel like you owe me. We're living together. We don't need to owe each other stuff, least of all meals," he said, looking at Isa with a sincere smile, "gotta work together after all."
"You're insufferably nice," Isa retorted quickly, and it might have actually been a compliment. "I can work with that. . . I'll start looking for recipes. And. . . I'll try to hold it together better on our next outing." He still wasn't meeting Terra's eyes, but his tone was softer than it had been all day.
"For now. . . " he let out a heavy sigh. "I think I might turn in. It's been quite the day already and I'm rather tired."
Terra laughed at the "compliment". He looked at Isa with a relaxed smile. The day had been a bit of a rollercoaster, but it had ended well. So that was something. A knock at the door kept him from replying. Finally.
"At least eat a little before turning it," he said, holding out Isa's towards him, "plus I need to shower. I'll try to be quick and not disturb you. Also… don't worry about today, ok? Everyone has good days and not so good days."
Isa was about to protest -- but again, his stomach had other ideas and he found himself accepting the box with a nod. He honestly didn't know what to say, so chose to keep quiet concerning Terra's statement. That was true, he supposed. . . though the good days seemed infrequent.
"Glorious, styrofoam," he grumbled instead. He wrinkled his nose a bit distastefully. . . eating take-out out of a styrofoam box with a plastic fork. What on earth would his parents think?
Hm. Perhaps it was that thought in addition to the grumbling in his stomach that prompted him to devour the meal with vigor, despite his attempts to remain poised.
And Terra thought
had been hungry. Apparently not as much as he had thought. He started eating, definitely not even attempting the manners that Isa was. He knew damn well Eraqus had taught him manners, but those weren't important right now.
"Certainly a wonderful invention, if only for convenience," he joked. Take out was always decent and filling, which is precisely what Terra wanted at the moment. It was gone fairly quickly.
Isa had barely stopped to breath the entire time he'd been practically inhaling the likely high-sodium meal. When
the last time he'd actually eaten a hot meal . . ? He wasn't even sure. Before long, the abhorred styrofoam was empty, and Isa's stomach was unusually full and warm.
It was no secret that he'd lost a bit of bulk since he'd recompleted -- hospital time did that to anyone, after all, and he hadn't been the best at self care. It was a good thing Terra had convinced him to stay. . . and to actually eat. "You're correct there, I suppose," replied, actually relaxing back into the cushions a bit. "That was . . not as awful as I expected."
Terra stood and stretched once he'd finished. He held out a hand for Isa's trash. "That's a good thing, isn't it?" he said while yawning slightly, "then it works till we get stuff to actually cook with. I'm gonna go shower."
He tossed the trash before going into their room and grabbing what he needed. He didn't really have anything other than a change of clothes. He should probably. . . fix that . . . But he didn't have a ton of money left. Guess he'd skip washing his hair this time.
Isa had remained on the couch for a moment, happily full, before rising and making his way to the bedroom. He was hesitant to change, knowing that Terra could emerge at any moment, but had satisfied himself with the knowledge that as long as the water was running he was likely safe.
He did, however, change quite quickly -- just in case, before tying back his hair. He then cursed when he realized he'd left his glasses in the bathroom, and would thus have to remain in his contacts until the other man emerged. At least the bed was soft. . . and Isa had a book.
Terra knew how to take a quick shower. And despite not exactly wanting to take something without asking....he really needed to wash his hair. So he took as small of an amount of Isa's that he could wash his hair with. Hopefully, with how much hair Isa seemed to have, it wouldn't be noticed.
He stepped out of the shower and dried off. He was so ready to go to sleep. Today had been mentally draining, which honestly tired him more than physical stuff sometimes. He pulled on his underwear and pants before stepping out of the bathroom, still drying his hair with a towel.
"We should probably make a list or something for shopping tomorrow," he said absentmindedly.
Terra really did shower fast . . . Isa had only just gotten into his reading. He looked up, about to reply to Terra's suggestion, but had suddenly found his train of thought coming to a screeching halt.
Terra was half naked. And not shy about it. Nor was he . . . well. . . lacking in form. Isa suddenly found it quite hard to look away, but forced himself to with a grimace and a slight flush to his face. "God -- you know you aren't
" he grumbled. "If you want to behave appropriately, you should clothe yourself." Though, certainly, there was a part of Isa that may have been
the view -- he decided then and there not to think about that.
Terra looked a bit startled at Isa's response. He looked at Isa, hands frozen dumbly on the towel in his hair. He had slept shirtless since...probably since he'd turned 15? He had long since gotten used to walking in front of others shirtless, having lived with essentially a family of four for many years.
"Oh, uh...it's just my pajamas?" he said dumbly, "is there something wrong with it?" He couldn't remember anyone ever reacting like that to his attire. Was it making Isa uncomfortable? He didn't have a night shirt…
Isa was still flushing, and wasn't sure exactly how to respond without revealing his own insecurities.
Terra was. . . definitely attractive.
He was also . . . well. . . not always the brightest, or most worldly.
He was also. . . kind. Far too kind.
And for some reason, all of those things together had caused Isa's heart to soften in a way that he'd never expected, nor did he know what to do with. "It's indecent," he stammered out, glaring at a curtain. "Just -- get under the sheet, already, if you're going to sleep in such a state." He tried to figure out why he was flushing hotter at the thought of a shirtless Terra being in bed with him. . . or why he suddenly felt the need to cover that gorgeous tan skin with bite marks.
Terra blinked for another few moments before figuring out what the problem must be. Isa
uncomfortable. He must have had a different upbringing. A more "decent" one. He glanced away from Isa for a moment, feeling a little embarrassed.
"Sorry, I get hot easily," he said while putting away his towel, "if it really bothers you, I can find something." He scratched the back of his head nervously. He'd never run into this before, truthfully. So he'd do what Isa wanted.
" Isa growled, not paying any attention to other possible connotations of that phrase. He was still a bit flushed, and had opened his book again to stare at it without reading it. "Just -- just get in, already."
He was starting to regret his decision that they share a bed, the confusing rush of feelings within him suddenly too much. He was, however, far too proud to back out now, and made a show of flipping the blankets back for Terra to crawl beneath them.
Terra wasn't sure how to respond to this situation. Isa had acted like it was a bad thing and then allowed it? He shook his head. He was too tired for this.
Without another word, he got into the bed and covered himself with the blanket. Hopefully he didn't get too hot in his sleep. He was known to… remove clothing in his sleep. Ugh, why did he have to be so hot natured? The last thing he needed was genuinely scaring his roommate.
He laid on his side, facing away from Isa. He wanted to sleep, but he also wanted to talk. He
to talk before it got too quiet. So he glanced at Isa over his shoulder.
"What are you reading?" he asked, hoping it was something Isa would talk a fair amount about so he could doze off. It was kinda rude, but, normally, he listened to music. He didn't want to do that though. It might bother Isa, and he was determined to be considerate.
Isa had actually been enjoying the quiet, having been forcing himself to relax and not think about the fact that there was another person -- a half naked person he'd thought briefly about biting -- in his bed. Thus, at the sound of Terra's voice, he'd startled a little and glanced over, surprised.
Part of him was annoyed that he couldn't just leave Isa in peace -- the other part was simply surprised he'd asked a question. Remembering he'd caused the other man enough trouble for today, he forced away a biting remark and glanced briefly down at the book.
"You'll laugh at me," he replied. "It's a collection of lyrical poetry. . . I find it soothing. It grounds me," He tried his best to sound as composed and matter-of-fact as he could while explaining the nature of his love of the poems, though a faint flush dusted his cheeks.
Terra laid on his back and looked up at Isa. Aqua liked poetry, so he'd heard it a lot before. He didn't get why Isa thought he'd make fun of him for it though. Regardless, his question had gotten the response he wanted.
"Would you mind reading one?" he asked sheepishly, "I...find it relaxing." Technically, a lie. What he found relaxing was just sound in general. But this would work for that. Besides, what he remembered of Aqua's poems were pleasant to read. He hoped he passed out instantly.
"You . . . want to hear a poem?" Isa quirked a brow, surprised to say the least. He could tell there was another layer to whatever Terra was saying, but didn't have the energy or concern necessary to press the matter.
"Very well . . .here, this one is one of my favorites. I find it particularly relaxing." He shot the other man a glance, then licked his finger to turn the page of the book to the poem he was looking for before taking a breath and starting to read in a low, rich timbre:
"As I stand here in the dead of night
I am embraced by a soft purple light
It is not a christian light but deep and soft
like dark wisdom to the fool
Like wisdom details come with tim
and everything appears so fine
it is no damnation burning up your eyes
where you see god and nothing else
but a soft light
soft like a wise woman’s cloak
Draped and flecked with silver tears
I see the lovely temple without fears...
Waiting in eternity."
Terra felt a little bad for lying about his intentions, but he supposed it could be worse. At least Isa hasn't asked questions. He laid back and closed his eyes. For some reason, Isa's voice was especially soothing to listen to. He found himself quickly relaxing as Isa read.
Before Isa had finished reading, he'd dozed off, snoring softly.
Isa had lost himself in the words, as usual, but there was something new this time. There was a whole new level of depth to being able to speak the words aloud, their cadence filling the room and lulling him into a relaxed state the likes of which he rarely felt.
Then there was that he was reading to another human being. Isa didn't think he'd ever done that before. It felt wonderful. . . uniquely special, and vibrant in a way, to be able to share this. It was almost like he was sharing a part of his soul, without having to completely make himself vulnerable.
When he finished the poem, he closed the book and glanced to the side, somehow not surprised to realize that Terra had fallen asleep. He watched him for a moment, an odd feeling in his chest that he dismissed before turning and setting his book and glasses on the nightstand. Then, he turned off the light and settled into the blankets himself, lying rigid like a rock and still somehow far more relaxed than usual. Isa rarely slept. . .
. . . But, for some reason, he did today.
Chapter 4: Earrings
Every night was always a gamble for Terra. Sometimes he'd sleep soundly and peaceful the whole night with only a little wiggling. Sometimes he'd suddenly get hot and end up wrestling his sheets in an attempt to cool off. And sometimes… he woke up in the middle of the night, Keyblade in hand, and suddenly less one piece of furniture. He'd once woken up immediately doing a Strike Raid, which had ended with his Keyblade embedded into the wall.
Partially fortunate for Isa, tonight was the second one. The apartment was different from his room in the Land of Departure. So he started feeling hot in his sleep. Desperate to cool off, he moved around, looking for something cooler. Luckily, he found one in the bed beside him. He moved closer, still thoroughly unconscious, and clung to the cool presence, completely and blissfully unaware of what he was doing.
It had been some time since Isa had gotten this decent of a night of sleep. It wasn't easy to fall asleep in the first place and, even if he did, he frequently found himself plagued by nightmares that left him feeling hollow. Hence, he didn't really mind not sleeping... it kept the nightmares at bay.
There were no nightmares. Not tonight. For some reason, he'd suddenly found himself incredibly warm and safe in a way he couldn't explain. Whatever warmth had suddenly enveloped him, he'd leaned into it, stirring but yet yet waking. He nuzzled close to it, relishing in its presence...
Until, dimly, his body seemed to register the feeling of hands on his skin and he woke, startled, with a slight jerk. Blinking dazedly, he frowned and tried to pull back from the warmth, only to find that he was unable to. What was --?
Terra. Terra was hugging him. Why was Terra hugging him?
He strongly considered pulling away, letting out a shout and shoving the other's body away. Or simply wiggling free. But he was simply so embarrassed that the thought of Terra waking up and realizing what was going on was... simply impossible.
Rigid, thoughts racing, and tucked into Terra's chest, Isa remained until morning.
Terra always slept deeply on good nights, and after finding something that made him comfortably cool, it was a very good night's rest. But, after a lifetime living with and training to be a keyblade master, he tended to wake up fairly early naturally. The sun had only just risen a little while ago when Terra blurrily started to wake up.
The first thing he noticed was that he hadn't had a nightmare and summoned his keyblade, for which he was thankful. That would not have been a good first night. The next thing he noticed was that he was holding onto something.... Someone. Immediately, he bolted upright, letting go of Isa.
"I'm sorry!" he said, suddenly very awake and very aware that he might have been clinging to someone, who had expressly stated that he didn't like being touched, all night. But then he realized that Isa might have still been asleep, and he couldn't have gotten away with it if he hadn't likely woken Isa by moving and speaking. Great.
Isa had, of course, already been awake, but was debating very much pretending not to be.
He squeezed his eyes shut as Terra pulled away, then made a show of blinking them open and frowning at him.
"What --?" he muttered, trying to sound as if he hadn't already been up for a few hours. "What are you yelling about...?" He pushed himself up, rolling his shoulders, and noticed he didn't feel as tense as usual. Now, to hope that Terra didn't notice he was completely faking. "It's too early to be shouting like that..."
Oh, thank Kingdom Hearts, Isa had been asleep and didn't seem to know what had happened. Terra began to chuckle nervously and scratch the back of his head.
"Sorry, I must have woken up from a dream," he said, looking away and hoping his lie wasn't as obvious as it felt.
Ok. Good. Terra believed the lie, and wasn't talking about it anymore... hopefully, he also wouldn't pay attention to the flush that had covered Isa's face.
Of course, Isa still knew what had happened and was processing it for himself, nearly dazed and mind swimming. "Right, um --" he nervously raised a hand to scratch at his scar and glanced to the side. "...No worries. Think nothing of it."
Terra almost let out a sigh of relief but held it back. Isa had believed it. Good. Now time to act like everything was fine and normal and not like he'd been spooning Isa all night. Oh, hearts . Alright, don't think about it.
"Breakfast?" he said maybe too quickly, "we should get something to eat for breakfast. Gotta go shopping and start looking for jobs today, right?" It was probably not the smoothest subject change, but he was desperate to change where the attention was.
"Yes, um -- breakfast," Isa agreed just as quickly, forcing himself to stand. "And... shopping and jobs. Yes, wonderful," he winced at his own tone as he wandered to the dresser and started almost frantically choosing an outfit.
"I don't suppose you've noticed any decent breakfast places? We could stop on the way to the store."
Terra, having forgotten how embarrassed it had made Isa the night before, stood and immediately took his pajama pants off. He tightly folded them and tucked them under his pillow, just like Eraqus taught him. He then went to find fresh clothes to put on. Looking through his drawers he realized all he had was… the exact same outfit he'd worn since he was sixteen.... He needed to go shopping. He didn't need training clothes anymore.
He almost missed Isa's question. "Uh, I don't remember any, but I'm sure we'll see one," he said over his shoulder while getting dressed. He looked at his shoulder armor. Should he really wear it? It's not like there was that kind of fighting any more... But he didn't feel safe without it, so he hooked it on.
Was Terra raised in an actual barn?
It was starting to seem like that was the case. Isa had let out a barely contained intact of breath when the other man had just suddenly dropped his pants -- right there, in the center of the room -- and made a very conscious effort to not look in his direction.
The only time Isa reacted to such a show of bodies in a manner that wasn't pure embarrassment -- perhaps riddled with a bit of scorn -- was at a far more passionate time. And at those times, he reacted very differently than this. He remained pointedly facing the other direction for a good deal longer than it should have taken Terra to dress before he finally turned around, grabbing a hairbrush to quickly disentangle his hair.
"Yes, right..." he muttered. "Have you any idea what sort of work you're looking for?"
Terra turned back to Isa and shrugged. "I'm not really sure. Used to spend all my time training to be a Keyblade Master, not exactly any other career. But I'm pretty good at building things. I'm bet I could find something like that," he said while stepping into the bathroom and trying to fix his hair. Why was his bedhead always so weird?
He noticed Isa brushing his hair still in their room. That seemed odd, not in a bad way but different. Whenever Terra tried that, he ended up with his hair in more of a mess than when he started. Part of Terra wanted to ask, but he decided not to, for now at least.
"What about you? Got any marketable hobbies?" he said with a lighter tone.
Building things was marketable, indeed... it seemed that at least one of them would have income.
"Not of consequence," Isa let out a little sigh and shrugged as he tied his hair back. "I've never exactly had any 'hobbies' to begin with. I've been far too busy... there's cooking, I suppose, though I doubt anyone is going to hire me for that ... and a long time ago I knew a few instruments... but that's been years."
He remembered quite well the last time he'd played his violin... it was right before he'd been promoted to second in command. "Not that anywhere around here is hiring classical musicians... " another sigh. "Anything regarding physical strength, I suppose I could do... Or organization... I've a great deal of experience delegating groups, after all... and running a sort of office... this is all, of course, if anyone is willing to hire me after seeing..." he trailed off and traced his scar, visibly deflating and giving up hope before he'd even began.
Terra looked at Isa in the mirror as he spoke. He never took Isa for one to be musically inclined, but he found it oddly fitting. Somehow, he knew that Isa was suited for management, how he knew that, he didn't know and also felt like he didn't need to think about it too deeply. He also knew Isa was strong, far stronger than he was letting on.
Then he noticed Isa's movement. He acted like he hadn't been watching and stepped out of the bathroom. "People probably won't care about a small piercing," he said, "or anything else for that matter. So long as you can do the job, ya know?" He stretched slightly.
"Besides, I didn't know you played music. What sort of instruments? I've always wanted to be able to play, but no instrument I tried ever really worked. I somehow broke some of them," he said, chuckling at the end. There had been many times Terra hadn't realized quite how strong he was becoming and used far too much force on something.
"How did you... break an instrument?" Isa blinked and turned to look at the other man in a sort of impressed confusion. "Don't tell me you tried to fight off a heartless with it, or something of the sort." There was actually the faintest hint of jest to his tone.
"I play, yes... but it's been far too long. I was versed in cello and violin," He then replied, a bit more seriously. "As for the piercings... I'll remove them if it's an issue. That's the sort of thing I at least have control over." He had a feeling that Terra knew he hadn't been talking about earrings, and he was grateful he wasn't pressing the issue.
Terra chuckled sheepishly. "There were a lot of ways. The drums were the easiest to break because… well… I can hit something pretty hard. I think the worst one was when I tripped and dropped something down the stairs. I don't even fully remember was it was because of how messed up it was at the bottom. Something brass," he said, looking away in slight embarrassment. It was after that that Terra had been required to have whatever expensive thing he was carrying, especially instruments, in a case with a strap around him. Which didn't help the time he fell on it, but that was another matter entirely.
"I need to hear you play sometime," he said, looking back at Isa, "I bet you're still excellent at them. You seem the dedicated type. And I hope you won't have any problem from your piercings. I think it makes you more unique. Something that's just yours, regardless of the circumstances of how you got them. Plus, I really don't think people will care." Maybe it wasn't as subtle as he had hoped, but hopefully it did get the message across.
The hidden meaning to Terra's words was shocking, to say the least, and Isa was certain he'd understood wrong. If Terra was attempting to send the message that Isa thought he was sending... well, he'd succeeded, and left Isa bewildered and a bit stunned.
"...You're the first person to say that about my... piercings, I believe," he murmured back. "I... truly hope you're correct. I hope you're correct about the music, as well, though I doubt I'll ever have another opportunity to play... it's not as if I have an instrument, or can afford one at the moment. Besides," he cracked a smile. "I have a feeling if I was able to get one, a friend of mine might accidentally break it."
Terra had been smiling, more to himself, out of satisfaction that it seemed his words had worked. Then, he got hit from both sides from a not-so-subtle jab and a term he didn't expect to be called. He laughed, openly and loudly, at Isa's absolute obliteration.
"I would be careful not to break it. I was younger when all that happened," he said still chuckling as he spoke, "besides, if I were to break it, I wouldn't get to hear you play, and I already get the feeling that that would be a tragedy, my friend."
He threw the term back at Isa, partially to ensure that that had been what Isa had meant to say. Isa didn't seem the type to open up easily, so Terra was honored to have gained that position so quickly. But he wanted to make sure it hadn't just been a slip of the tongue before his ego got too inflated.
Isa decided to respond to Terra's thinly veiled attempt to pry at his little "slip of the tongue" in the most subtle and completely Isa way possible.
He ignored it completely, and did not acknowledge he'd said anything of the sort.
"A tragedy, would it?" He asked wryly, while pretending to be preoccupied with doing up the zipper of his jacket. "Then I suppose we're doomed to suffer -- after all, I see no violin, nor any money with which to purpose one. We've barely the money for mushrooms."
Though it wasn't a positive and confirming response, it also wasn't a negative one. Terra decided to count it as a small bit of progress. But he didn't mention it. Instead he chuckled.
"Well, I didn't expect it immediately," he said, "I figured it'd be worse after I'd actually heard you play to lose it. It's harder to lose something that you know is wonderful than never getting to know what it's like."
He stepped towards the front door. "Speaking of mushrooms, we oughta get going before I starve to death," he said jokingly, "we'll figure out more money stuff after getting some food, sound good?"
"Indeed," Isa muttered as he finally stopped pretending to adjust his coat and headed towards the door after Terra. Internally, he was busy processing the fact that Terra seemed to want to watch him play.
Even when he had played regularly, Isa had never been observed simply for pleasure. Only... criticized. Judged. And it was never good enough...
He remembered all too well the quick raps of his own bow across his knuckles, long hours spent practicing... unable to stop... It was amazing he still found playing relaxing. Perhaps it felt good, to simply play for pleasure -- a sort of "fuck you" to the universe, and those who had criticized.
When they stepped outside, Isa actually looked a bit happy, even though no smile crossed his lips. "To market, then. For mushrooms."
Chapter 5: Cinnamon Rolls
Terra had noticed something very similar to a smile on Isa's face as they left. That seemed like a good omen for their outing. Besides, it looked good on him.
"I don't know a lot about putting different foods together, so I'll leave that to you," he said with a smile as he stepped outside. It was still fairly early, but he was used to rising with the sun. But it seemed this town was an early morning sort of place as well, as several people were already out and going about their business, not paying Isa or Terra much attention.
Terra looked around as they walked, looking for places to eat. "What sort of breakfast do you think we could get? I'm pretty hungry," he said. He was almost already hungry.
"Hmm... I've no particular preference," Isa replied, glancing around as they walked. His expression was far more open and curious than it had been the day before, and, if he was honest, he was quite enjoying being out and around for once. He'd spent far too much of his life locked away in darkness.
"Perhaps... oh, look. That's appropriate, is it not?" He'd nodded towards a little bakery. "I'm sure there's a variety of things inside... maybe even coffee, if I'm lucky." His mouth was already watering at the thought. Isa wasn't the best about remembering to eat, but he'd never forgotten his coffee.
Terra followed Isa's nod with his eyes and smiled. Though he normally ate more hearty meals, sweets for breakfast had a sudden appeal. It's not like he was going to have a grueling session of training after this. So not having his typical protein filled breakfast would likely be ok.
"Most bakery type places do," he said while starting to walk that way and smiling, "like coffee, do you? I've never been a huge fan. I only really drank coffee if I really needed it. Plus, Eraqus always said that caffeine and me didn't end well." Though, he never knew why. To his memory, he'd never gotten a caffeine high.
"Oh?" Isa quirked a brow and turned to look back at him for a moment as he started for the bakery. "Well, now I'm intrigued. Consider your coffee on me." He'd managed to find a bit of munny in his jacket pocket left over from a recompletion gift. It was something, at least.
"I've become dependent on it, myself," he murmured back after a moment, feeling uncharacteristically open. "Lots of long nights working, after all... forced to stay awake. Or perhaps choosing to... either way, I've always been one to avoid sleeping. Last night was the most I've gotten in quite some time."
Terra watched Isa as he spoke, trying to notice those small expressions Isa had. Since Isa didn't seem to be a particularly open person, knowing how to read the subtle stuff would be handy, if not necessary.
"I could buy it myself --" he started before immediately knowing that would go nowhere, "thanks, I hope I like. Eraqus always said I'd hated it and that's why he never gave it to me. Though, Aqua gave it to me once when I was exhausted from training one day. It didn't taste too bad, plus I was able to train longer than normal."
He looked a little concerned by Isa's casual mention of sleep deprivation. "Well, glad you sleep better last night. Maybe I helped," he said as a joke before immediately regretting it as memories of how he woke up was shoved back to the forefront of his mind, "or the bed was just the right comfort or something. Obviously, not me."
The manner in which he'd woken up sprung to Isa's mind immediately, and he stiffened for a moment while actively trying not to. "Yes, perhaps," he muttered without thinking. He'd likely never admit it, but in the brief moments before he'd realized what was happening, being held had felt extraordinarily... nice.
"Or -- not. I mean, if you weren't there I might have slept longer," He added quickly when he managed to process his own words. Then, almost immediately, he winced. That had come across far meaner than he'd intended. "I only mean that I've never shared a bed before. All things considered, it could have gone worse."
Now desperate to avoid the outcome of that conversation, he darted forward to open the bakery door for the other man while looking very intently away from him.
Isa's statement didn't really bother him. Terra had kinda… yelled... He felt bad about waking Isa this morning, but he couldn't quite change that now. "Sorry," he chuckled while scratching the back of his head.
Then Isa had taken off and opened the door. Terra blinked in brief surprise before smiling politely. "Thanks, Isa," he said while walking in and looking around, "man, it smells good in here." He was instantly very hungry.
It did. The sudden rush of sweet smelling air actually succeeded in relaxing Isa, again -- it was far too pleasant and warm to feel on edge. "Hmm... that's a bakery, for you." Isa perked up further as he picked up the distinct smell of coffee and approached the counter while surveying the assortment of pastries on display.
"Pick whatever you like, I've got breakfast this morning..." he muttered as he wandered up to the counter and proceeded to chat a bit stiffly with the luckily friendly barista. Ordinarily he wouldn't have so readily gone to speak with a stranger, but there was luckily a shared love of coffee that made the conversation easier.
Terra looked around with an eager eye. Now this was his sort of place. Warm, inviting, cozy. He liked it. Plus it smelled of every sweet thing he could think of, which was a big plus. He looked at the pastries with a hungry stomach, which likely meant he might eat everything in the store. But he didn't want to force that bill on Isa. So he'd refrain.
"I don't know much about coffee, so you can pick that out, but cinnamon rolls sound really good to me," he said, returning to Isa's side.
Isa nodded, already planning on it, and ordered for the both of them before briefly surveying the pastries. "Mmm... you like cinnamon rolls, then? I'll have to make them for you, sometime... I've been told mine are good but I'm afraid I don't have much of a sweet tooth, myself..."
This, of course, made choosing breakfast a bit difficult -- Isa didn't normally even eat breakfast -- but he eventually settled on a poppy seed bagel, which he ordered along with Terra's cinnamon roll. Hearts, the thing was as big as the man's head...
"I love sweets," Terra admitted with a smile, "I'd get as many as I could reach, so Eraqus hid them on the tops of shelves. That stopped working when I was about… sixteen? I got pretty tall so there weren't any places out of my reach anymore." He chuckled as he spoke.
"Oh, hell yeah," he whispered when he saw the giant cinnamon roll. He'd be polite and wait until they were seated, but he could not wait to devour it. It had been a long time since he'd had a cinnamon roll.
Unable to contain himself, Isa actually let out a chuckle as he gathered up his bagel and their coffee. Terra looked so genuinely happy and excited over something as simple as a cinnamon roll... Isa had never understood such simple joys.
But maybe, just maybe, he was starting to.
"Yes, very well. 'Hell yeah,' as you say... now pick a table."
Terra smiled at Isa and led them to a table near the windows. There were so many new things around him that he wanted to see, including the town. So maybe a little people watching would be fun.
"Come on," he said jokingly, "I'm just one that really appreciates a good cinnamon roll every once in a while. Now, which coffee is mine?"
"Here, this one..." Isa replied as that sat, nudging Terra a mocha covered with whipped cream and a chocolate drizzle. His own was black, and far more plain looking. Nevertheless, he treasured the smell. "I thought you'd like the sugar... and considering you're not used to the taste, perhaps something sweeter..." He shrugged, enjoying the warmth of his own cup, then took a sip and let out a happy little hum, allowing his eyes to flutter closed for a moment.
Terra took the drink and stared at it for a moment. Part of him was touched. Isa had put thought and consideration of his preferences to pick this out for him.
"Thank you," he said, before picking it up.
He could tell it was a warm drink just by touching it. However, one doesn't truly know how hot coffee can be until you put way too much in one's mouth at once. Which is exactly what Terra did. Now there are many ways to react to having not only a mouth too full, but also a mouth full of something hot . One could spit it out, or put something else in to make it cooler. But Terra wasn't a quitter. So after a few grueling moments of trying not to cause a mess, he swallowed the coffee. He coughed harshly for a moment, trying to regain proper breath.
Isa had opened his eyes just in time to watch Terra struggle with raised eyebrows. Though he remained otherwise deadpan, there was a part of him that didn't know whether to laugh or start to actually fuss over the man in worry.
Caught in the middle, somehow, he decided to taunt. "...You really don't know what you're doing, do you? Have you hurt yourself?" he asked while slowly and elegantly taking a sip of his own coffee.
After a moment of recovery from a burnt tongue and almost choking, Terra looked at Isa, slightly embarrassed.
"It's… uh.. hot," he said with a small chuckle. He noticed that Isa's sip had… been a whole lot smaller than the chugging he'd apparently been trying to do. He tried that instead. It was still hot, but his tongue didn't register the heat as badly anymore. The coffee tasted good when you weren't choking on it.
"It does tend to be so, yes," Isa replied with an actual amused smirk. There was the faintest hint of something odd in his expression... something that might have been affection. "Have you recovered...? Yes, sip slowly... this isn't a drink you simply swallow entirely whole. You have to savor it... take time to actually taste." He took another sip of his own, appearing to be thoroughly enjoying himself.
Terra stuck his tongue out slightly between his teeth to maybe cool it a little. "I think I burnt my tongue," he said, sounding a little odd with his tongue sticking out, "but what I did taste is actually good." He took another small sip before starting to dig into the cinnamon roll.
"Ugh, it was such a good decision to come here," he said, with a clearly content groan. Few things made Terra happier than a good meal.
"I'm glad you're pleased... I'm willing to admit that my own expectations have been met and exceeded." An Isa compliment, in its highest form. He started to pick at his own bagel, speeding up when he realized how hungry he was... he was going to quickly grow used to having regular meals, at this rate.
He didn't miss Terra sticking his tongue out like a sleeping kitten, and had to force the word "adorable" from his mind again.
Chapter 6: Insufferable
Once they finished eating, Terra stood quickly. A good meal always filled him with energy, but this meal had done even more so. He was ready to go . Explore the town, buy some food, run a lap.
"Ready to go, Isa?" he asked with an excited smile.
Isa blinked and primly finished off his bagel before standing, carrying the remains of his coffee with him. "Yes, I suppose so... " he replied, while glancing the other man over. "You're certainly... enthusiastic about shopping."
Terra looked outside the window, noticing all sorts of bright things to look at.
"I'm just looking forward to seeing the town more with you. Plus, we're getting more food. Why wouldn't I be enthusiastic?" he asked before taking Isa's wrist and leading them both outside.
He took a deep breath and closed his eyes against the sunlight. This place just seemed so relaxing, yet he found himself all excited. He was ready to explore every inch of this town. It was going to be where he lived now after all.
Isa was far too startled at suddenly finding himself drug around to even have time to think about being offended.
"Whatever suits you," he muttered, blinking in shock. "Let's go to the market, then -- I saw a sign, that way." he jerked his head in the direction and insistently removed his grip from Terra's grasp.
"I've a list, and we should stop for produce, first -- then dairy. There's also a few staples we need to get..." he mentally revised the list he'd made to include the ingredients for his cinnamon rolls. "Is there anything you need to get that isn't food?"
Terra looked at where Isa had indicated. Huh, there was a sign there. How had he missed that? He started heading that way while listening to Isa talk. What there any non-food thing he needed? He needed his own shampoo... But he liked Isa's. It smelled nice and had helped him relax. Surely, Isa wouldn't notice him using it, since he used such a small amount. But was there anything else..?
He stretched his arms in thought. Oh. "The only thing I can think of is maybe something that blends in a little better," he said, looking down at his clothes. He did kind of stand out in his typical outfit. It was an outfit meant for training and fights not… calmly living in a town.
"Oh, yes --" Isa nodded as he glanced the other over. "I did notice you seem to have... only one outfit, really. It couldn't hurt to shop for more... maybe we can find out where a clothing store is while we're shopping. The vegetables we can get now, but anything cold will have to wait for later..."
He was then distracted by a particularly impressive array of vegetables and wandered off to look at them.
"Well, I inherited it really," Terra said while touching the side of his pants, "it was my fa- Master's when he had been training. I haven't really worn much else since I started training myself. It's pretty comfortable and easy to move in in a fight, but.. I guess I don't really need it as much anymore..."
He followed Isa, looking a little downcast. He shouldn't be expecting any more fights, so he didn't need fighting clothing anymore. But... He missed Eraqus. No. No, he wasn't going to think of that right now. He tried to look around for something to distract himself. Anything.
Terra's change in tone wasn't hard to miss, even as distracted as Isa was by a tomato. He frowned and turned to look at the other man again. This was quite the shift in mood from moments ago.
"...Just because you're buying new clothes doesn't mean you don't need those anymore," he murmured. "And the definition of 'need' is extremely fluid -- I didn't mean to suggest you get rid of them. I guess... holding onto the past doesn't mean there's not also space in your life to make room for new things."
Isa couldn't say that he related. Not at all. Everything connected to his own past he was determined to leave behind, and not remember a moment. He didn't really have anything left... not at all. He wasn't exactly a sentimental man, and certainly not for anything he'd experienced in recent memory.
Terra looked at Isa as he spoke, giving it a lot more focus then he would other times. Something about those words really meant a lot to him. Holding onto the past doesn't mean there's not room for new things.. New things like… a new friend.
It was almost ironic how Terra was holding onto the past the same time he was running from it. He couldn't bear to let go of Eraqus's old clothes, meanwhile he avoided the place he had been raised like the plague. A new outfit wouldn't mean he was letting go of that time, though.
"Thanks, Isa," he said, meeting Isa's eyes for just a moment before trying to shake himself out of his thoughts, "Though, I don't know a lot about clothing, so I may need your help finding something that suits me." He managed to pull out a chuckle at the end, scratching the back of his head.
"Hm? Oh, well..." Isa shrugged and turned back to his tomatoes. "I suppose I'm happy to do so. I've been told I'm relatively decent at dressing, when I can muster the energy to actually... do it. There's something sort of... intriguing, I suppose, about choosing how I or another express ourselves through clothing... perhaps it was wearing a uniform coat every day for my entire adult life."
He actually cracked a smile, remembering the first time he'd changed out his organization coat... and, subsequently, forced Lea out of his and into a normal outfit.
"You're certainly better at it than I am," Terra said, his chin barely resting on Isa's shoulder to see what he was doing, "I'd probably end up wearing something tacky if left on my own. But, I'll agree, anything would be better than those dark leather coats. They were awful." He didn't really know how he knew that exactly, but he didn't care at the moment. "I like loose fitting pants. They're just more comfortable."
Personal space had really gotten diluted in Terra's mind as he felt a lot of excited energy form inside him. Sugar and caffeine, especially in large amounts, had always done this to him, but he had never really noticed. So, without thinking about it, he leaned slightly against Isa, chin resting on Isa's shoulder, and hands hanging loosely near Isa's sides.
The tomato suddenly wasn't very interesting anymore. Isa froze, stiffened, and looked up. He didn't turn his head to look at Terra -- no, instead he stared fixatedly at a sign in front of him as if it had done him a personal injustice.
"....What are you doing?"
Terra closed his eyes and leaned in a little closer. Isa smelled nice. "I’m watching what you're doing," he said while sounding happy, "and waiting for the next thing. We could get so much done today. I feel so ready to just do things." Plus, he oddly felt the need for closeness, but he didn't say that aloud.
Terra's happiness was both infections and insufferable, and Isa didn't know exactly how to manage. Nor did he understand why watching him involved touching him.
But he didn't pull away. Not yet, at least.
"You're watching me examine tomatoes," he muttered bluntly, then sighed. "...I think the coffee's had an interesting effect on you. Though I do suppose you're correct -- this is the perfect day to be productive."
Terra opened his eyes and got off Isa. He moved to stand next to him, perhaps a little closer than necessary, with a broad smile.
"Then let’s get going," he said excitedly, "there's a whole lot of town to explore and things to buy. And I like doing this with you, so, boom, three easy to do right off the bat." He stretched his arms above his head then looped one around Isa's shoulders. "So let’s get going!"
Isa tried very hard to ignore the flush that overcame his face at Terra's statement that suggested he actually enjoyed Isa company.
"Yes, alright --" he blinked rapidly for a moment, then chose a few tomatoes and moved to the stall's checkout to pay for them, ducking nimbly out from underneath Terra's arm in the process. "I'll just be a moment, why don't you -- um -- go and pick out some decent looking mushrooms?" he nodded at another cart.
Terra pouted a little, crossing his arms and sticking out his bottom lip slightly. "But I wanted to do things with you," he said while following Isa not unlike a duckling, "besides, you're the one that knows more about cooking. I don't know if I'd be able to tell if it's good stuff or not." He bounced on his feet slightly while standing with Isa. He wanted to do something, but he didn't want to do it alone. That was, in fact, the opposite of what he wanted.
Isa tried to contain a slight twitch to his eye. It didn't work. Terra was like... an excited, extremely loyal puppy. Not that Isa had ever had a puppy.
"Fine," he mumbled after a moment, before accepting his bag of tomatoes and turning briskly on his heel to move to another stall. "I suppose mushroom picking can be a group activity..."
"Yes!" Terra said with a small fist pump and smile. He followed while looking around excitedly.
"What sort of thing were you thinking of making anyways? A soup or something? I like soup," he rambled, walking within Isa's personal bubble, "then again mushrooms go good with meat too. Ugh, I can't decide which one I'd like more."
Isa wasn't sure he wanted to have a puppy.
"It's a surprise," he replied bluntly. "I'm confident that you'll enjoy it... Now, here..." He'd found a stall with mushrooms and surveyed them briefly. "What's your favorite kind? Surely you have one. I've never been fond of the things, myself, so I couldn't choose. My mother preferred bella... but perhaps you're a portabella man."
Terra looked excited by the idea of a surprise. He looked around at the mushrooms, not quite remembering which one had been his favorite. He remembered what it looked like cooked in one of his favorite meals, but… he'd never exactly helped make it. So he didn't recognize it as easily. He pointed at smaller, round, brown ones.
"I think those ones were. Eraqus always had them chopped up, so I'm not completely sure. But I bet it'll taste good no matter what you make," he said, ending with a smile and a nod of satisfaction, "did your mom teach you how to cook?" He couldn't help but ask. That had been the first time Isa had mentioned a family.
Isa couldn't help it -- he actually laughed.
"Oh, heavens no --" he shook his head as he started to gather several of the better looking mushrooms from the kind that Terra had pointed towards. "Forgive me. I didn't mean to -- just, the idea of my mother actually cooking. No, we had a cook for a while... though I don't remember those days very well. It was right around the time I turned ten that my parents suddenly lost the means of accruing their wealth -- it hadn't been entirely ethical, see, how they'd gotten the money."
He wasn't sure why he was opening up so much, yet here he was. Sharing his life story, practically. "My mother disappeared shortly after, and my father was entirely hopeless. Someone had to feed us, and it wasn't going to be him. I did what I had to."
Terra tilted his head slightly and looked curiously at Isa. His brain was a little too sugar addled to fully find the meaning behind Isa's words, but he would remember them later and record them as "things not to ask too much about but take note of". Currently, he focused on the surface information.
"So you taught yourself how to cook? That's amazing! I could never do that. Eraqus stopped letting me help in the kitchen after I set it on fire," he said while subconsciously getting a little more in Isa's space, "I didn't know you came from money, guess that doesn't matter anymore. I technically do too, but Aqua is the Master of the Castle now, so I don't know if I'd get anything."
"I believe I said something similar yesterday, but... again, I've had the opportunity to learn beyond a shadow of a doubt that money is meaningless," Isa muttered as he grabbed a few more vegetables before heading towards checkout with them. "And it can be taken in moments. Now, I suppose... all I want is to live comfortably. The lap of luxury is tainted and poison, and I've no wish to go back... so don't concern yourself with what you may or may not receive. That's my advice, if it means anything."
Terra gave Isa an odd look before shrugging.
"Eh, I never really lived fancy. I'll keep that in mind, though. Living comfortably has always sounded the best, and now that we don't have to worry about fighting anymore, that's what we can focus on. I mean, that's kinda what we're doing right now, right?" he said while leaning against Isa slightly, "I hope I can help you with that. You sound like you didn't like living how you had been before." His filter was gone, and it would not be returning.
Had Terra never heard of personal space? Isa's eye twitched a bit as he ducked away from the touch as if it had never existed in the first place, or as if he hadn't noticed. It wasn't that the touch bothered him...
...it was that it didn't. And he wasn't yet ready to acknowledge that.
"I certainly did not," Isa replied simply, if a bit stiff. "And I suppose I truly do hope that changes. I've never had a comfortable life -- I'm not completely convinced I know what it looks like. So, if you say we're currently doing, I suppose I trust that judgment."
Terra pouted a little when Isa pulled away. Yes, he knew what personal space was in theory , but it was exactly in practice at the moment. He huffed slightly and followed Isa. He shook his head to be more pleasant.
"Well, this is definitely more comfortable than training all the time. Doing things our own way at our own pace. Kinda relaxed and normal. I'm used to training everyday, but I found that comfortable in a way. But I like this," he rambled, "I like doing this with you." He shot Isa a bright smile.
Isa looked towards Terra just in time to catch that beaming smile and had to quickly look away, unwilling to acknowledge the odd feeling it sparked in his chest. To make up for it, he scowled, and tried his best to retreat again.
"Yes, well..." he muttered. "I suppose your company isn't entirely unwelcome. It's better than handling mission reports."
Terra decided to take that as a compliment. He looked around with an exaggerated thinking expression. He felt like what Isa made sense in a way, even though he had no idea what he was talking about.
"So you were management? You were… the one in charge, second in charge," he said while scratching his head, "hmm… you always did a great job despite the, how'd you say it? 'Collective incompetence'? I think?" He chuckled slightly. "You'd probably do really well at a job like that, wouldn't you? Hopefully I'd be easier, though."
Isa had been about to speak up and agree that was one of the jobs he'd considered the most when he managed to process what the other man had said. He turned, expression somewhere between confused and a half-glare.
"How -- how do you know that?" he growled.
It hadn't occurred to him that Terra might actually... remember. Logically, he had a vague idea of the connection between Terra and the various incarnations of Xehanort, including his own former superior, but it was quite another thing to be faced with the reality. If Terra had Xemnas' memories... then, in addition to being connected to one of Isa's least favorite people, he also remembered him.
Terra blinked at Isa, confused, for a few moments. He put a hand to his chin and put the other on his hip. "I'm....not really sure," he said, looking as if he was trying to look inside his head, "that's....weird. I just know it." He shrugged. It probably wasn't that important. "Why? Something wrong with that?"
If Terra didn't know where those thoughts were coming from... well, Isa certainly wasn't going to be the one to tell him. At least, not now. Probably not ever. Instead, he nodded, incredibly slowly, and kept his face carefully neutral.
"No," he replied, blunt and monotone. "Not at all. Perhaps you're simply... perceptive as to my character. You aren't exactly... incorrect. Think nothing else of it." He then started walking quite rapidly towards a cart selling baking supplies.
Isa's reaction definitely struck him as weird, but Terra didn't sense the mood well enough to know to give Isa space. He had enough energy to easily keep up with Isa's sudden quick pace. He stayed close. He liked being close. He was sick of not having people around and not being able to feel anything. So he was gonna stay close enough that he knew he wasn't alone.
"You do seem the really organized type. Know what you're doing all the time and stuff," he said absentmindedly, "it's good I have you around. I'm terrible at keeping things together."
"I assure you, there are plenty of things I'm quite terrible at keeping together," Isa muttered in response, finding it very hard to actually be cruel to Terra when he was being so... like he was. Still, what had just happened concerned him greatly... he'd have to remain wary, now.
"Chocolate or vanilla?" he asked, rather blunt, when they arrived at the stand. He started sifting through supplies, and had collected yeast and flour in a matter of moments.
Terra had an idea for a question. Something about what Isa could possibly be bad at. The idea seemed ridiculous.
But all thought of that was thrown out of his mind at the mention of any kind of sweet.
"Chocolate!" he answered instantly, despite having no idea what Isa was asking this question for , "I love chocolate. It's good in like any way!" He smiled excitedly while leaning in close to Isa.
Despite leaning backwards as Terra leaned towards him, Isa was unable to help from letting out a little laugh, a brief flash of a smile crossing his face. "Of course. Exactly as expected. . . You would be a fan of chocolate, wouldn't you?" he scanned over the stall for a moment before picking up a fancy looking bag of cocoa powder. Why he was splurging when he himself didn't like sweets... well, Isa wouldn't say.
Maybe it was because he wasn't thinking entirely straight, but something about seeing Isa smile just then felt distinctly… special. Terra's expression shifted into likely the stupidest grin, and he couldn't stop himself from wrapping his arms around Isa's shoulders in a loose hug.
"I like it when you smile," he said, squishing Isa slightly.
The -- the personal space. Again.
This time, though, was more than any of the rest, save for whatever the hell had happened at night. Isa had frozen, near immediately, shoulders tense and rigid. His face flushed as he stared intently at the bag of cocoa powder in his hands.
He was tense, yes -- but he didn't pull away this time. Nor did he return the hug, but...
...He didn't mind it as much as he thought he should. Nor did he mind what Terra had said in accompaniment. He hadn't even noticed he'd smiled... but Terra appeared to have done so, and it caused an odd little flutter in his chest.
"Well, I --" he muttered, stiffly. "...I don't do it often. Consider it a compliment, I -- I suppose."
Terra held for a moment longer before releasing Isa. He was completely oblivious to how stiff Isa was. All he noticed was that time Isa hadn't pulled away. He smiled brightly.
"Maybe I'll just have to try harder to make you smile more often," he said while humming a little, "it'd be a shame to never get to see that again. Sounds like I need to learn what makes you happy." It seemed like a worthy cause, one worth working for.
Isa swallowed very hard around an odd lump in his throat. He shifted for a moment, then shot Terra a glance, unable to bear the expression on his face, or his far too kind words.
He didn't think anyone had ever told him such things. Before he knew it, he found himself speaking, face flushed and voice a low growl.
"Stop being so irritatingly adorable."
Terra looked blinked in surprise and stared at Isa for a moment. The growl had caught him off guard, but he quickly relaxed when he noticed the new tint on Isa's face. He gave a calm smile.
"No, I don't think I will," he said with a small chuckle. He didn't realize he had been being adorable per se, but he didn't want to stop for some reason. Whatever he was doing, it was making Isa happy, right? At the very least, it was getting new reactions other than brooding indifference.
Isa hadn't even realized he'd spoken aloud, or at a volume that Terra would have heard him. And yet -- that response. It was the worst he possibly could have given. Those defiant words, coupled with the all too relaxed expression on his face was very quickly pissing Isa off.
At least, he thought that was the emotion he was feeling.
Regardless, in the next moment, he'd seen completely red and all but thrown money at the cart vendor before grabbing the other man firmly by the wrist and dragging him off into a secluded corner of the market where they wouldn't be seen. In seconds, he had Terra cornered, a hand braced on the wall beside his head.
"What the hell is your deal?" he demanded, in that same low voice, as his face grew hotter.
Terra had been too shocked at being grabbed to resist being dragged. Suddenly, he was sort of pinned to the wall, one hand touching the wall behind him and the other trapped under Isa's grip. He stared, doe-eyed, for a few moments at Isa's face. It was hard to read Isa's expression at the moment, but Isa looked kinda angry? Not quite angry but equally fierce.
Unfortunately, self preservation systems were shut off right now.
"What do you mean?" he said, a little coy, with a small smirk.
Isa ground his teeth together, pulse racing in his ears. If he'd still had the ability, he might have been on the edge of berserk. That knowledge scared him, to think he'd grown this angry at another human being.
That look -- that insufferable look on Terra's face -- he needed it gone. He was going to wipe it off, one way or the other.
He growled again, lips actually pulling back from sharp teeth into a snarl, and he thought for a tense moment and bashing that gorgeous face in.
Instead, he found himself fisting Terra intensely by the collar and surging forward to crush his lips in a harsh, bruising kiss that was more a clash of lips and teeth than anything else.
Terra had fully expected to be punched directly in the face. He probably shouldn't have been taunting Isa, especially after they were alone where he could get slugged properly. The growling, baring teeth, and grabbing of the shirt only solidified the thought in Terra's mind. He quickly shut his eyes and braced himself for a hit.
But none came.
What did happen, was far more shocking. Isa had near slammed their faces together. It still hurt but not near as much as a solid fist to the face. His eyes had opened from surprise. Isa was… kissing him?
This couldn't really be called Terra's first kiss. He'd always known familial and friendly affection, but this was distinctly different. It was a lot more special somehow.
After a moment, Terra closed his eyes, and his free hand found Isa's waist. He wasn't really sure what he was doing, but he would allow this to continue.
For a moment, the only thing that Isa registered was the sensation of touch. He was kissing the other man hungrily, desperately, and very much as if he was angry at him. The touch to his waist only encouraged him, and he pulled Terra closer against him. Chests -- stomachs -- even their hips, for just a moment, all hot and desperate and pressed together in a way that Isa hadn't experienced in a long time, and never with this amount of desire.
He felt complete, an odd empty feeling that had been lingering in his chest finally satisfied. Maybe it wasn't hatred he'd felt for Terra at all.
In the next moment, Isa realized what he'd been doing.
His eyes snapped open in a flash and he all but pushed Terra away from him. He stared at him, wide-eyed, for a moment...
Then turned and practically bolted away.
Terra had never anticipated the intense mix of mostly new feelings. He had to admit, it was overall very pleasant with only vague undertones of confusing. But since the pleasant out weighed the confusing, he had pulled Isa closer at the same moment as Isa had pulled him closer.
He'd really never experienced this before. He could feel something in Isa's actions. Something burning and intense. And for some reason… Terra wanted to match it. Yet he couldn't quite meet Isa. His seemed more gentle, perhaps, to him.
It felt… like some kind of special connection.
And then it ended.
Suddenly, he found himself alone with his back against the wall. A hand lifted to his lips. Then he realized that Isa had taken off.
"I-Isa!" he called after Isa while turning on his heal and taking off the direction he'd seen Isa go.
He looked around for Isa near desperately. Questions started filling his head in rapid succession. What had just happened? Why had it happened? Why had Isa started it and then took off? Why had he not want it to stop?
Isa hadn't gone far. No, he'd only managed to duck away a bit before sharply turning a corner and pressing himself to the wall, a hand clapped firmly over his mouth.
His mind was racing.
What the hell had he done?
He'd kissed a man. That much was obvious. He'd kissed Terra -- his roommate. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.
How was anything supposed to go back to the way it was, now?
Why had he done that in the first place?
Why did he want to do it again?
He ignored how his hand was shaking when he pulled it away from his lips and stood from his place against the wall, turning with shaky legs to head back into the market. He couldn't just... disappear, after all. He shared a room with the man.
He'd have to... pretend like it never happened.
He hesitated for a moment, spying Terra's form, and approached with a carefully neutral face before muttering a simple and monotone "Sorry."
Terra was looking around near desperately for any hint of blue. When he saw Isa approaching him, he instantly ran to meet him halfway. He doubted his emotions had ever felt this scrambled. He'd enjoyed the kiss, but he hadn't known why. Then he felt hurt when Isa had suddenly pulled away and ran. Had Terra done something wrong? But Isa had initiated it?
"No… Don't apologize... Just, what was that about?" he said while running a hand through his hair. He hoped he didn't seem like he hadn't enjoyed it. But his brain was kinda muddled at the moment.
Of course it wasn't going to be easy. Isa's jaw was clenched tightly, hands holding tightly to the grocery bag as he stared, quite fixated, at the ground.
"I have no idea what you're talking about," he growled back, shoulders tense and drawn up to his neck. Every ounce of happiness and progress he'd achieved was now gone in the wind.
Terra swallowed hard and shifted his weight between his feet. He looked at Isa's face, confused and slightly hurt.
With a deep breath, he grit his teeth. "Then why'd you apologize?" he said. He wasn't going to let his go undiscussed. Isa couldn't just do that then act like it never happened.
"Just shut the fuck up for once in your goddamn life, " Isa bit back immediately, words furious and coming out as an actual snarl. He wasn't angry at Terra -- not really -- but he wished more than anything the other man would just let it go.
An unfair expectation, of course.
But if he had to bite his head off and push him away to get to that point -- then Isa would.
If there was one thing he was good at, it was getting people to hate him.
"You've been nothing but annoying since you've stepped into my life, so just -- back out. I did -- something -- to try to see if I could muster an ounce of affection for you, and I've never been more disgusted in my life. If you want to continue with whatever fallacy of a relationship we've had so far, I suggest you drop the subject this instant."
Terra immediately shut his mouth at the command. Isa's sudden.... anger didn't make any sense. What did Isa want from him? Then the "explanation" came and only made it worse.
Pain flared in his chest. He thought they'd been becoming friends, getting along. Apparently he'd been wrong. He set his jaw to avoid showing his emotions. Everything was too conflicting anyways. And his stubbornness and pride mixed, forcing back tears that threatened to form.
"Fine," he said, hollow and cold, "lets just go… back to the apartment." He'd almost said home. But it really wasn't going to be one, was it? He didn't look at Isa as he started to walk towards their apartment.
Chapter 7: The Wrong Name
Why Isa actually followed, he didn't know. It just simply wasn't as if he had anywhere else to go.
He did, however, follow at a distance, and didn't look in Terra's direction when they arrived back at the apartment. He couldn't.
Part of him regretted the harsh words, but it had at least shut Terra up.
He'd stormed into the kitchen and started to put away what they'd actually managed to buy. His hands clenched briefly around the little bag of cocoa powder, and he quickly shoved it out of sight.
Terra didn't get far into the apartment before promptly sitting and burying his head into his arms, which were crossed on the table. Everything was all loud and muddled in his head. But the prominent thoughts were angry and hurt. Isa had initiated all of that and then had the gaul to get mad at him for asking what the hell it all meant.
The part of Terra that wasn't furious out of his mind noticed the sounds of Isa putting things away. His instinct was to help. But he pushed it aside. Isa kept saying he didn't want Terra's help. So this time, he wasn't even going to try to give it.
The fact that Terra had stayed in the same room as him after Isa had entered frustrated him to no end. Of course, it was entirely unfair, and Terra had been here first, but Isa wasn't currently in a very reasonable mood.
He should have left it alone.
He should have.
He didn't know why he didn't, only that he was angry. Angry, and embarrassed, and doing whatever he had to to alleviate those feelings -- even at the cost of hurting someone else.
"So, what, you're just going to sit there and brood?"
Terra looked up slowly from his arms and glared darkly at Isa. He didn't say anything. Simply stared with eyes that didn't quite look like his.
The look on Terra's face caused something unpleasant to settle low in Isa's gut.
For a second, he'd looked like him.
That certainly didn’t help Isa not be an angry asshole, even as he knew he was being unfair and cruel.
He glared back, trying to meet the look in equal measure, and said something -- anything to get those eyes off of him. "Don't act so slighted -- not everyone is required to like you, dear hero. "
Terra suddenly stood and glared more intensely. He was getting sick and tired of Isa treating him like this. All he had done was try to help and then ask questions after Isa kissed him. He'd done nothing wrong, and Isa was acting like Terra had personally insulted him.
"And I am not required to listen to your bitter tongue, dear Saïx ," he growled, dangerously. He didn't know where that came from, but he was far too angry to think about it. Yet a small part of him immediately knew that he'd done something wrong. He'd never heard that name before? Why did he call Isa that?
The change in Isa's countenance was near immediate.
He recoiled, outright flinched, almost as if he'd been hit. Or perhaps even shot.
The guarded, snarling façade he'd ever so carefully created shattered into pieces, leaving him wide eyed and perhaps the slightest bit afraid. For now, at least, any stoicism was gone as he was bitch-slapped out of his self-pitying falsehoods.
He suddenly couldn't find it in him to be angry anymore, the overwhelming thoughts he'd been holding back suddenly crashing over him in his shock.
Shoulders hunched and starting to shake, he bowed his head, somehow managing to look completely unthreatening in stark contrast to how he'd been only moments before.
That name. That word that preceded it. Isa suddenly wasn't sure if he wanted to cry, or tear out his own hair.
"You're right," he said instead, voice shaking barely above a whisper as he stared at the floor, looking for all he was worth like a beaten animal. "I'm -- I'm sorry. I . . . didn't mean any of it. . . and I've been . . .unfairly cruel to you. I'm sorry."
Terra realized exactly why that was the wrong thing to say. He didn't understand it fully, but he did understand how much it clearly upset Isa. Isa looked like he'd just slapped him into a wall. Less like someone snappy and proud, someone Terra had made smile, and more like someone that had been broken beyond repair far too many times, someone that may never smile again.
Guilt near instantly choked him, and he grit his teeth. He still felt angry . It took him losing his temper for Isa to realize how unreasonable he was being? He took a slow, deep breath.
"Just..." what did he want Isa to do? He hated being alone, but this would only get worse if they stayed in the same room, "just go in there." He waved a hand towards the door to their room but made no move to go there himself.
It was pathetic really. He couldn't handle being alone so much that he'd essentially trap someone here? He sat and put his face back in his arms. Isa would have to walk past him to get to the front door.
Isa didn't realize until Terra had spoken that he'd been holding his breath. He only let it out, long and hitching, when he nodded in response to the order and forced himself away from the counter.
He shot a glance at the other man very briefly before staring back at his feet. Without a word, he forced them to move, and quietly did exactly as he was told.
Once in the bedroom, he sat delicately on the edge of the bed and stared at his hands, trying to ignore the blood rushing in his ears and the twisting, painful feeling in his chest.
He suddenly realized if he wanted so badly to not be seen as a monster, he'd have to stop acting like one.
Terra stayed silent and still as Isa walked away. He already hated the quiet. But hopefully the silence would help him think, right?
Wrong. All his thoughts and emotions were a scrambled mess. Isa needed help. Then he should actually accepted it when it was offered. I was so cruel to him. Why had Isa just suddenly kissed him? Why did he initiate it only to demand not to talk about it then insult me? Why did he just shove me away? But it had been pleasant. Apparently, I'm disgusting. Had I done something wrong?
Clearly, thinking was going nowhere. Terra tried to clear his head, stop thinking. But it was impossible. He kept his face buried in his arms, and one hand started gently running through his hair. It was a comforting gesture Eraqus had done when Terra had been upset when he was younger. Anytime Terra would get angry or cry, Eraqus would always stroke his hair to help him calm down.
Pathetic… still holding onto old memories of the man he killed…
Time didn't particularly matter to Isa at that point, so he had no idea how long exactly he'd sat there with his thoughts.
It wasn't something Isa did often, and with good reason. It was overwhelming, crushing, and with every moment he could feel himself slipping into a familiar catatonia.
He knew, of course, why he'd been as cruel to Terra as he had. And his reasons didn't excuse the behavior, even if they explained it. Terra had been innocent. . . hadn't he? Isa had instigated everything, even gone so far as to kiss the man, and had then demonized him for reacting.
That's why he wasn't angry the other man had used that name. He didn't need to think too deeply about how he suddenly knew it, nor that poison term of endearment. That didn't matter. All that mattered is that Isa had acted in a manner that had called that name to the forefront of Terra's mind, after Isa had tried so hard to distance himself from it.
Or. . .had he, really? Tried? Or simply ran, and desperately told himself he was different because he had a heart?
These thoughts plagued him until his mind finally run itself out and he all but fell into a restless sleep, curled into a tight ball on top of the covers. He hadn't even gotten undressed.
The man in the mirror was always there. If his dreams weren't memories, they were usually the mirror man. His words. . . they were cruel.
Golden eyes glowing, snarling, teeth elongated and sharp. He insisted those who interacted with him were liars. That they only stayed with him because they were afraid. He was living in a charade. . . and one day it would break.
And the man in the mirror would come out. He'd break through, glass and claws digging into his body like they did in the dream, blood running in a river down his limbs The mirror man would destroy him, and take his place.
The pain was nothing. The cruel words were so much worse. He was crying by the time the mirror man grabbed hold of him, nails like daggers, and somewhat relieved despite his terror when the monster finally tore his throat out.
Isa woke up with only a soft gasp, tears running down his cheeks that he didn't feel. His heartbeat was loud in his ears, and it was the only thing he could hear. He didn't realize that the darkness he was surrounded by was natural, and only because of night. A cloud had covered the moon, depriving him of even that precious light. Before he knew it, he'd fallen out of bed while trying to stand and forced himself to shaky feet.
No. He couldn't be back then -- he couldn't. He wouldn't. And yet -- he was dark, and alone, and afraid. Not of some outside force, but of himself. And he couldn't run from that.
The memory of teeth and mirror shards raced through his mind for a moment, and he nearly fell against the door before pushing it open and stumbling out, desperate to get somewhere -- anywhere -- else.
Chapter 8: That Would Be Enough
Terra had stayed in the kitchen, face hidden in his arms against the table, for a long time. His pitiful attempt at comforting himself had mostly fallen flat. He supposed he didn't feel angry anymore, simply hollow and sad. But that was still terrible.
Regardless of the actions leading up to it, he had hurt Isa. That name he had said, it was unfamiliar to him, but it was clearly something that Isa knew… and was hurt by. What did Saïx even mean? Somehow, he knew it was a name. One that was indeed meant for Isa. But he didn't know how he knew that or why saying it would invoke such a… terrified reaction.
Eventually, the wooden chair stopped being comfortable. Terra stood and moved to the couch in the living room area. He couldn't go into the bed room. Not right now at least. Isa likely didn't want to see him anyways. Dammit. How had he already screwed up his chance at a new home so badly? Just when it seemed that he and Isa were getting along... But, then again, he wasn't the one to kiss the other then refuse to talk about it to the point of getting angry.
He laid on his back, trying to ignore the quiet. He hated the quiet. There was nothing but white noise in the apartment, which any other tenant might enjoy, but Terra couldn't stand it. He'd spent far too long in silence. Ten years with his mind trapped in a wasteland, no emotions attached to the hollow shell of his armor. Ten years with his body stolen from him, doing whatever another pleased. Ten years with his heart bound inside a heartless, unable to speak or act on his own.
Yeah… he couldn't handle the quiet.
Terra covered his ears, as if that would somehow make the silent go away. He tried to hum, something faint and familiar that might make it even a little more bearable. It didn't do much…
Isa hesitated for a moment when he made it to the living room, panting and gaze fixed on the door.
The words raced through his head, filling him with a desire to disappear in whatever way he had to.
He took a stumbling step towards it, not even knowing where he would go, but not caring.
Then he'd heard the humming and nearly sobbed with relief that he wasn't alone. He distantly recognized the presence as familiar, comforting in an odd way -- Terra.
Who he'd hurt. He couldn't. . . hurt someone and then just disappear. Not again.
Drawn to the voice, the comfort, and spurred on by his own guilt, Isa made his way to the couch and settled down on his knees in front of it, his back towards the other man but incredibly close. He opened his mouth, but found no words, and put a hand on the cushion by Terra's head.
Terra heard footsteps and immediately jolted up slightly. Someone was here. Wait, he knew someone was here the whole time… technically. It was different when they weren't in the room too, ok? Plus, it had gotten dark without him noticing.
But then he realized who it was. He almost expected to hear the front door open then close. That was a rude thing to assume, but he couldn't help it. Isa had wanted to leave before. He was just going to end up alone again.
He closed his eyes, trying not to tear up, and waited for the inevitable sound.
But… it never came.
Instead, he could hear Isa get closer and felt a hand near his face. He could see the vague outline of Isa's back when he opened his eyes.
Why was Isa here? Didn't he want to leave? Was Isa still upset?
Timidly, he brushed his hand against Isa's. "Isa?" he whispered, hoping saying something wouldn't scare Isa away.
The place where their hands touched nearly felt as if it was on fire. It was remarkable, really, how such gentle touches affected Isa so. He'd never really had them -- every touch he'd received for most of his life had been with the intent to harm, either from himself or the other party.
He'd never had someone lovingly hold his hand. Never really been hugged. . . aside from Lea, a few times, and Isa always shoved him off.
Because those gentle touches were simply too much, nearly electric on his skin. It nearly hurt in its intensity, but he found himself suddenly craving it so badly he couldn't find it within him to care. He tried to speak again, but failed to find any words that could possibly express what he was currently feeling.
Instead, he turned a little, and instead of moving away from the near painful feeling in his hand, he searched for more. Hesitantly, he moved his hand over Terra's and slowly laced a few fingers together, barely touching yet more than he'd ever really had in such a context. Certainly anything more gentle than he'd ever initiated.
"I'm sorry," he managed to whisper after a moment, knowing the words weren't sufficient. Not at all. But, for the moment, they were all he had.
Maybe Terra had just been alone too long. Maybe he'd been in the quiet too long. Maybe he'd felt cold and empty too long. Whatever the reason, he suddenly grasped Isa’s hand, seeing what Isa did as the ok to do more. He hadn't even noticed when his hands had started shaking. Gently, he pulled Isa's hand close to press it against his forehead.
"Stop that," he said quietly, "I… shouldn't have said that to you. I don't know where it came from, but I knew it would hurt you." He grit his teeth and closed his eyes. This wasn't enough. He couldn't risk doing this wrong. He couldn't be alone.
In a quick movement, Terra sat up slightly and wrapped both arms around Isa. It was selfish to get into Isa's personal space when he knew Isa didn't like it. But the rest of his emotions didn't care. He needed everything to convince himself that someone else was there . It would be a bonus if Isa didn't pull away, but, even if Isa did, maybe this would be enough.
"Just..." Terra found himself suddenly choked up, tears forming in his eyes, "please don't go..." It was soft, barely audible. Maybe it was futile to hope that the words would be listened to. But what else could he say?
The touch of their hands had been like fire. When Isa was hugged, it was as if he'd been placed in an electric chair.
For a moment, his heart stuttered, every touch to his skin far too much even through his clothes. He went rigid, almost as if he was in rigor mortis, and didn't move for a few moments -- not even to breathe.
He hadn't expected this. Not in a million years. Part of him had been convinced that Terra was going to yell or force him away . . . call him that name again and throw him back into the dark bedroom. Or simply ignore him . . . which might have been worse.
Then, he started shaking. He was being held, after everything -- shown a comfort he'd never known. He'd never even considered accepting it.
But now. . . he was shaking in Terra's arms, then sniffling as he started to cry. In the next moment, not only had he not pulled away, he'd all but melted in the other man's arms and was suddenly hugging him back far tighter than Terra had held him. Burying his face in the brunette's chest, he let out a hitching sob.
And simply shook his head no.
Terra had expected rejection. The sudden shock like he'd had earlier when Isa had ran. The loneliness that came after. He didn't want it, but he expected it.
Then Isa held tighter.
He was shocked, but in a good, maybe the best, way. Immediately, he pulled Isa closer. If Isa was gonna hold that tightly then so was Terra. He shifted somewhat as to half drag Isa up onto the couch with him, not once loosening his hold.
He was definitely crying. Not as fiercely as Isa seemed to be, but he was crying. His tears had always been more quiet. Even when he was young.
Gently and ever so slowly, he brushed his hand down the back of Isa's hair. He made quiet shushing sounds. It was to calm himself as much as it was to calm Isa.
It was odd, really, how suddenly and completely Isa had given it. In seconds, he'd gone from barely tolerating the touch to craving it more than anything, and had willingly climbed onto the couch when Terra had attempted to move him. He knew, logically, in some distant capacity, that he'd deny this in the morning. Or at least, he'd return to his more dignified self. Isa never stayed weak for long.
Yet, he was weaker now, more vulnerable, than he had ever been. His tears slowed quickly, though he remained wet-eyed and letting out strangled noises. He didn't know what he was doing, or what he was trying to express, but he knew that words had failed him and these frankly humiliating noises were coming out completely unbidden.
What had happened to the proud Luna Diviner? Why had he suddenly given everything to a near stranger? Why didn't he mind, at least for the moment?
The sobs became more infrequent as he started to relax, the gentle hand in his hair encouraging the odd puddle he was suddenly turning into. He noticed, dimly, that Terra smelled nice. . . comforting, grounding, almost like Isa's own. . . shampoo. Odd. At the moment, however, he simply couldn't care.
"I'm sorry," he said again, voice strangled and muffled by the fact that he was all but hiding in the other's chest. "I -- I didn't mean it, I promise. Please, I -- please believe me." He sounded near desperate, and clung to Terra as if he'd disappear any minute.
Terra kept Isa close to his chest. He didn't get why, but he felt the overwhelming need to comfort Isa. Maybe it was a bit selfish. If Isa felt safe and ok right now, then he'd stay, right? That seemed a bit deceitful to Terra. But... he couldn't stand the thought of being alone, and he had almost been certain that that was about to happen. Would it be ok to be a bit selfish then? Just in this case?
With that thought, he buried his face into Isa's hair, quickly wiping his face off before doing so. Truthfully, he really did want to help Isa too. Guess Isa was right to call him a "hero type". He saw a need and wanted to help. Was there anything wrong with that? He didn't think so. And… since Isa was willingly breaking down like this then… it must mean he was accepting the help, right? At the very least, he wasn't rejecting it.
"I believe you," he breathed gently. He wasn't exactly sure what Isa was referring to. It almost didn't matter. Isa sounded sincere, and that was enough for Terra.
"I don't know why you act like this," he said quietly, "I don't know what happened to you to make you so tense and aversive. But… whatever happened… I won't let it happen again. I wish I could have stopped it in the first place. You deserve a chance to relax too. I'll listen. I'll quit asking questions. I'll give you space if you want it. I want to help you, and… I really hate being alone. So, just… don't leave. I like your company."
For a moment, Isa was sure he'd heard Terra correctly. How could he possibly enjoy his company? Especially after all he'd done to force him away. Why was he so -- encouraging, so kind, so insufferably sweet and -- going out of his way to make Isa feel comfortable and welcome and -- holding him as if Isa had been the one that was hurt.
It was awful. It was confusing. Insufferable. Infuriating. Idiotic. It was everything Isa had thought he'd hated in Terra.
It was wonderful.
It was too much.
Isa didn't deserve it -- he knew that. And the fact that he was getting it anyway . . .
He buried himself as deep into the embrace as he could, afraid of showing his face and wanting as much of the electrifying, still terrifying touch as he could have. "I'll tell you . . . someday," he mumbled. He didn't have the energy to do so, now. "I'll tell you what happened. . . but it's not an excuse. I shouldn't, I -- I shouldn't -- still be like this. . . I shouldn't have been so cruel to you . . .”
"You're not disgusting. Not at all. I . . . I won't leave. I don't want to leave. "
Terra wasn't sure how much closer he could hold Isa without popping his head off or something, but he held tighter anyways. It was unintentional, but he breathed in Isa's scent. The smell was… oddly comforting. He didn't know why, but it was. So, he buried his face further in Isa's hair. It almost felt selfish to keep seeking more comfort. But he needed it. So desperately. Ten years without a body probably doesn't do a person good.
He kept stroking Isa's hair. It was. . . soft, and nice to touch. Plus, it seemed to be an ok thing to do. At least, Isa hadn't told him to stop. The more Isa spoke, the better Terra felt. Simply hearing another human voice was helping enough on its own, but hearing Isa being so sincere and open made everything so much better. Especially those last few words. Isa… didn't want to leave? Isa didn't want to leave. He wasn't going to end up alone again.
"It's ok," he said softly, "I figured you didn't mean it. You wouldn't have stayed if you did. It's ok. I forgive you. I'll listen to whatever you tell me, whenever you say it. I want you around, Isa."
A thought occurred to Isa as he lay there, more broken and relaxed than he'd been since immediately after his recompletion. Terra had said he hated being alone . . . in fact, the thought almost seemed to scare him. Perhaps, then, it wasn't that he particularly wanted Isa by his side, but anyone. That would explain how far he'd gone out of his way to make him stay. . . to feel welcome. . . it explained how he'd followed him around like an excited pet, and crushed him in his sleep. That more than explained his willingness to keep Isa by his side. . . and the intensity with which he now held him.
And yet, in this moment and despite the realization, Isa didn't care. All he cared was that his tears had finally tapered off, muscles that had been held tense every waking moment suddenly relaxed. That hand, warm and soft despite being calloused, carding through his air almost expertly. Isa had always been weak for touches to his hair. . . and Terra seemed to be knowing all the right buttons to place, whether he was aware of that fact or not.
"I don't pretend to understand why you do," Isa eventually whispered in response, pretending it wasn't a bit of a lie. "But . . . I'll accept it, anyway, even though it makes no sense. . . because I'm starting to want to be around."
Terra's breathing gradually slowed. The loneliness was gone. The risk of being left alone was gone, too. So, he could relax. Relax and just enjoy the closeness. He tried not to think about it too much, despite all the questions in his head. There were still a lot of things he wanted answers for, but… right now that didn't matter.
What mattered was that Isa wasn't leaving and was right here . It probably would seem dumb, but he'd really needed some kind of physical touch. Sometimes it felt like he wasn't quite in his body without touching something . Luckily, Isa seemed particularly willing to do so at the moment. He was grateful for that. Had he been alone much longer, it likely wouldn't have ended well.
"Good, I'm glad," he whispered back, closing his eyes, "if you're going to share, then I will too. It's only fair after all. Then you'll understand." Though, he almost dreaded saying the things he felt and thought aloud. He hadn't even been brave enough to tell Aqua or Ventus…
Share? Terra was going to share something with him? Well, that certainly came as a surprise, though not an unwelcome one.
Isa felt, in that moment, that he'd listen to anything Terra had to say to him. There was something about the quality of his voice, as well as his personality, that was just entirely warm. They hadn't known each other for long, and yet, Terra had done more for Isa than anyone else in recent memory. Emotionally, at least. And there was no pity in his eyes. . . nor fear. There was that moment of anger, but beyond that, he'd only ever tried his best to make Isa feel welcome.
Then there was the fact that he hadn't danced around any situation. He wasn't afraid of setting Isa off -- he'd told him directly when he was being cruel, and had refused to let him self destruct. He thought, briefly, of Terra bandaging his hand. . . hands that could have been strong, forceful, and cruel, impeccably gentle and warm.
It was then that Isa realized what was happening to him, and stiffened briefly in the embrace. He let out a sudden rush of air, suddenly stunned out of the rest of his breakdown at the realization that not only did he hate Terra, he may actually . . .
Isa forced himself to relax again, those thoughts not currently something he was willing to deal with. Instead, he made a decision. A decision to not allow himself to be self-destructive, or hurt someone who was quickly growing close to him. He didn't know how Terra felt about him, and didn't want to know, afraid that knowledge would only hurt. But right now, he could hold him, and allow himself to be held, without fear of judgment from one of the kindest people he'd ever met. . . or even, right now, from himself.
"I'll listen," he replied quietly, allowing his eyes to close. "I'll listen to anything you tell me. I want to understand. . . I want to try . . . instead of running. I want to. . . find my home here."
He ignored a painful lurch in his chest that was trying desperately to tell him he already had.
The weight of Isa on his chest was oddly comforting in a way Terra had never thought about before. It was almost like a weighted blanket but better. Blankets always made him too hot, but Isa was cool, not enough to be too cold to touch but enough to be able to relax. Plus, something about feeling the rise and fall of Isa's chest was… calming. Just move proof of another person, a physical person, being there. A friend, hopefully, that he could rely on and simply have for companionship. He wouldn't force anything, but he hoped Isa wouldn't mind a small bit of clinginess every once in a while, like right now.
Having Isa here just felt like it centered everything. Kept everything together in this moment. Not scattered across different worlds or memories. There wasn't overlap from another time. It was just him and Isa right now. All of him.
He shifted slightly to be more laying on the couch. With Isa here, he was quickly starting to relax and realize that he was tired . Since when did all these emotions take so much energy . He supposed they should probably be some form of productive. They hadn't exactly… done that much. But he didn't want to let go. He didn't want to lose hold of whatever was happening right now. For some reason, he didn't expect it to happen again anytime soon.
Isa's soft, more emotional, voice was gradually becoming one of Terra's favorite things. Isa sounded so relaxed, so sincere. It made him oddly proud to have gotten Isa to whatever point this was.
"I want to find it too," he said, running fingers through Isa's hair slowly, "I hope I find it here too. I would love a place I know I could come back to."
"Then . . . let's find it. . ." Isa murmured sleepily, unable to resist from nuzzling the warm body beneath him just a bit as he found himself starting to drift off. ". . . I'll stop fighting . . . work on building it, I promise, just. . . promise you won't grow to hate me?"
He was tired, and broken, and in these odd hours revealing insecurities he'd deny in the light. Isa didn't think he'd be able to handle that. Perhaps that's why he'd tried to drive Terra away quicker. . . he couldn't stand to see that warm expression twisting into disgust, as he was so sure would happen. Especially if Terra remembered him.
Regardless of the feelings Isa was starting to realize, it was enough to simply not be hated. That's all he wanted. . . just this one night of being held, and a single person in his life who held neither hate nor pity for him.
That would be enough.
Terra opened his eyes slightly and looked down at Isa. Why did Isa think he'd hate him? Sure, it had been frustrating when Isa had seemed to be dead set on pushing him away, but he couldn't hate Isa for it. Especially not with all those moments where he softened. Those moments were too precious to forget somehow.
"I could never hate you," he said, gentle and sincere, "so lets be a team. I want us to work together."
He stopped stroking Isa's hair, simply resting his hand on Isa's upper back, fingers still laced in the locks. It was so easy to relax like this. Why was it so easy to relax like this? Maybe he didn't need that answer right now. Maybe he'd just enjoy it.
With that, he relaxed and closed his eyes back. It didn't take long for him to fall asleep. Hopefully tonight would be a good night too.
Isa had already started to fall asleep, completely exhausted from the day's emotional turmoil. He did, however, manage to catch Terra's words before he drifted off. . . and for the first time, he smiled as he fell asleep, though it was small and reserved.
Chapter 9: Sleep-Summoner
As safe and warm as he felt, and though he'd managed to have no dreams, he found himself waking in a slight panic some hours later.
The panic was caused by Terra's belt buckle, which had started to press quite sharply into Isa's lower belly. He'd found his breath hitching, waking quickly in assumption that there was a weapon turned against him, and found himself quite silly when he realized what it really was.
Trying to settle back down, he realized he'd never gotten undressed, and found himself unable to fall back asleep -- as much as he wanted to. So, grumbling a bit, he climbed off of Terra as gently as possible and quickly darted to their bedroom to change. Once he had done so, it suddenly occurred to him that Terra had still been fully dressed. . . hence the belt buckle. He glanced around the room for a moment, trying to find where the other man had put his pajama pants. . . he might as well bring them back with him. . . perhaps he could convince Terra to change and move to their actual bed.
Ah -- there. Under his pillow. . . neatly folded. Isa blinked down at the garment for a moment, recognizing distantly the manner in which they were folded. Shaking his head, still groggy from sleep, he turned to head back into the living room.
Terra really had been sleeping peacefully. The cool weight on his chest somehow made it so much easier to stay asleep, nightmare free. In fact, he might have been having his first pleasant dream in months. It was almost like a memory to him with how real it appeared.
Terra was sitting in one of the many courtyards of Land of Departure. It was a beautiful, clear night, perfect for looking at the stars. Aqua and Ventus were on either side of him. It was just like old times. Everything was normal and relaxed. They were talking and joking together. Just like always. But something felt like it was missing..
Suddenly, a blanket wrapped around his shoulders along with a comforting and familiar embrace. Terra smiled up at the face of his father. Everything was perfect again. His family all together at home, with no lingering shadows to dampen the moment.
Until everything went black for a moment. When Terra could see again, everyone was gone, and he wasn't at home anymore. It was just dark. He kept turning on his feet, looking all around him. It seemed like he blinked and suddenly he was surrounded by barren wasteland. An all too familiar sight. One by one, he could feel his emotions slipping away until all he felt was empty. He looked down at his hands but only saw his armor.
No! He quickly backed away, only to slam his back into an invisible, back in the endless darkness. He tried to call out for someone. Aqua, Ven, Eraqus, anyone! But...his mouth wouldn't open. He grasped at his face, trying to pull off the white 'X' that covered his mouth. It wouldn't budge. It was almost like it was attached. It even hurt to pull.
In desperation, Terra summoned his keyblade and tried to cut the binding off his face. It wouldn't work. He was silent. And alone. All alone. He fell to his knees and clutched his head. He would have screamed.
And yell he did as he jolted awake and into a sitting position, keyblade in hand. There was a shallow scratch on his cheek from summoning it too close to his face. He was panting, staring straight ahead. Where was he? Was anyone else here? Why was he here? When had he gotten here? What had just happened?
Isa had managed to enter just in time to see Terra bolt upright, screaming as if he was being killed. For a moment, he panicked and backed up a step, both eyeing Terra's keyblade warily and searching for some threatening enemy with narrowed, searching eyes.
It only took a moment for him to realize there wasn't one. In the next, he'd recognized Terra's posture, the look on his face, the distant look in his eyes. . . and the exact nature of that scream. Isa was no stranger to nightmares. . . not at all.
He then realized that maybe the reason why Terra didn't seem to mind that Isa was so broken was because he wasn't completely whole, himself.
That realization caused something soft to take over Isa's entire being, something entirely unfamiliar, and he found himself moving closer to the other man, hands held out in front of him as he held the pajama pants under his arm.
". . . Terra . . .?" He murmured, in a soft but clear voice. "Are you alright. . .?"
Terra hadn't moved, still looking straight ahead, Keyblade in hand. He hadn't even blinked. The only movement was his chest as he breathed, rapid and uneven.
He flinched at the sound of another voice, but hearing his name made his vision come into focus. He blinked for a moment before slowly looking around. He was...in the apartment...with Isa...safe... Then he noticed the Keyblade in his hands and instantly dismissed it.
"I didn't hit you, did I?!" he asked, looking at Isa in panic. Dammit. He knew this was going to happen eventually. He didn't break anything, did he? Please let him have not attacked Isa in his sleep.
"What?" Isa frowned a bit, looking confused and concerned, and shook his head. "No -- no, you haven't hurt me."
Those words were . . .concerning, for numerous reasons, but Isa forced all of those reasons aside as he closed the distance between them and caught sight of the wound on Terra's face. Though minor, Isa couldn't stand the sight of the thing -- hurting, marring such beautiful skin --
-- He forced that thought aside, too.
" . . . You've hurt yourself, though," he said, reaching out to touch and barely stopping himself. ". . . But everything else is alright. I promise you . . . wherever you just were, you aren't there now."
Terra tried not to flinch when Isa reached for his face, but it was hard not to. But when Isa hesitated, he moved slightly towards the touch. Everything felt shaky and cold. He needed to feel something. Something that proved he was all here.
"I'm sorry," he said quickly, "I just...you would have been close, and I...have broken stuff before..." His legs curled slightly closer to his chest.
Why did this have to happen? Nothing was like that anymore! Like any of it! Not even the good parts exist anymore! He shouldn't be wallowing in the past, even in his dreams. He looked down towards the ground.
"I'm sorry..." he muttered.
It was all too clear to Isa that Terra still wasn't alright, and he knew all too well how acclimating to reality after having such a break could be.
"There's . . . nothing to be sorry for," Isa replied after a pause. His hand was hanging a bit awkwardly in the air near his side, both wanting to reach out and comfort the other man and dreading what would happen if he did. Isa wasn't exactly well versed in comforting people in the first place, and was suddenly very much out of his element.
Honestly, a part of him wasn't certain why he was even trying. Yet, here he was, nonetheless. A bit awkwardly, he decided to bite the bullet. He'd done enough odd things today -- what was one more? So, he settled himself down on the very edge of the couch next to Terra, not close enough to be touching but still far closer than he typically would have placed himself. That lingering hand then settled just barely on Terra's shoulder.
". . . Really. Don't apologize. I. . . understand very well. If you need to talk . . . or remind yourself where you are, I'm here."
He didn't know where the words were coming from. But Isa had never had someone do the same for him, and he was starting to realize how much he may have needed it. He'd woken far too often himself from painful memories, not knowing even what world he was in . . . or what color his eyes would be should he dare to look in a mirror.
He suddenly felt that if Terra's pain was anything like his when Isa woke up, alone and disoriented, that he'd likely do anything he could to take it away.
Terra slowly leaned his head onto Isa's hand, ignoring how awkward the angle was for his neck. Having Isa touching him helped. He felt a little more there . Hopefully his face wasn't bleeding enough for it to be a problem. He didn't even feel the cut that Isa had seen. That was the first time he'd managed to hurt himself from a nightmare..
"Sorry," he said before shaking his head slightly, "I should have warned you about that. Sometimes I get nightmares that end up with me fighting something and..I guess my brain doesn't fully realise it's a dream. So I actually summon my Keyblade..."
He moved a little closer to Isa. He was able to feel everything so far and speak. It was just a dream. He looked down at his hands. Fleshy, not armor. Even after speaking, he still touched his cheek, just to make sure nothing was there. There didn't seem to be anything there.
He went quiet, staring at his hands. It had started so pleasant. Such a perfect false reality. Just to be torn away again. He supposed that was only fair. He was the one that destroyed his first home anyways.... Tears slowly formed in his eyes without him realizing it.
It wasn't exactly difficult for Isa to see how distraught Terra still was, and how badly this nightmare seemed to have affected him. Isa had gone into a momentary little panic, completely unsure of how to bring comfort to the man in front of him.
Having never been one to give nor receive comfort, he wasn't exactly well-equipped to handle the situation. He'd done more in his life to cause tears to form than to stop them, to be quite honest. . . and usually he'd found a terrifying amount of pleasure in their presence. These. . . not yet fallen, yet still visibly wetting Terra's eyes, did not bring that same pleasure. Far from it, in fact.
He wasn't sure exactly what Terra had gone through, but he could imagine. Something had clearly broken the man, and he was trying desperately to be alright and have a happy life despite it. . .
A better person than Isa, then, who had allowed himself to crumble.
Still, the thought that Terra might summon a keyblade in their bed wasn't exactly a comforting one. . . but the nightmares hadn't plagued him the night they'd spent together. . .
It was then that Isa remembered what Terra had done the night they'd quite literally slept together.
"It's alright. . . after fighting for as much of your life as you had, I'd be surprised if you didn't have such problems. . . " Isa murmured, and gave the shoulder in his hand a squeeze. Then, a bit hesitant, he licked his lips and spoke up "Would you . . . like a hug?"
Terra almost wanted to change the subject. He almost wanted to find something, anything, to talk about that was the farthest away from the inner workings of his mind. He almost wanted to force a smile and a conversation to forget all he just saw. Just noise. Just forgetting. But he couldn't forget. The nightmare would just repeat in another way later. Maybe in even worse ways.
But… he wanted comfort more. So, he simply grabbed Isa and pulled him into a hug. Isa had offered, so that meant it was ok, right? He hoped so. He buried his face into Isa's shoulder and held tightly. Someone was here . Someone that wanted to be here with him. Not to mention that Isa's presence was calm… comforting almost.
He tried not to cry as he spoke. "I'm sorry, I shouldn't be acting like this. It was just a dream," he muttered.
“Please don't apologize," Isa murmured back, hating how his impulse was to grow tense in the hold he'd outright offered. He made a conscious effort to relax, letting out a breath and a moderate amount of tension as he wrapped his arms gently but securely around the other man and held him as tightly as he dared.
He'd never admit how good it felt to hold him, and be held tightly in return. For the first time. . . hell, maybe in his entire life, Isa felt truly needed. It suddenly didn't matter to him, not at all, that he was just a placeholder. . . . just someone, anyone, a living body that kept Terra from being alone. That was the only explanation for this, after all. And he truly didn't mind. For however long he'd be able to hold this place. . . he would. As long as he was allowed.
That warm, thudding feeling in his chest was far too good for Isa to break away from, even though it was equally painful.
"I know very well how often dreams can be. . . they make everything seem dark," He continued softly, turning his head a bit to nuzzle just slightly into Terra's hair. The scent was grounding . . . and all too familiar. "They aren't only dreams. . . they're what you're mind is afraid to face when you're awake. They're you . . . and not you . . . and real, and not real, and they're awful. I've found they hurt far more than any wound. . . so don't think for a second you're weak for having one hurt you."
For however tight Isa held him, Terra held tighter. He really ought to be more careful. He could hurt Isa if he didn't check his own strength, and the last thing he wanted to do was hurt Isa. He didn't want to hurt Isa and make him want to leave. He didn't want anything that made him end up alone again. Maybe it was selfish to think like that, but he couldn't help it. He couldn't be alone.
Isa's words meant more than Terra could really express. It was hard to really think of those dreams as separate things when they felt so real. Though, they were obviously false at the same time. It was disorienting and upsetting. He stayed quiet for a moment, mulling over Isa's words.
"...Thank you, Isa," he said quietly, not letting go in the slightest, "That… means a lot. It's hard to remember that sometimes…”
"Then I suppose it's my job to remind you," Isa replied simply, in a carefully neutral but quiet tone. He'd started to move a bit, almost without realizing, a hand rubbing circles into Terra's back. He didn't mind at all how tightly he was being held. . . not now, at least. There was a time he would have forced the other man away.
Something odd was happening to him that he simply didn't have the energy to pay attention to. Not as he took pride in the thought of chasing away whatever nightmares had plagued Terra's mind. . . not as he unconsciously moved a hand to card through the back of his hair.
". . . I brought your pajamas," he said softly, after a moment. " . . .When you're ready, you can change. . . and come to bed. You'll rest better. I . . . won't leave you, if that helps."
Terra felt the stress of his nightmare gently ebb away with Isa's soothing touches. He rested his head on Isa's shoulder the second he felt the hand in his hair. The simple action relaxed him in a familiar yet new way. And he welcomed it entirely. The gentle massage into his back relieved the tension, and he felt himself going back to the relaxed state he had been in before.
"You do your job well then," he mumbled while loosening his hold just slightly, "thanks... I guess it'd been more comfortable in bed, wouldn't it?" He let out a half-attempt at a chuckle, but it fell a little flat.
After a moment and a few deep breaths, he pulled away just enough to look at Isa's face. He'd barely avoided tears. That was a relief at least. "You won't leave?" he asked quietly, "I thought I'd made you uncomfortable..."
"Well. . .” Isa paused for a moment, his hands stilling but not pulling away. Then, surprisingly, he let out a quiet but genuine laugh.
"I won't deny that you do. . . I've been more 'uncomfortable' for these past few days than I have in quite some time. See, I'm used to pain. . . and I've found that I've been constantly waiting for it to start. And it. . . never has. Only this persistent discomfort. . . because this is all so very unfamiliar to me. . . "
A bit hesitant, he actually met Terra's eyes and offered the faintest of smiles. He felt oddly exposed. . . visible. Seen. He couldn't say it didn't make him want to flee, but. . . something was different, now. He had a reason to be. Something concrete, and understood, and something he could do to serve a purpose.
". . .That discomfort. . . I don't think it's a bad thing. Maybe we have to be unsettled for a moment, when things are changing. . . and a little discomfort is good. Or, at least, it's better than where I've been. I'm sorry for making you feel as if you were causing me harm . . . I'm simply not very good at handling kindness. But I'm . . . trying. So, no, I won't leave you. I. . .well, I want to make sure you're alright."
Terra stared at Isa, wide eyed in surprise. He'd have never expected such a confession. Isa seemed the type to never say all he was thinking, yet what he'd just said had been so sincere and open. Had something caused that? Maybe it was just because he wanted to comfort him? It was possible, but it felt like there was more than that. But Terra didn't know what.
Slowly, he smiled softly. There was some odd feeling in his chest, which he took as appreciation and maybe a small bit of fondness. Isa really cared, and Terra had actually been helping him. Plus, Terra found he really liked Isa's more relaxed smile. It was something small and special. He was glad that Isa was with him.
"I would never hurt you," he said genuinely, omitting the 'on purpose' part, "we're working together here, so I'll do my best not to make you uncomfortable, but you're right. Change always brings its own discomfort till you get used to the new stuff."
He took a deep breath and smiled a little more. "And you will get used to it. It just takes time," he said before pulling away ever so slightly, "so… thank you for helping me out… and for staying around."
"I think perhaps I need to be a bit uncomfortable," Isa answered truthfully, with a little shrug. He honestly had no idea why he was being so open. . . perhaps it was just that sort of night. "You don't have to thank me. . . I'm happy to do so, oddly enough."
It was odd to him how incredibly happy he was to see Terra smiling again. The sheer amount of pleasure he felt at having helped the other man feel better was almost overwhelming. . . Isa didn't think he'd ever successfully comforted someone before.
He smiled again, and moved to stand, trying to gently tug Terra up with him. "And if I'm going to be helping you, my next step is to make sure you get some actual sleep . . . so come with me, please? Allow me to care for that cut, and then settle in to bed. I insist."
Terra stood with Isa and shifted his hold to be holding on Isa's arm instead of holding him entirely, simply because it made it easier to stand. But he also still wanted to hold onto Isa. It seemed like a good compromise to him.
"I'll do my best not to make you unnecessarily uncomfortable then," he said with a small chuckle then he sighed, "guess I can't argue with that. It's only fair after all."
He smiled at Isa while glancing at Isa's bandaged hand. If he was going to help Isa (potentially forcefully), then he should be able to accept it.
Luckily, the cut wasn't deep at all, and Isa had to do very little but clean it off a bit and cover it with a bandaid. This was all, of course, while his blood rushed oddly in his ears at the thought that he was touching Terra's face.
"There you are," he murmured when he finished, fingers pressing almost tenderly on the edges of the bandages. He'd actually done his share of changing bandages in his life. . . though that wasn't something he liked to think about. "Oh, and here's your pants. . . " An odd journey they'd had, carried to the living room and back.
"Are you feeling better?" He asked quietly as he moved back to throw the packaging from the bandage away, glancing briefly in Terra's direction. The whole time, he'd refused to move out of the other man's reach. It wasn't difficult to tell that he needed to hold onto Isa for whatever reason. . . and Isa couldn't deny a part of him enjoyed, almost craved the touch, even as it set his nerves on fire. Terra was certainly only using Isa to ground himself. . .
But that didn't matter. Not at all. Isa was honored to be chosen for such a task. . . perhaps the best he'd been chosen for in recent memory. "Do you think you'll be able to sleep?"
Terra had stayed still as Isa took care of him. It had been a while since he'd been fussed over like this, though usually the person taking care of him was lecturing him about whatever stupid thing he had been to get himself injured in the first place. Isa didn't seem like the type to lecture unless it was truly necessary. Plus, it's not like he had hurt himself being clumsy. It's not like he had control of himself while he slept.
"Thanks," he said both for the patching and the pants, taking his pants as he said it, "I'm feeling some better... I'm not sure about sleeping yet, though." He quickly changed into his pajamas, facing away from Isa as he did. No need to make him too uncomfortable.
He sighed slightly and sat on the edge of the bed. He was certainly tired enough to sleep. But the thought of sleeping just to see that again… wasn't exactly appealing. But it hadn't started that way. It had started pleasant. Did something change? Or did his brain just like torturing him? He shook his head slightly. It wouldn't matter. Perhaps he deserved the nightmares.
Though it was a bit of struggle, Isa had managed to flush slightly less while glancing in the exact opposite direction of Terra. There was an odd part of him, however, that despite his values wanted nothing more than to turn around and look . . .
Isa didn't listen to that part of him, compelling as it was. Instead, he waited for the sound of the creaking bedsprings before turning around and approaching Terra from behind, settling himself down on the edge of the bed beside him. This was an insomnia he knew all too well . . . that reluctance to fall asleep, afraid of what inner demons would plague you the moment you fell beneath the waves of unconsciousness.
He didn't know what exactly Terra had seen in there. . . but he knew it wasn't anything he wished to experience again. ". . . I can read to you for a moment if you like," He murmured after a moment, not knowing what exactly to do to help, but wanting nothing more than to do so.
Terra stared at his hands for a moment before responding. Still not armor. And he knew from both Isa's care and talking that his mouth wasn't kept shut. Nothing was wrong anymore. He was there. All together. There was nothing to be afraid of… except his mind. Unfortunately, it had a lot of material to work with.
He really couldn't help but think of how it had started. It was almost like a memory before everything fell apart. Aqua and Ventus were by his side. His two closest friends. His siblings. And Eraqus was there, supporting him and loving him just like he had since Terra had been three. They had been happy. Complete.
But Terra had fucked it up then, so his mind had to remind him now. Not that he ever forgot. One impulse decision while wallowing in angry and self pity, caused everything to shatter like a hammer hitting glass. Before he knew it, Aqua didn't trust him, Ventus's life was in danger, and Eraqus… was dead. Soon after, the need for revenge sent him into a fight he couldn't win, and he was stuck. Stuck in silence for ten years, in two different ways.
Terra kept staring down. He vaguely recognized that Isa had spoke, much less asked a question. It took a second to fully register in his mind. "Yeah," he said softly, "yeah, I'd really like that."
Anything to distract himself from the noise in his own mind.
Terra was clearly lost in his head. . . and Isa knew very well that was a dangerous place to be. The only thing worse than being drug beneath those painful, nightmare filled waters by your dreams was willingly diving there yourself despite knowing that only pain awaited you.
Isa didn't know how to make it better. . . he doubted he even could. There were some things that simply didn't get better, no matter how much time passed. And they certainly get better because of the actions of a near stranger. This was the most he could do -- offer Terra a lifeline, a safety device, to cling to instead of sinking beneath those dark waves.
He leaned over until he could reach the nightstand and grabbed his book of poetry before sitting back against the pillows, legs stretched out and crossed in front of him. He left plenty of room for Terra to settle down, but made no move to force him to do so. He turned through the book for a few moments, before settling on a particular poem. Easily, almost to the point that it was unconscious, he started to read. Voice soft, but clear, and as soothing as he could make it.
"This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
Some momentary awareness comes
As an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
Who violently sweep your house
Empty of its furniture,
Still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
For some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
Meet them at the door laughing,
And invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
Because each has been sent,
As a guide from beyond."
Once there was room to do so, Terra got under the blanket and laid on his stomach. He wrapped his arms around his pillow. He buried his face into it in a way that would make most people question if he could breathe, but he could. Part of him wanted to hold Isa again in some way. It was comforting. An easy reminder that someone else was there. But hearing Isa's voice was enough. He could listen and fall asleep to that voice again and hopefully be ok.
Unlike last night, he actually listened to the words, not just the voice. Somehow, he felt the poem had been chosen for a reason. He tried to consider maybe applying the advice. Could all his guilt be leading to something better? It didn't seem like it. Guilt couldn't bring his family back. Guilt couldn't fix what he'd destroyed. But maybe… all this new stuff could help him ignore it. Maybe being with Isa and trying to build something different here would make it hurt less.
Terra moved slightly closer to Isa. "Thank you," he mumbled, relaxing more and more as Isa read, despite his thoughts.
“Again . . . there's no need to thank me. I don't mind." Isa continued to turn the pages of the book, pausing to adjust his glasses as he looked for another poem. There was another poem, one he'd avoided reading. One that hurt a bit too much to read.
A poem that felt too personal, almost as if it had been directly attacking him. He'd never been able to read it before without it causing him pain. . . but now. . . he had a feeling that it might have something to offer to the both of them. Hopefully, and for all Terra knew, he was choosing them randomly. . . even if Isa himself knew that was far from the truth.
"I'll . . . keep going, then. Let me know if you want me to stop. . . " He licked his lips, and took a deep breath.
How to find my soul a home
Where water is not thirsty
And bread loaf is not stone
I came up with one thing
And I don't believe I'm wrong
Can make it out here alone.
Alone, all alone
Nobody, but nobody
Can make it out here alone.
There are some millionaires
With money they can't use
Their wives run round like banshees
Their children sing the blues
They've got expensive doctors
To cure their hearts of stone.
Can make it out here alone.
Alone, all alone
Nobody, but nobody
Can make it out here alone.
Now if you listen closely
I'll tell you what I know
Storm clouds are gathering
The wind is gonna blow
The race of man is suffering
And I can hear the moan,
Can make it out here alone.
Alone, all alone
Nobody, but nobody
Can make it out here alone."
Terra listened quietly, only occasionally shifting to be more comfortable. He turned his head to look at Isa as he read. With the exception of the previous night, it had truly been a long time since someone had read something to him other than mission reports and training texts. There was something special about this. Almost as if Isa was reading a part of himself aloud. It was clear in his voice and eyes that he truly felt the words as he spoke them. Terra couldn't help but feel mesmerized while listening.
The words rang true in his ears. He couldn't make it out of here alone. That much was obvious. He couldn't even handle a few hours alone in silence. Something told him that Isa hated being alone too, even though he'd constantly said he'd wanted to be alone. Well, it had been an obvious lie from the start anyways.
"You don't have to be alone," he said, eyes drooping slightly, "you really do want to stay here, right? Now neither of us have to be..."
Isa hesitated to answer, licking his lips and allowing the book to fall shut. That was an interesting remark, wasn't it? He was certain by this point that he did want to stay . . . and yet it had happened so quickly he still wasn't sure exactly why.
He'd told himself since his recompletion -- hell, for most of his life -- that he was better off in isolation. And, typically, that was correct -- being around other people hurt. It rarely went well for him. All he ever seemed to do was cause harm. . . he didn't know how to fit in, to mesh with the rhythms of their lives. He'd had to be cruel for far too long to accomplish what he'd needed to, and he'd long ago forgotten how to be anything else. Even as a child he was stern and serious, and not the type of person to attract friends. Associates, perhaps. But not true friends. No one who wanted to be around him simply for his company. No one who genuinely seemed to care about what happened to him, outside of how it affected their own interests.
Except for Lea, of course. . . and Isa had drug him with him into hell.
It was different with Terra. Easy, almost, simply to have a conversation, or even sit in the same space. There was no pressure . . . or obligation. . . and there was that incredible warmth. That drive to make sure that Terra never did feel alone. To be a better person, even if just to be worthy of enjoying that comfortable silence and staying by the other man's side. . .
He swallowed heavily, then answered in a soft voice, a hand shifting unconsciously towards Terra's body. ". . . I do. I would not lie about that. It is as you say. . . we're not alone anymore. And I’ll try my very best to keep it that way."
Isa was for chasing loneliness away. That was acceptable. It was a job he was able to fulfill, and he would do it with full commitment. He found himself hoping, however, with a twinge of pain, that Terra would find someone else. Someone better, who he actually wanted to be with, and wasn't simply forced to by proximity. He deserved that.
He deserved better.
Terra's eyes drifted shut, but he wasn't asleep. Yet. He shifted around, ending up a little closer to Isa without noticing. Part of him was worried about being in the same bed again. What if he had another nightmare? What if he hurt Isa in his sleep? What if that made Isa change his mind and want to leave? What if he woke up again clinging onto Isa like a koala and annoy him? The last one was less serious, but it still worried him. He couldn't stand the thought of driving the only person he had around away.
Maybe it was selfish to use Isa like this. They hadn't even been friends before this. Also, apparently, Terra might have memories that upset Isa, including a name he shouldn't know. Isa shouldn't have to deal with his problems. It wasn't his job to be Terra's personal therapist or stress relief. That wasn't fair. He wasn't going to dump his problems on someone else, even if said someone claimed they wanted to stick around.
He didn't deserve a willing companion anyways. All he'd done was hurt people. He was too weak to be alone. Too weak to fight. Too weak to break out of darkness's hold for over ten years. He'd been naïve and stupid and gotten everything he loved destroyed. It was only a matter of time before he destroyed what he'd found here too. Whether he unintentionally drove Isa away, or pushed Isa away, or, far worse, hurt Isa, he was going to screw up eventually and be alone again. Even with the Land of Departure back, he didn't have anywhere to go. Going back was impossible. He couldn't walk past Eraqus's room everyday and find it empty. He couldn't step into the study and find the desk covered in dust, books still open where Eraqus had been reading. He couldn't.
He didn't know if he could fully say he believed Isa's statement. Not because of lack of trust in Isa, but because of lack of trust in himself. "Thank you, Isa," he said quietly, "I'm glad… I want you around."
Another interesting remark. Part of Isa was flattered, and those four words caused a funny stirring in his chest. Of course, there were many reasons that Terra could have wanted him around. . . people had kept him around for all sorts of reasons, after all.
The reason simply didn't matter. Not now. Isa was happy just to be wanted, which he knew was likely unhealthy. Still, it had to be healthier than where he'd been before. . . it felt better, at least. He no longer wanted to walk, and walk, and just keep going until he finally disappeared.
". . . Then I'll be around," He answered simply, curling his fingers into a fist from where they'd been itching to run through Terra's hair, only inches from their reach. "Because I like to be around. . . or at least I think I will be. I'm starting to. I certainly like to be around you.
He only then realized he'd spoken aloud and froze, cursing in his head.
Terra was too far on his way to sleep to fully catch the depth of Isa's admission. But he did know it was a compliment. He smiled softly, eyes still closed. "It's always nice to have a friend around," he muttered sleepily, completely oblivious to Isa's growing feelings.
He shifted a little, which caused some of his hair to floof out and brush against Isa's hand. It was truly relaxing to talk to someone before falling asleep. Having someone else there, hearing someone else's voice, it brought him comfort that he would have never known otherwise. Especially since Isa was so calming to be around. Before he knew it, Terra had dozed off.
It was only one word.
How did it manage to feel like a bullet?
That one word -- "friend" -- had caused Isa to crash through the entire spectrum of human emotion in mere moments.
There was joy. Joy that Terra at least considered him a friend -- Isa hadn't had a real friend in so long, and he could very much use one. It was an absolute honor to be chosen, and given that title by such an amazing person.
But there was also an intense, painful grief. Isa didn't think he wanted to be friends. . . no, he thought he wanted something else, something he hadn't wanted to feel. But it had taken root there, deep in his chest, and the word "friend" had caused it to almost pierce his heart.
Then there was anger. Anger at himself, for expecting anything else. He could -- he should -- be alright with friendship. He should be honored, amazed, and grateful for friendship after everything he'd done to the man. He didn't deserve it -- not in the slightest. Friendship was more than he could ever ask for, and he found himself hating that painful, far too demanding feeling in his chest.
He sighed, and let out a sniffling noise as he finally gave into temptation and let his hands run through the soft brown hair that had grazed his fingers. He was lucky, he supposed, that Terra had fallen asleep. . .
Isa didn't, himself. Not for several hours and, even then, it was fitful.
The tears that streaked down his face for those hours were never acknowledged. He didn't deserve to cry.
Chapter 10: New Dawn
Terra, thankfully, had stayed asleep after that. He did have a nightmare. But it was far more mild, and he forgot about it the moment he woke.
It was a gentle, blurry kind of waking. The kind that made you want to roll over and go back to sleep. Except when he did roll over, he noticed something missing.
"Isa?" he called quietly, trying to stay calm. Where'd he go?
Calm down. Isa wasn't required to stay till he woke. He could have gotten up for any reason and that would be ok. He could have gone to the bathroom or gotten something to eat. That was ok and meant he wouldn't be far. He stood and looked around. The bathroom door was open, so Isa probably wasn't in there. So he stepped outside the room.
The sigh of relief was barely held back. Isa was in the kitchen. That was more of a relief than Terra cared to admit. The odd urge to hug Isa from behind was also ignored.
"There you are," he said while sitting at the small table, "whatcha doing?" Simply seeing Isa had calmed him enough to forget the momentary panic.
Isa had woken early, unable to continue to sleep. Lost in troubled thoughts he found it best to ignore, he'd decided to put himself to work.
Dressed still in pajamas and housecoat, glasses on his nose and hair thrown into a bun, he was cooking breakfast for the both of them. It had been so long since he'd gotten the opportunity to do such a thing and, despite the hard night he'd had, he found his mood brightening rapidly.
He'd been lost in his work, actually humming an indistinct tune, and had been a bit surprised when Terra had spoken. He hadn't realized how much time had passed, or that the other man had woken up.
"Oh --" he startled just a bit, then turned to greet Terra with an actual, happy smile.
"Sorry, I hope I didn't disturb you -- I'm cooking, as you can plainly see. I'll be done in a few moments, if you'll wait a moment." As he spoke, he fiddled with something in a pan in front of him, tossing the pan to flip whatever it was into the air.
He hoped Terra liked it. He'd put. . . far too much thought into the meal.
Terra stared for a moment at Isa, not being able to help but notice how nice he looked with such a smile. Slowly, he smiled back, a soft, gentle smile that was slightly influenced by fatigue.
Whatever Isa was cooking smelled good , and Terra realized that yesterday had been inconsistent meal wise. His stomach let out a hungry rumble.
"Oooh, what is it?" he said, excited by the idea of food, especially Isa's cooking after all the talk it had gotten yesterday, "whatever it is, I think I already love it from its smell."
"You'll see when I give it to you," Isa answered sternly, flipping the thing in the pan again. Moments later, he was sliding it out of the pan and onto a plate before grabbing something from the fridge and briefly fussing over it.
When everything looked ready and up to his standards, he grabbed one of the plates as well as a glass full of a reddish liquid and carried both to the table, setting them in front of Terra.
Double chocolate chip pancakes -- chocolate batter with chips inside. Topped with whipped cream, which bore a few chocolate shavings from god knows where -- Isa was nothing if not resourceful. It was a far sweeter meal than Isa would have ever made for himself, and he wasn't certain he'd be able to take more than a few bites without feeling overwhelmed by the flavor.
Still, he'd made it anyway, and quite happily, secure in the knowledge that his . . . friend would like it.
"The smoothie is strawberry banana," He murmured, moving to find and set down a glass bottle of syrup. "I wasn't sure what you liked, so I went simple. . . I . . . hope you like it." He then gathered his cup of coffee from the counter, as well as his own much smaller plate of a single pancake, and sat down at the table across from his roommate.
Terra's eyes probably got bigger than his head for a moment. This was… a whole lot of chocolate. He probably hadn't had this much chocolate in one sitting since he was ten. And even then it had been against Eraqus's wishes. He had broken into the sweets. And he was pretty sure this would be better than pure chocolate.
With very little thought beforehand, he started shoving the food into his mouth. It was probably, if not definitely, the best pancake he'd ever eaten. It, as well as the smoothie, were gone rather quickly. Maybe he should have eaten slower to savor it, but hunger plus how tasty it was meant no patience whatsoever.
By the time he'd finished eating, he'd realized how rude he had been. He stopped mid-bite of one of the few remaining bites, his eyes awkwardly met Isa's. He sat up straight and chuckled awkwardly.
"Uh, sorry, I'm pretty hungry and… well it's really good," he said sheepishly, "I really like it, Isa."
The fork had stilled inches from Isa's mouth and slowly lowered back to his plate as he realized the sheer intensity with which Terra had started to devour his food. He wasn't sure if he was horrified, amused, or both.
Isa had been raised to behave as a perfectly mannered adult since he was far too small to actually be able to do it. His entire world had been napkins in laps, elbows off the table, eating slow and delicate and as if you weren't even enjoying yourself. At the very least, one stopped to breathe while they were eating, and he was not completely sure that Terra had.
Though there was that lingering horror and shock at having witnessed someone who was clearly not exhibiting the same sensibilities, it was almost refreshing. Not to mention flattering. . . he'd been worried Terra wouldn't like it, that he'd overestimated the other man's sweet tooth. That was clearly not the case.
Beside himself, Isa actually chuckled, the wide-eyed expression he'd taken on for a moment dissolving into an amused smile.
"You really were hungry . . . Think nothing of it. I'm very glad you like it." Then, elbows off the table and motions precise, he took a very much more reserved bite of his breakfast.
While Terra had been well versed in etiquette, and likely would have been scolded by Eraqus had he had been at home, the need for food had taken priority. However, manners only tended to be important where there was company... Did Isa count? They were still fairly new to each other. He hoped he hadn't come off as rude. But the smile and laugh were a good sign.
He finished eating in a less desperately starving manner. He had to admit, it was a phenomenal breakfast.
"That was the best pancake I think I've ever eaten," he said once he'd finished, "you really do know how to cook." He leaned back slightly and stretched, thoroughly satisfied from his meal.
"I could eat that everyday, but then I probably wouldn't be able to maintain this perfect shape." He flexed slightly while shooting a joking look at Isa.
The flattery had already almost had Isa blushing, that same odd feeling surging in his chest again.
Then Terra had . . . done that. He had to have known -- right --? Isa's brain had momentarily crashed at the sight of the other man's rippling muscles, which he suddenly had that now all-too-familiar urge to bite.
Fuck -- was Terra intentionally torturing him? Why was Isa having this reaction in the first place? All mysteries, all of which made Isa's head hurt, and all far too difficult to focus on when -- well, when Isa was suddenly having to very strategically cross his legs underneath the table.
"Consider it a treat -- I can cook healthier food, as well," He muttered, forcing his eyes to look away from Terra's body. "I'd hate to destroy your figure." In that way, at least. . .
Fuck -- he had to stop thinking that way. Trying to look inconspicuous, he shifted in his seat.
Terra chuckled, unaware of Isa's issue . He ran a hand through his hair and smiled at Isa.
"Then I wish I had savored it a little more if I might not be getting it again soon," he said while scraping together the last small broken pieces to make one last bite.
"And I was just joking. It shouldn't matter too much if I actually do something instead of sitting around all the time," he said while standing to stretch, "that was insanely good, though. You're really good at cooking. I can't wait for more of your cooking."
Eating a meal with Isa felt oddly normal, despite how new they were to each other. He could completely forget about the emotional drama from last night and enjoy a good meal and good company. It was honestly an experience he has missed.
The last thing Isa had needed for his problem was more flattery, and for Terra to stand up and stretch his still incredibly sexy and biteable muscles. It was absolutely critical that he look away, lest he embarrass himself.
Perhaps that's why he hadn't noticed at first. . . Terra had been mostly bare-skinned in front of him numerous times by this point, and he'd somehow never seen it. He'd always shifted, embarrassed, and looked away in a desperate attempt not to pay too much attention to his bare chest.
Isa hadn't managed this time, too drawn in by the stretching motion. And that's when he'd finally seen it -- that network of scars, torn and abused tissue circulating out from a single point. Was that . . . a keyhole? One way or the other, it looked extraordinarily painful, and Isa felt himself unable to look away.
The comment that had been forming on his tongue in response dissolved, turned into a sharp intake of breath that Isa tried to muffle as soon as it came out. "Oh, yes. . . " he finally managed to mutter. His eyes flickered back to the old wound, unable to resist, and he couldn't help trying to imagine what exactly had caused it.
The words came out before he could stop them.
". . . Does it hurt?"
Terra froze for a moment, more confused than anything. Did what hurt? ...Oh, of course. He probably should have gotten dressed first. All the other times he'd been shirtless it had been dark enough not to notice. Maybe he almost forgot it was there. He should have figured Isa would notice eventually.
His arms lowered and one hand gently touched the edge of the keyhole shape. "Oh, um, no. It did for a while after I… came back, but it didn't hurt for long," he said. He wasn't sure how much Isa already knew, or how much he wanted to share. But there was sort of an explanation. ...Not an easy or sensible one but there was one.
It was only after Terra answered that Isa realized what he'd said, and he shook his head in embarrassment before taking a pointed sip of his coffee.
"Sorry -- sorry, I didn't mean to pry," he said quickly. "I was only startled. . . it doesn't look particularly pleasant. Forgive me, I didn't mean to draw attention to it. . . or make you feel uncomfortable."
He cursed internally and, unconsciously, raised a hand to trace along the edge of his own scar. It hurt, quite frequently . . . but then again it wasn't just a scar. And Isa would have bitten Terra's head off completely if he'd asked about it, so why he hadn't shown the same courtesy to Terra . . . he didn't know.
He hated the sight of the scars marring that perfect skin. . . and yet, it somehow fit. It showed exactly how much Terra had lived through. . . a form of proof that he'd survived through whatever exactly his personal hell had been.
Isa wanted to tell him that. He wanted to run fingers and lips over the mangled skin, and whisper exactly how much he . . .
. . . But he couldn't have that, and there was no point thinking. What the hell was wrong with him? He was thinking, and behaving, completely impossibly.
". . . Never mind. I'm glad it . . .doesn't hurt you."
"No, it's fine," Terra said with a sad smile, "if it really bothered me, I would make sure no one else could see it."
Technically, what he had said was a lie. It did hurt, but not always in the same way. It only really caused physical pain whenever a Keyblade got close to his chest, almost as if his body tried to remind him what had caused it. Plus, it sometimes upset him to look at. Partially because he didn't remember how he had gotten it. He vaguely remembered a fight against two Keyblade wielders, but he wasn't fighting with his Keyblade. It confused him to no end. But then there was also the irony of it all. It caused a sharp pain in his chest to think about. Somehow, some version of him fell the same way as Eraqus...
Despite Isa initiating the discussion, he decided not to ask the question back. Something about Isa's scar deterred any line of questioning. Terra's could be hidden and forgotten about. Isa's could not. Something told Terra that had been intentional.
"I suppose that's logical . . . " Isa replied quietly, shaking his head to pull himself from his thoughts as well as his hand away from his sigil. He had a bad habit during times of stress of rubbing the thing raw. Part of him was jealous that Terra was able to display his so freely, without fear of judgment.
The more he learned about the other man, the harder his life seemed to have been. Isa of course only knew the bare minimum, and that and every detail he'd learned in the past few days had him realizing exactly how much Terra had gone through. And yet. . . he seemed so well adjusted. He had dreams, and drive, and hope for the future. . . a sheer tenacity that Isa admired. There was the fear of being alone, and the nightmares, and god knew whatever other struggles, but he was carrying on. He was living. Not giving up. Terra seemed in many ways to be everything that Isa wasn't.
And Isa was finding that he loved that.
"Well, I suppose we should carry on with things," he spoke up quickly as he stood to clean up what was left of breakfast. "Since we didn't accomplish everything yesterday that we wanted to. . . and I apologize again, for that. We're low on munny, though, so I suppose it's time we start job hunting."
Terra snapped out of the confusing mix of memories and looked at Isa. Munny, jobs, mundane life. Something different than he'd ever had, yet entirely welcome and appealing. He wanted this. This calm daily life that wasn't rigorous training and constant fighting. A life with someone else that he could be content in. He wanted that. Something told him he was on his way towards it.
Ever since finding himself back together and back home, he hadn't been sure what to do with himself. Aqua hadn't been able to decide whether to act like a master or a friend around him, and it showed. Ventus wanted to act like nothing had happened while clinging to him as if he was going to disappear. But Terra, despite wanting to be with them and be where he always thought as home, couldn't handle seeing the courtyard from his bedroom window. It wasn't fair to Aqua or Ventus for him to have run off again. Run off to another world for selfish reasons. No wonder Ventus hadn't even come out of his room to say goodbye...
"Yeah," he said, pushing his thoughts aside, "don't worry about yesterday. Let’s just get it done today." He forced a smile, it almost looked genuine.
"Yes --" Isa met Terra's eyes, something very knowing in his expression, and mirrored his forced smile. " -- There's nothing else to do, I suppose."
He was quiet as he finished cleaning and went to change, trying to pick out a nicer outfit than he'd worn the previous day. He was likely going to have a hard enough time getting a job. . . he should at least look presentable. He didn't have very many clothes, of course, but he at least had a button down. . .
He thought as he got ready of the future. And of the past. And of the pain in Terra's eyes. . . there was clearly a lot that Isa didn't know. And he thought he actually wanted to. He hoped that none of that pain was from . . . well, Xemnas. Or from him, through Xemnas' eyes. . . Isa didn't think he could take Terra looking at him differently than he was now.
As much as he'd loathed hearing the word "friend" from Terra's lips, he found he treasured it far more. Isa was very thankful to have a friend. . .
And even more thankful that it seemed possible he might actually learn to become a good one.
Chapter 11: A Lapse in Dignity
There is slight, vague sexual content in this chapter. See the tags, but you have been extra warned.
It actually hadn't been that difficult to find a discount clothing store. This one was decent -- a step above a thrift store. It was composed of overstock and closeouts from other, more expensive stores in town, and was the most that Isa, Terra, and their meager budget could hope for at the moment. All things considered, it wasn't disappointing.
Isa was moving through the racks with an odd sort of intensity, every now and then holding something up to Terra's body or passing it to him to hold.
"There, yes, that's a good color . . . " he muttered, fussing for a moment over a hunter green sweater. "And material -- something tells me you prefer soft, loose things, correct? Mmm. . . tell me if there's something in particular you're wanting, or else I'm simply going to toss things towards you."
Terra was very much lost in all the clothing and styles and had no idea what he was supposed to be looking for or doing. He held stock still whenever Isa held something up against him. Isa definitely seemed like he knew what he was doing, so he wasn't going to hinder it in any way. And he could carry whatever Isa wanted him to, no problem.
"Well, yeah, at least for pants. I'm kinda used to it," he said with a small chuckle and scratching the back of his head, "you sure know a lot more about this than I do. I'll trust your judgement on the color or material. So toss away, I can catch it."
"Yes, certainly . . . " Isa muttered as he turned back to the rack. He'd already perfectly pinned down the styles that suited Terra best. Honestly, his main struggle at this point was finding things in the other man's size. He'd already found a few basic t-shirts, flannels, and the occasional sweater for casual wear, as well as some loose jeans and sweatpants. He'd also started to put together a more professional outfit to dress him in today.
He hesitated for a moment, looking one particular garment over before pulling it off of the rack. "Hmmm, this might be a good look on you . . . and some people certainly find them comfortable, though I don't particularly relate. . . it's a kilt. it's not exactly pants, but I've heard they're comfortable . . . and there's a decent number of pockets. What do you think?"
Isa was piling a lot more clothing on his than he expected. Terra wasn't complaining though. They weren't too heavy to hold, and… he did need them. It drew more attention to him to be in his training clothes. Plus, it wasn't something normal people wore to normal jobs.
He looked at what Isa was holding curiously. It kinda looked like what he normally wore but...shorter? "It looks like it should work, so I'll try it. Think we got enough yet? Not that I'm complaining, but my arms are starting to get tired," he joked with a small laugh.
"Oh -- yes. Sorry," Isa flushed a bit and took half of the stack from Terra, not realizing exactly how into he'd gotten. "Perhaps I grew a bit overzealous. . . Um, I think I've estimated your size correctly, and we could always bring back anything that doesn't work, but there's a changing room over there if you want to use it."
He nodded towards the changing room in the back corner. "I suppose you should also use it to change into something, regardless, after we check out. . . hearts this is a lot. Here. . . " He sifted through the pile carefully for a moment and put back several of the items that had given him doubts. ". . . There. Should we check out, or would you rather try things on first?"
"It's ok, Isa. I'd rather have too much than not enough," he said, "besides, it's nice to see you so focused. I'm glad you're helping me." It's almost cute. Wait, where had that come from. Nevermind that. They were completing a task first.
"It'd be easier to try them on now and save ourselves a trip, right? Plus, I have no idea what will actually look right on me or not, so I'm gonna need your help," he said while making his way towards the changing room. There was a lot of stuff here, most of it fairly soft and loose fitting. Isa had noticed his preferences just in a few days? Terra shook his head slightly. It was obvious, he wore the same clothes everyday.
"Yes, certainly," Isa nodded and followed Terra towards the fitting rooms. He'd been hoping he'd make that decision, if he was honest, since he didn't particularly want to come back, but he'd wanted to give the other man an out if he was simply ready to leave.
Still, there was something slightly nerve wracking about watching Terra model the clothes he'd picked out. . . Isa had to shake off that unusual feeling again as he set his stack of the clothing down on a nearby bench and started handing Terra clothes to try on.
"Here -- try these. I don't think you'll have any trouble but, if you do, or want to know how something looks, come out to see me and I'll help. Otherwise, I think you can manage. Now -- off to it."
Shoving several hangers into his arms, he ushered the other man into the little room.
Isa sure was putting a lot of faith in someone that had worn the exact same outfit for almost fifteen years. Terra resigned himself from the start that this wasn't going to feel familiar at all. It'd probably take getting used to and might be uncomfortable at first. But then he'd maybe be able to move on… just a little. It seemed easier to do then have to look at Eraqus's old clothes everyday. Come on, now wasn't the time to think about that.
He looked through some of the stuff that Isa had more or less shoved into his arms. There was a loose, soft pair of grey sweatpants that he decided to go with first, seemed a good transition between what he was used to and some of the likely tighter fitting ones. Next he added a black t-shirt v-neck with a red and black flannel shirt above it. It seemed like it might get hot in this, so he rolled up the long sleeves, just in case. He looked briefly in the mirror before stepping out.
"I think I'm probably gonna need new shoes too. I can't really wear my normal armored shoes with this," he said with a small chuckle while looking at Isa, "but I think this looks ok? What do you think?"
It was safe to say that Terra looked a bit more than ok. Not that he hadn't looked good in his old outfit, but. . . this was entirely different. There was something special about seeing him dressed so casually, and Isa's brain had momentarily short circuited.
"Yes -- it's good," Isa nodded briskly. "It's a bit casual, so I wouldn't wear it job searching. . . but it does look very good on you." Isa made an active decision not to look at Terra's crotch in the sweatpants.
"As for the shoes, I'll go see what I can find while you try on the others. You're quite right, the armor does look odd. . . " He trailed off, eyes narrowing in thought, and then waved Terra back into the room. "Alright -- yes -- keep going. I'll be back."
Terra had definitely heard the words Isa had said and recognized them as positive, but how quickly and tense Isa seemed to say them concerned him slightly. Guess he'd but this in a "maybe" pile? He stepped back in and tried on a couple things that were more or less the same but different colors or style. There were a couple he honestly didn't like. A green flannel, for example, he didn't like because the color looked too much like Ven's wayfinder. He didn't even know where that memory had come from, but his brain wouldn't take it back.
Eventually he came across a pair of brown slacks. They seemed… a bit smaller than the other things he'd tried on before, but all the other stuff had been pretty loose. So this would probably still fit comfortably. He was… mostly right. They fit kind of snuggly, especially in more… substantial areas. But they weren't un comfortable to wear, just unfamiliar. He figured that this was probably one of the nicer pairs of pants, so he should wear a nicer shirt with it, right? He grabbed one of the button ups, a pale blue one with a faint stripe to it. That seemed good enough. He put it on, barely managing to tuck the shirt in right.
After a moment of looking at himself in the mirror and listening for Isa's footsteps, he stepped out. "Isa?" he called, looking around and facing away from the direction Isa had left.
Isa had been approaching with a few pairs of shoes, as well as a couple of shirts he'd found for himself, when he'd heard Terra's call. He'd been about to answer, the words on the tip of his tongue, when he'd managed to see and process exactly what the other was wearing.
That was --
Terra's old pants hadn't exactly done justice to his ass. It was curved, and utterly juicy, and the slacks he was wearing hugged it perfectly. Coupled with the way The button down he'd put on was tightly hugging his biceps, back muscles just barely showing through the fabric. . .
Well, Isa was suddenly dropping the shoes to the ground and very strategically holding the clothes he'd picked up in front of his pelvis. Damn, what the hell was wrong with him? He wasn't usually this excitable -- hell, not even during actual sex -- but a single look at Terra's thick hips had his blood rushing south quick enough to make him feel a little dizzy.
"Yes -- yes, I'm here," he finally replied, managing to keep his voice steady and expression neutral through pure willpower. "That . . . looks like it fits nicely. I have shoes for you to try."
Look away from his ass, Isa, damn it.
Terra twisted at the hip at the sound of something hitting the floor and then Isa's voice. He smiled, completely oblivious to Isa's problem .
"You think so?" he said, taking a step closer to Isa, "it's a little tighter than the other stuff I've been trying on, but it feels comfortable. Oh-" He noticed the shoes on the ground. What had happened?
In the name of helping, he bent over to start picking the shoes up, though, moving around a lot in these pants was… kinda hard. He probably wouldn't be able to wear them for any kind of labor job. But it should work for job hunting, right? He stood back up straight and smiled again at Isa.
"If you think this works, then we should get it," he said, "now just to try on the shoes." He turned to go back to the dressing room where there was a small seat, hips swaying slightly as he walked.
That wasn't fair.
That wasn't fair at all.
Either Terra knew exactly what he was doing, or the universe was playing some cruel joke. Either way, it wasn't fair, and Isa suddenly found himself wishing that he himself wasn't wearing tighter pants. . . hearts, if Terra saw him now, he'd be absolutely mortified.
Fuck, it had taken every ounce of willpower to ignore the sudden and nigh irresistible urge to smack that gorgeous ass when Terra had bent over near him. It didn't appear that Isa could deny any longer what was happening to him. . .
Oh. . . He was in love. Completely, irreversibly, and without question. It wasn't only Terra's body that had stirred him into such a state. . . no, it was everything. Isa could have written sonnets. . . novels. . . entire series, about how wonderful the other man was. He didn't know where this feeling had come from, or why it was here, but he was no longer able to deny that it was.
Futile, of course. . . but that wasn't important. All that was important was making sure that Terra was happy.
And that he didn't see Isa's now quite prominent erection.
"Yes, it fits," he muttered, hands tightening on the hangers of the clothes he was holding, eyes entirely glued to Terra's ass as he walked. "And it's good for today, just -- try your shoes, and we can leave."
. . . That wasn't fair at all.
Terra stepped into the changing room and tried the shoes on quickly before getting back into his normal clothes. They almost felt unnecessarily baggy after wearing something more tight fit. He grabbed all the clothes and shoes that had fit him and that he'd liked in one hand and all the ones he wasn't getting in the other. He stepped out and looked around for a place to put the stuff he wasn't getting. It seemed rude to just leave it in the changing room...
"You think we got enough for this stuff?" he asked Isa while holding up what he was getting slightly. Then, he noticed the clothing Isa was holding. "Oh, were you gonna try something on too?" he asked, "Sorry if I was hogging the changing room." He laughed a little. "I'll go put these up and buy my stuff while you try stuff on if you want."
Isa nodded quickly. A bit. . . too quickly. "It's alright but -- yes, I probably should. Go ahead, I'll catch up with you quickly."
He nodded, and forced a smile, knowing he wasn't ready to walk around in public. Fuck, this hadn't ever happened to him before. . . he couldn't will it away . . .
Oddly enough, Terra had given him quite the convenient out with which to relieve himself. The thought of doing so had him cringing, but he didn't exactly have much choice in the circumstances.
Terra smiled and nodded before turning away. This wasn't a whole lot of stuff, and, since this was technically a secondhand shop, it wasn't too expensive. So they probably still had barely enough money to buy a little food if they couldn't find a job right away. Part of him felt like he should be stressed by that. Food was a little important, and they needed money for that. Eh, they'd be fine.
He bought the items and waited by the door of the store. He didn't want to rush Isa, though it hadn't seemed like Isa had had a lot to try on. Thinking about it, Isa had only had a few shirts, held oddly? Maybe his stomach or something was hurting? Maybe he hadn't had enough breakfast (he hadn't eaten that much). Or maybe he'd had too much (he had said he wasn't one for sweets)?
These thoughts were interrupted by the sound of an incoming call on his gummiphone. He took it out and looked at the caller ID. Aqua. Hearts, what time was it in the Land of Departure? How long had he been gone to them? He answered the call.
"Hey Aqua! ...... Yeah, I'm good, and you? ..... That's good to hear. I've been worried about you. And Ven? ..... Yeah.. I expected that. .... It's been going well. Isa is pretty easy to get along with. ..... Yes, I've been eating. Come on, Aqua. Plus, Isa knows how to cook. .....” he sighed, “Yes, I did have a nightmare, but I'm ok. Really. Please don't worry about me. You have yourself and Ven to take care of. ..... Aqua.. ...... I know, I know. I'm welcome back anytime. Look, Aqua, I'm not ready to go back. I don't know if I ever will be. ..... I might visit, but I won't stay. You know I can't. ..... Yeah, take care. Bye." He hung up and sighed.
Aqua always said she understood, yet she kept asking for him to come back. Didn't she get it? He couldn't go back. He was going to set up his life here. The first step had been finding a place to live, with the side task of finding a roommate, and he had done it. Next he was getting a job, which he was well on his way to do. He didn't need to wallow in the castle with nothing to do except think and see places he didn't want to remember.
The forced smile managed to stay on Isa's face until Terra had sufficiently disappeared, after which it immediately morphed into a frustrated scowl. This was the last thing he wanted to be doing, and more than a little insult to his dignity. Yet, pent up and out of options, he found himself storing his clothes on a rack and darting off into the bathroom rather than the fitting room, as he'd said. At least he could thank his lucky stars that it was a single stall. . . otherwise, there's no telling how long he would have had to wait this out.
It was a struggle to even unzip his pants, and Isa hissed when his erection sprang free. He then glared at the thing like it had done him a personal injustice -- which it had. This sort of thing never happened to him -- he wasn't excitable, or easily aroused, and certainly not to this extent. Damn Terra --
--- and his ass that wouldn't quit. Perfect, tan skin. . . rippling muscles. . . gorgeous smile. . . lengthy, full eyelashes. . . around deep brown eyes that Isa could easily get lost in. . .
Before he knew it, Isa's eyes had fluttered closed and he'd started to stroke himself, long and slow from base to tip, teasing his own cockhead with his thumb.
. . . That near insufferable resilience. . . Kinder than belief, but every bit of it genuine. . . the way he held tightly to Isa in his sleep, or after a nightmare. . . his sweet tooth. . . The way he'd somehow managed to break through Isa's walls with direct and unflinching conviction, without even knowing what exactly he'd done. . . the way he'd brought the light in, and suddenly made Isa's dark little life worth working to make better.
Unconsciously, he'd started to speed up, breath hitching already. This was completely unheard of -- Isa wasn't even sure when the last time he'd masturbated was, but he'd likely been a teenager. And now, he was coming undone remarkably fast, all thoughts in his mind of the same person. He couldn't help it.
Blessedly soon, and with Terra's voice echoing in his mind -- I like having you around -- Isa's breath was hitching as he managed to finish himself off into the toilet, shame crashing down on him near instantly.
He'd just. . . jacked himself off in a public bathroom while thinking about his roommate. This was an entirely new low, and definitely not something he was ever going to disclose or acknowledge. Seething in self hatred, he tucked himself back in and made to quite rapidly retrieve his clothing and check out, never minding that he'd not actually tried anything on.
Trying his best to look composed and expression carefully neutral, he left the store with his bag and looked around for his comrade. "Sorry," he muttered when he saw Terra by the door. "There. . . was a bit of a line."
Terra looked up and smiled slightly as Isa approached. He stood straight, no longer leaning against the wall. He raised an eyebrow as Isa's "excuse". There… weren't that many other people in the store right now... And nobody had been around while they were using the changing room... Or maybe he meant checking out? There weren't that many people even in the store, much less finally purchasing something.
"But, there wasn't a line?" he said, knowing that whichever "line" Isa meant couldn't have existed, "are you ok?"
It kinda hurt that Isa had lied to him. He had thought they were becoming friends and building trust. Terra wouldn't have even asked about what the wait was, but now that Isa had lied to him about it, he had to know why .
Fuck -- he'd fucked up. Of course Terra would know there hadn't been a checkout line. . . he'd only left a bit before him, and the store hadn't been exactly crowded. What was wrong with him? Why was he having such reactions in the first place, and then not even able to think of a logical excuse to cover for it? Isa flushed near immediately, trying his best not to let his embarrassment and self-condemnation show on his face.
"For the bathroom," he said quickly. "Forgive me for trying to be discreet -- I tried to use it before I left and was caught waiting for a moment. It was a single, and someone took a long time in there." Yes, some other stranger who was busy jerking off thinking about a friend.
Terra immediately felt bad. He shouldn't have assumed Isa was lying or hiding something! It wasn't fair to Isa, not to mention it was rude. "Sorry," he said while scratching his head awkwardly, "I shouldn't have tried to pry."
He took a deep breath and decided to try and change the subject. "Should I go ahead and change for job hunting? I'm not sure what exactly we'll be looking for," he said while shifting on his feet slightly.
Isa cursed internally, embarrassment settling heavily into his bones, and made a valiant attempt to shake it off and pay attention to what Terra was saying. What he'd just done was awful enough, the least he could do was listen to the man and be polite.
"Oh -- yes, I suppose so," He nodded and crossed his arms in thought. "I thought today we'd simply look around a bit. . . smaller businesses such as those in this town often put up help wanted posters. There's likely a town billboard somewhere about here that lists openings. . . if we don't find anything in person, we can always look online. . . I have a computer, though using technology isn't exactly a strength of mine."
Terra nodded. "In that case, I'll go change. Then we'll go looking!" he said, trying to sound chipper as he walked off to go get changed.
He tried not to think and Aqua and Ventus. Despite needing the space, he couldn't help but feel like he abandoned them. Again... No wonder Ven hasn't wanted to see him off. It wasn't fair. To either of them.
No, it was time for other things. Not dwelling on the past. He quickly got changed and returned to Isa. "Let's get going," he said with a smile.
This time, Isa made a conscious effort not to look at Terra's pants, nor anything they encased. He could tell the other man was on edge -- about what, he didn't know, but he gave his best, most reassuring smile and nudged him gently with an elbow, hands tucked into the pockets of his trousers.
"Yes, let's. I think I saw a bulletin board around the market area somewhere, so that should be a good starting point. . . have you thought any more about what sort of job you're looking for?"
Terra's smile turned a little more genuine. He ran a hand through his hair. "I'm not really sure. I could probably do almost anything that requires brute force. Like a security guard or building things," he said while scratching the back of his head.
He walked through the town, looking for signs and such. Nothing was obvious except for a few restaurants. Being a waiter… wasn't exactly appealing.
Isa walked at Terra's side in silence, oddly comfortable for being what it was. His shame was fading slightly in the light of Terra's company, so long as he managed to avoid looking at him below the waist. Shortly, he spotted the bulletin board he'd mentioned on the side of a building, and unconsciously grazed a hand over Terra's shoulder as he pointed to it.
"There -- I see a few help wanted ads. It's a starting place, if nothing else."
Oddly enough, Terra didn't mind the silence between them. It didn't feel awkward, and there was enough noise from the town around them for it not to bother him. It was almost pleasant like this. Just the two of them on a calm day. Nothing else to worry about. They were on a mission, together. He smiled and followed to where Isa had pointed. The gentle touch had also been oddly pleasant in a way. Familiar.
"Alright, well then let’s take a look," he said, walking over there, "I'm sure there's all kinds of stuff we can do in town. Short one time jobs till we find something more consistent."
"Quite correct. . . there seems to be a decent need of help, at least," Isa muttered as he scanned over the fliers. "Hmm. . . oh, look at that. . . Someone's looking for help moving store locations. I'm sure they'd appreciate your help with a bit of the heavy lifting."
He tapped on the flier a few times, then scowled. ". . . I'd apply, myself, but I'm afraid I haven't been the most careful with my health since my recompletion. I need to take time to build back strength to do much manual labor."
Terra nodded then looked at Isa, a bit concerned. It felt more like there was more to it than that, but he wasn't going to pry.
"I wouldn't worry about that. I'm sure you'll be able to get it back soon enough. Till then, I can take this, while we figure out something for you, or maybe even the both of us," he said with a smile, "that'd be pretty convenient, us working at the same place." Not to mention, he liked spending time with Isa. Something about his presence was calming. Sometimes Terra really needed calming.
Isa ignored the little flutter in his chest that suggested Terra actually wanted to spend time with him by sharing a workplace. It was exactly as he'd said -- a matter of convenience. Nothing more.
Hell, after he started working and made more, actual friends, he wouldn't crave Isa's company as much. . . he'd have real comrades. That -- that was a good thing. Isa wouldn't let that ugly jealousy consume him and destroy their lives. . . not again.
"Yes, it would," is what he'd said out loud, simply and deadpan. He hadn't noticed the concerned glance, and felt nothing more than simple annoyance at his deteriorated physical condition. "Though at least one of us will be working in the meantime. . . Hm. I'm not even sure where to begin. . . I suppose I'll take what I can get. Perhaps I'll look into restaurants. . ."
Terra stretched, shirt tucking slightly in the process. He hoped this job stuff would be simple and easy, though he knew that was unlikely. At least he'd found something he could do for now until he found something more permanent. And… he really hoped Isa found something. Something he could be happy doing. It was a little obvious that Isa needed something like that.
"You could always try to be a chef," he said while getting the information for the moving job he figured he'd do, "I, for one, would visit whatever restaurant you cook at. Especially after that breakfast you made me. It was phenomenal ." He flashed a smile at Isa at the end of his statement.
"I doubt they'll let me do that from the start," Isa muttered back, shifting a bit at both the compliment and Terra's beaming smile. . . and his stretching. Hearts, how was he going to survive any time spent with this man?
"Though I'm . . . quite glad you enjoyed my cooking, I highly doubt it's professional quality. I was thinking more along the lines that they tend to be in need of service, and have a high turnover rate. . . thus, more likely to hire someone such as me. "
Terra looked a little critically at Isa. That last sentence seemed suspiciously self-insulting, but he decided not to say anything… directly.
"I disagree. I bet your food would put some fancy chef to shame," he said genuinely, "plus, you said you're good at like organizing stuff, right? I bet you'll be in more demand than you think."
Why did he constantly want to lift Isa up? Was he really just that nice all the time, or was there something more than that? Eh, those were questions for later.
It completely eluded Isa as to why exactly Terra was being so almost aggressively kind to him. The brunette was simply that good of a person, wasn't he? Isa actually flushed a bit this time, the faintest of smiles crossing his lips. Though small, it was entirely genuine, and he let out a gentle laugh as he shook his head.
"While I do hope you're correct, I'm also an easily recognized seeker of darkness, and my likeness is not entirely unknown. Do not mistake my words for self pity, I am simply trying to be realistic. I would rather be pleasantly surprised, see, then expect to be welcomed with open eyes and find such dreams crumbled to dust. Still, I have options. . . that new Bistro seems to be hiring. . .perhaps I'll try there, and a few of the smaller locations. . . "
He pulled out his gummi phone and took a few pictures of the fliers. "Well, I suppose we should part here, shouldn't we? No point in going as a pair if we aren't both applying. . . " As he spoke, he felt a pang of regret. He was finding more and more as time went by that, despite what he'd initially thought, everything was easier with Terra beside him.
Terra stared, slightly awestruck, at Isa's small smile and laugh. It was so… soft and genuine. He kinda didn't want it to stop. Or at least, he wanted to make Isa smile like that again. Or laugh like that. Or-
Wait Isa spoke after that. Luckily, he was able to backtrack slightly in his head and catch it all. Seeker of… darkness? Suddenly, he felt a sharp pain in the back of his head that he tried desperately to ignore. That term sounded way to familiar, and not in a good way. But he'd ignore it for now.
Isa talked in a really dramatic way didn't he? Crumbled to dust and all. Though, he found himself feeling a bit protective for Isa. If anyone started giving Isa a hard time just because of his past… Terra was going to have words .
"Yeah, probably. We won't be too far away, though. And, hey, afterwards, lets get some lunch. My treat. After that perfect breakfast, I gotta pay you back somehow," he said while gently nudging his elbow against Isa's arm. It was a playful motion. Friendly. Fun.
Everything felt so friendly and comfortable. Feelings Isa had never had the luxury to have. There was a time, very recently, he would have bristled at Terra's casual touch. And yet, now he only chuckled again.
"I don't know if 'perfect' is the correct word, but I'm honored at the sentiment. Very well, I'll take you up on your offer. . . if not only because I'm now out of munny." He dared, for a moment, to nudge Terra back, before looking off in the direction of the Bistro.
"Text me, then? When you've finished. . . We can meet back here, if you like, and then find something to eat from there. I wish you . . . all the best of luck in your endeavors, my friend."
For a brief moment, Terra had a thought about a different way to send Isa off. Something more gentle and… maybe a little more than friendly. No no no. He couldn't do that. That was something way more familial… or perhaps even more than that. Why had that thought even shown up?
He pushed the idea away and smiled again at Isa. "Sounds good to me. I'll treat you to the best whatever I have left can afford!" he said with a laugh.
"Yeah, I'll text you. I'm sure I know how. Good luck, Isa," he said while turning to walk away. He smiled a little softly to himself. Isa actually thought of him as a friend.
Chapter 12: Headstart
Despite how stressed he'd been at the thought of inquiring for a job, Isa's heart was remarkably light as he'd departed, that same smile lingering on his face.
It was a smile that had fallen, of course, when the landlord of the property recognized him, and he'd nearly turned tail and fled then and there. Something compelled him, however, to stay and try his best to explain his situation. Perhaps it was Terra's insistence that he stop running. . . stay and try to build a life. He couldn't do that if he simply gave up every time he faced adversity.
It had been a long, drawn out conversation, in which Isa divulged far more than he'd ever wanted to the rich duck who owned the restaurant. He'd seemed more than a bit suspicious of Isa, even as he all but bore his soul before him, and it was only the word of a little. . . rat -- for some reason -- who appeared to be the head chef, that managed to save him.
In fact, even after all of that, Isa hadn't expected to actually leave the place employed. He'd thought he'd be applying for ages, begging for work, and mooching off of Terra far more than was appropriate. Yet, he had work. He was useful for something. And he had a uniform, carried carefully under his arm, a salary that was nothing to sneeze at, and a start date for the next day. To say Isa was surprised was an understatement.
Mind reeling, he leaned against a wall near the bulletin board and awaited Terra's message, sending a quick text to Lea to let him know he'd been hired. He wasn't sure why he did. . .
. . . Maybe, for once in his life, Isa was actually proud.
Finding the place had honestly been… kind of hard. Terra wasn't familiar with everything yet, and this was a large town. Plus, the implication from the ad was that this was a small store moving to a larger location. Meaning the place would be even harder to spot. But he was determined to find this place, wherever it was.
Luckily, a local woman, who might have been a little older than him, seemed to notice he was lost and helped him. She acted a bit strange, leaning forward a lot, playing with her hair every few seconds, blinking a lot, and walking in a way that was certainly impractical. But she knew where the place was, and that's what was important. She said it was near her place and invited him to lunch afterwards. Obviously, he declined. He already had lunch plans after all. Eventually she showed him where the place was a left, almost in a huff. Terra just shrugged it off. He had a mission. He didn't have time for whatever her deal was.
The interview went fairly smoothly. Terra wasn't the best talker sometimes, but it was obvious that he was the well-built strong type. Which is what the job called for. Apparently, the move was being done the upcoming weekend, so he wouldn't have anything to do till then. Unless he wanted to help pack things up for extra pay. And who refused that sort of opportunity.
It wasn't long before he was done. Now he just had to… retrace his steps. He quickly tried to figure out where he was and how to get back to where he had been but... Yeah, he had no idea where he was. He spent a while trying to figure out these map things on his phone before he realized he had forgotten to text Isa. He slapped himself on the forehead and quickly sent a message.
" Sorry, got a little lost and forgot to text you when I finished ^_^' any idea how to get back to that board from… this weird thing. " He also attached a blurry photo of the biggest, brightest, neon sign he had ever seen with the name of a hotel on it.
They'd been having a perfectly normal conversation.
Isa had been congratulated, jested a bit, and fallen into his and Lea's typical, easy banter. Lea had seemed genuinely impressed. . .
And then. . . when they'd been in the middle of discussing Isa's adjustment to his roommate. . . and Isa had been explaining how Terra was nowhere near as annoying as he'd anticipated. . .
"So, when are you gonna tap that?"
It had taken every ounce of willpower not to crush the phone in his palm. If he could have sent a death glare through text. . .
. . . Well, Lea wouldn't be alive anymore.
Isa started several, angry comebacks, before ultimately giving up and leaving his oldest friend on read.
Lea would know what he'd done and, if he was smart, he'd hide. Isa's blood was seething with an anger that he knew could have only come from pure defensiveness at having been found out.
That anger was, however, interrupted by what might possibly have been the cutest text Isa had ever received. The little smile . . . the fact that he'd gotten lost . . . the odd photo. It was all so pure, and carefree, and . . . caused that same fluttering sensation Isa wasn't sure if he hated or not.
He forced aside his frustrations, a smile crossing his lips, and replied.
" Dear Terra,
No worries. I've just finished, and I believe I know where you are. Stay still, and I'll find you momentarily.
Terra could follow instructions. Easy peasy. He untucked his shirt, it was starting to get a little uncomfortable. He had enough stuffed into his pants. Plus, he was done with the "professional" stuff for the day.
" Okeydokey " he quickly sent back. Isa texted like he was writing a letter to someone that lived far across the sea, never to be seen in person again. It was oddly charming. He was also just glad that Isa knew where he was. Because Terra sure didn't.
He smiled as he saw Isa approach. "Hey! I'm so glad you know your way around better than I do. I was worried I'd be wandering around forever," he said while walking up to meet Isa the rest of the way.
Had Terra intentionally thought of the most adorable response he could, or was he really just like that? Isa had no idea, but it simply wasn't fair.
Nor was it fair how he gave that sweet little smile as Isa approached him. . . as if he was genuinely happy to see him. Isa was someone whose presence was typically met with a fearful look at worst, or an annoyed grimace at best.
"I've read a lot of reconnaissance reports of this city," he answered simply, greeting the other man with a nod and tiny smile of his own. "It transfers rather easily from paper. . . besides, I've been here myself a few times." he shrugged, not thinking it particularly impressive. "I'm glad I found you, though. Can't have you simply wandering aimlessly, can we? Anyway, how'd you fair?"
Terra was definitely in a far better mood than he had been earlier. Today was going overall well after all. He ate the best breakfast ever , got new clothes, and got at least a temporary job! All before lunch! Which he was now going to spend with his roommate, now friend, Isa. He could easily forget the… strained conversation with Aqua after all these good things happened. No need to let one darker blot cast a shadow on the rest of the day.
"Maybe you should make me a map or something in that case," he joked while stretching, shirt just slightly going over the hem of his pants, "everything went overall good. Though, I'll wait till we're sitting to dive into details. I wanna hear all about your time too, after all. So, where will it be? Any of your reports tell you which place is cheap but still good?"
"Oddly enough . . . yes," Isa answered after a brief pause to think. He'd thought the information entirely useless at the time, and had scolded the member who'd reported on such things severely. . . and yet, now, it seemed to be serving him well. He'd have to make a mental note not to glare quite as fiercely at Demyx the next time they met.
"There's a sandwich place relatively close by, I believe. . . as well as a sort of -- I think it's Greek? That's all I can remember off the top of my head. . . or we can walk around a bit. Whatever you prefer. It's not as if we've got anything else planned."
"You definitely have a point there. But I'm getting hungry, and it'd be more fun to explore the town with a full stomach. Plus, it's easier to swap stories sitting down," Terra said while looking at Isa with a smile, "you got any preference? Because I can eat just about anything. It's my treat after all, so you should choose."
He didn't know why he was so excited to tell Isa everything that had happened. It wasn't like he'd done anything monumental, nor did he expect Isa to have. But something about spending time with Isa made him happy. Just pleasant company. That understood. Plus, he was in a good mood and wanted to share it. Eraqus always said he and Ventus were similar in that regard. Just couldn't keep happiness to themselves.
"Oh . . . well. . . " Isa hesitated for a moment, not used to making such trivial decisions. He glanced around, looking for signs of the landmarks in Demyx's reports, and eventually nodded off down a path. ". . . The sandwich place, I suppose. . .if I'm correct, it's down this way."
As they walked, he couldn't stop thinking that one, persistent word -- cute. Why was everything that Terra did so cute and easy. . .? Despite the problems Isa had faced during their day together, he was finding that Terra's presence didn't cause him any distress. . . it was incredibly new, and different.
And he found that, for the first time in a long while, he was looking forward to the day ahead of him.
"Lead the way then," Terra said with a smile.
Chapter 13: Discussion of Ducks and Harlots
As they walked, Terra took the opportunity to look around and try to familiarize himself with the area. It was different than studying maps like he did while he'd been training. But somehow, that made it a bit more exciting. This was new. This was his. With no lingering memories or shadows. His own fresh start, that so far was going really well.
It didn’t take long for them to get to the shop. He realized that he might have been hungrier than he initially thought, but luckily he had just enough for the two of them. Man, it was good he had gotten a job so easily. And he guessed Isa had too by his good mood. Certainly made sense that way.
The pair sat down with their food, and, for once, Terra didn't immediately dig in. Instead, he looked at Isa. "So how did things with you go?" he asked genuinely curious.
Poking at his wrap like a bird for a minute, Isa made an odd face, caught somewhere between happiness at the outcome of his venture, and frustration at the awkward middle portion. "Well, I'm employed," he answered simply. "At the Bistro. . . I must confess I never expected to be hired at the first place I applied. Though, I was also recognized. "
His eyes flickered down to his plate, and he shrugged. He still wasn't sure exactly how he felt about that, but it had all worked out in the end. ". . . The owner was incredibly wary, which I suppose is justified, but I managed to plead my case. I . . . start tomorrow." He smiled at that, a soft look directed at the table, as a surge of pride momentarily ran through him.
Terra listened intently. Hearts… that smile. He quickly snapped out of that as the full meaning of Isa's words sunk in. Immediately, he moved to hug Isa, pinning his arms to the side in the process.
"That's… That's amazing!" he said, happily while unconsciously squeezing Isa, "I told you it wouldn't be a problem. I'm so happy for you."
Then he froze, realizing what he did. "Ah, sorry," he said sheepishly while letting go of Isa.
Isa had frozen when he'd suddenly found himself embraced, somehow not expecting it even after being exposed to Terra's affectionate nature. That familiar electricity shot across his skin and before he knew it, he was flushing, heart doing an odd little jump as he started to relax into the hug. . .
Right as it pulled away, of course, and he forced himself to sit up straight and act as if he wasn't as affected as he had been. It was an odd feeling. . . to feel like someone he cared for, though a near stranger, was a bit proud of him.
"Um -- thank you," he coughed a bit, giving a reassuring smile as Terra pulled away. "It's alright, really, I didn't mind. Only surprised, and I'm . . . well, I'm happy for me, too. And glad you were right. Um -- how were things on your end?" Yes, change the subject, don't let him notice your blush . .
Terra got back to his seat and scratched his head, still a little sheepish. At least Isa didn't seem upset by it. Isa said… he didn't mind. That was new. Maybe Isa just needed time to get used to him? Regardless, that was a good thing.
"Well, I got the job, firstly. It's pretty obvious that I'm the strong type, so I don't think it was that much of a challenge. It's this weekend, so I won't be working till then. Guess I'll look for a more permanent thing in the meantime," he said with a smile.
He chuckled a little. "Actually, I had a hard time finding the place. I was going to text you and ask, but I figured you were busy. Luckily, a local noticed I was lost and gave me directions. She said it was near her place and invited me to lunch. But obviously, I was going to eat with you. She seemed kinda bothered afterwards though. Don't know why. Guess I bothered her by refusing her hospitality?" he said, recounting his tale. He finished it off with a beginning and thoughtful bite of his sandwich.
It wasn't hard to understand exactly what that woman had been doing -- not for Isa, at least. Terra, bless his heart, didn't appear to have any idea.
Isa, however, was seeing red, and it was very fortunate for whoever that woman had been that he was hearing about this far later than it had actually occurred. If he had been there when she'd -- flirted with Terra, Isa might not have been able to control himself. If what he'd understood was correct, this woman was trying to take him back to her apartment -- Isa felt that that thought hurt as if he'd been stabbed. A sudden harsh, sharp throbbing suddenly started at the edges of his scar.
He went a bit stiff, now, grip tightening on his drink cup, and couldn't quite contain the most minute twitching of his eye. An ugly, all too familiar jealousy stirred in his stomach, and he tried desperately to force it away as the feeling was immediately covered with a layer of shame.
Terra had a right to be flirted with, and to flirt back if he wanted to. He wasn't Isa's.
And he never would be.
So what was the point of indulging such childish emotions? Biting the inside of his cheek hard enough to draw blood, Isa forced that anger aside and fought to keep his expression neutral. No -- smile, damn it, he got the job!
"Overly friendly, I suppose," he muttered dismissively, then managed to plaster a smile to his face. "Though you shouldn't have felt obligated to go with me if you -- wanted to meet other people." Fuck, that hurt, change the subject -- "But regardless, congratulations! Not that I had any doubt you'd get it."
Terra had been looking away when that brief tenseness flashed over Isa. Having finally received and given stories, it was eating time, so he had been focusing on that for a moment. It was a really good sandwich. He looked back at Isa when he spoke, that was just polite after all.
"I knew you'd get yours too, ya know," he said with a smirk, "you're a lot more pleasant to be around than I think you give yourself credit for." He took another bite. After a brief moment (and swallowing), he added softly, "At least, I really like your company."
Isa's heart lurched again, this time for an entirely different reason, and his smile softened and grew more genuine. This time, he held back the urge to utter any self-deprecating comments to invalidate what Terra had said. If he truly enjoyed Isa's company, well. . . Isa would believe him. And that was enough. Even if he didn't understand it completely, the fact that this one person liked him despite all that Isa had done to push him away. . . well, it meant that what he'd done to try to make up for it was working.
That Isa was doing okay. And that meant more to him than anything. So the least he could do was accept such a comment without rebuttal, and maybe he'd eventually come to accept it for himself.
"And I yours. . . " He murmured, a bit self-consciously, and took a sip of his drink. Thankfully, he hadn't managed to crush the cup . . . much. "I'm glad one of us had faith in me. "Though I think McDuck might actually still think I'm attempting to swallow the world in darkness by becoming a host at his restaurant. . . and even if I were tempted, I've no idea how I would actually accomplish such a thing. The food service industry isn't exactly an instrument of great power."
Why did Terra like that soft smile so much? He hadn't even spoken with the intention of getting that reaction. He had just been honest. But that smile. He almost would say anything to see it. It was just so… mesmerizing.
Though, he did still listen to what was said and laughed. "I don't know. You could lead someone to a table, and they don't leave a tip," he said in a slightly dramatic spooky voice before laughing, "Scrooge will come around. He's just stern. At least you'll be paid while he figures out you’re not trying to pull any stunts."
"Quite true. And the paycheck is certainly nothing to scoff at. . ." Isa agreed, then paused in the middle of eating a chip to cut himself off with a faint chuckle. ". . . That would be interesting, wouldn't it? Putting a local's head through a table because they fail to respect my services. Well, I promise to make a conscious effort not to do so. The most I'll do is glare -- though I will admit that my glare is a force to be reckoned with."
He then seemed to process Terra's last statement and glanced up, curiously. "I take it you know the duck, then? He certainly gets around. . ."
"Definitely don't put someone through a table. I've heard that's rude," Terra joked while making a mental note to both try not to make Isa mad enough to glare that intensely at him, despite his curiosity of how bad could it be.
He took another bite before shrugging. "I don't know him well. He was in Radiant Garden a long time ago. He helped Ventus, and I made sure to try to thank him. It was only polite, and Ventus doesn't always remember that sort of thing. Though, it's easy to tell he's a particularly ambitious duck. I just don't know how he managed to go to different worlds," he explained. He thought of something. Scrooge had given Isa a hard time about his past.. He hoped that didn't become a problem. If it did, Terra would have… words.
"Well, no matter," Isa replied, shaking his head dismissively. Talking of Scrooge McDuck had started to kill the warm fuzzy feeling that had settled over his shoulders like a warm blanket. "Ducks and harlots aside, we're both employed. Which is something to celebrate. At least now we know we'll be able to afford the next meal . . . you know, it's funny . . . "
He trailed off for a moment, debating whether to overshare. Then, what seemed to happen every time he was around Terra happened, and the words came out before he could stop them. "it's such a simple thing, but I feel quite proud. It's nothing impressive. . . my odd, harmless little job. . . and yet it's so innocent. And oddly wholesome. I even felt the need to tell my . . . " Well, that was an interesting question . . . what was Lea to him, exactly? He paused to think, not noticing how the pause could be construed. ". . . Best friend."
Well, he hoped that's still what Lea was. Their relationship had been broken beyond repair and forced back together with duct tape, but it was something. And he couldn't exactly call him his ex-sort-of-lover-turned-personal-assassin.
Terra had missed a little bit about harlots, not that he fully knew what that word meant anyways. It was probably better than he hadn't noticed.
"It's something to be proud of," Terra said with a soft smile. To be completely honest, he had been nervous for Isa. Isa had kept saying things as if he'd never get to be happy or accomplish anything great. He was glad Isa had been proven wrong to some degree. "I'm proud of you, ya know. For trying. I don't know a lot about you, but I do know you've tried to run from your problems for a long time. I'm… glad that you're willing to face them now. And see? It worked out in your favor. You even got a job from somewhere you didn't expect," he said, "so, yeah, I'm proud of you."
Then something felt… odd at Isa's mention of a best friend. Why did that bother him just a little? It was a good thing that Isa had another friend! Especially someone he considered close. It meant he wasn't completely alone. He had someone else to lean on. That was a good thing. And if that person had encouraged Isa after being told the good news, then it was even better. No need to feel… odd.
I'm proud of you.
Four little words -- they were just four little words. Nothing that should have caused Isa to feel anything. . . key word being should. Never in Isa's life had he been one to obsess or even really care about what others thought of him -- he'd been hated for most of his life, after all, and hadn't thought twice about it.
But for some odd reason, he'd started to care very much . . . and about Terra's opinion, in particular. Those four little words did something to him -- something very odd -- that had his heart momentarily stuttering, brain completely devoid of thought as if short-circuiting. They made him feel, in that moment, that all was right in the world -- no matter what the hell had happened in his past, everything was alright now . . . and it was going to stay that way.
Such intense, positive emotions were still incredibly new to Isa, and he simply didn't know how to handle them. Much to his embarrassment, there was a stinging at the corners of his eyes that he absolutely refused to acknowledge. He tried to discreetly wipe the wetness away, and let out a breathy laugh, only then noticing how long it had been since Terra spoke.
"My apologies --" he breathed, fighting to keep his voice steady. "No one's actually ever said that to me, before. . . "
Terra blinked in surprise at Isa's reaction to his words. He… hadn't expected that. He was just speaking honestly, so why was Isa crying? And that information... No one? Not a single person? Once in his life? That was… awful. Suddenly, he was determined to change that. No one should live their whole life never knowing that someone was proud of you.
"No need to apologize," he said gently while reaching hand over the table to touch Isa's, "I was being honest. But maybe that's something you need to hear more often. Because you're incredible. I don't know everything, but I know you're strong. You have to be to still be trying after so much adversity. That alone is enough to make me proud to call you my friend, and I'm sure your best friend feels the same way."
Despite the way is skin tingled at even the faintest touch of Terra's skin to his own, that last thought was enough to make Isa's smile falter. "I . . . very much hope so," he murmured, glancing to the side. "Yet I doubt it. I wonder sometimes why Lea speaks to me at all, after everything I've done to him . . . there's nothing I can do to make up for it. Though I suppose that shouldn't stop me from trying."
He shook his head and barely resisted the urge to pull his hand away, the touch starting to be too much. Too much . . . and not enough. ". . . Don't pity me, please. All of the adversity I've faced has been of my own creation. While it certainly hasn't been easy, it was my choice. Still, I . . . appreciate your words. Very much. I don't know how on earth you manage to be such an amazing person, but I'm very thankful for it. As should the worlds be. . . whatever you've gone through, well. . . I'm glad you're here."
So his name was Lea. It was clearly someone Isa care about… and had hurt in the past. Yet Isa still seemed to care about him, though it was obvious guilt plagued him. Terra didn't know what Isa could be so guilty about. Part of him was curious. Part of him knew not to ask. He certainly didn't want to ask what he was guilty about.
"I think the fact that he does talk to you means he doesn't hold whatever happened against you. At least, not enough to be mad at you," he said. He frowned for a moment. Ventus wouldn't talk to him… guess that meant he'd messed up pretty badly.
"I don't pity you," he said gently, "I'm impressed by you. There's so much that's happened to you, even if it was your own making, that hurt you. I can tell just by the way you flinch sometimes that something's wrong. And you keep saying stuff like you're not used to basic kindness. I… I want to change that, if only by a little. Because I'm glad you're here too. We could...be there for each other," he said with a small, almost shy, smile.
"It's not a question of whether he does . . . not for me, at least. It's a question of whether he should . . . " He trailed off with a little sigh, choosing to abandon the painful topic in favor of losing himself in Terra's adorable smile. Adorable. . . and comforting, and all that was good in the world. Terra was saying he was glad Isa was still here. . . when Isa wasn't even sure he felt that way himself. There had been many times he'd sat, catatonic, and thought to himself how much better and easier everything would have been if he hadn't recompleted.
Those thoughts didn't have any place in his life anymore. Because he admired Terra -- very much. He'd made a decision to trust him and, to do that, he'd have to trust him in this as well.
". . . Regardless, I'd like that very much . . . if we could be there for each other. It's incredibly wonderful not to be alone anymore. . . even if I'm not used to receiving kindness. I was convinced for quite some time that your own kindness was hiding some ulterior motive. . . I'm afraid I'm not very accustomed to such things."
Terra chuckled and shook his head. He subconsciously ran his thumb over Isa's knuckles for a moment. For some reason, he didn't quite want to let go yet. He smiled almost fondly at Isa. "No ulterior motive here. Unless you count a need for companionship as one. But I enjoy your company," he said.
He glanced around the restaurant and ran his other hand through his hair. "We should probably get going. We have something to celebrate tonight, after all," he said, "you're done, right? I was thinking we could walk around town a bit before going home. Then I could maybe help you cook something? After breakfast this morning, I'm eager to try more of your cooking."
Terra had to know what he was doing -- right?
A sudden surge of paranoid panic ran through Isa for a moment, whispering treacherous thoughts, suggesting that everything Terra was doing was to mess with his heart. If that were ever proven to be true, Isa simply wouldn't be able to take it.
After all of this -- after the way his heart nearly stopped beating at the stroke to his knuckles -- he didn't think he'd ever recover from that kind of shock.
No -- no, it couldn't be the case. Terra wasn't like that. Isa had to believe that, at least until otherwise proven. Forcing those awful thoughts aside, he nodded and made to clean up his plate. "Yes -- I like that plan. Very much. A tour of the city, then?"
He stood and, unthinkingly, offered Terra a hand, flashing a brief but brilliant smile.
Terra blinked in surprise at Isa's offered hand. It was almost like what he had done for Isa days ago… that had been ignored. But here Isa was doing it for him. He smiled brightly and took Isa's hand. Standing, he didn't let go.
"Sounds great to me. You know this place better, so lead the way," he said with a bright smile after cleaning up his trash.
Chapter 14: Stuffed
Happy Holidays! Here's our gift to you!
Isa certainly hadn't been expecting Terra to keep hold of his hand after he'd helped him up. Then again, Isa hadn't been expecting a lot of things Terra had done in their relatively brief time together. He wasn't sure why exactly Terra was continuing to hold his hand, and it kept him trapped still on that border of far too much and not enough.
Still, he didn't complain. . . if only because complaining would draw attention to the weirdness of what they were doing. Still, there was very likely an ulterior motive that kept his hand in place, even holding Terra's back. He felt funny, warm and content despite the growing feeling of longing in his chest.
And lead the way, he did. Through peaceful streets, shaded and lit by the soft glow of lanterns. Past and sometimes into little shops, selling all manner of homemade trinkets. Though Isa had a general lay of the land, he hadn't known specifics. Hadn't known the level of beauty he'd be faced with when he actually took the time to slow down and explore.
Of course, maybe everything just seemed brighter because of the company he kept. Or maybe it was the new outlook on life he was growing. . . perhaps both.
Either way, he didn't notice the occasional odd look they received. He was far too busy letting himself enjoy the moment. . . something he'd finally started to learn how to do.
If there was one thing Terra wished he had had more time to do as a Keyblade apprentice, it was exploring all the worlds he had gotten to visit. Each world was unique and vibrant, but he'd always been rushing through them, more focused on enemies and searching for someone. He had been running out of time without even realizing it, yet he had rushed like he had known his fate.
But here? He could walk slowly, look around, be here. This world was so beautiful. The various rising and falling paths. The vibrant plant life that surrounded them. The tall uniform buildings, all soft neutral colors. The beautiful sunset sky. The light that made everything look softer. The light that smoothed the sharp edges of Isa's face into a peaceful expression. The gentle smile on Isa's face. The almost calm contentment in Isa’s eyes.
He didn't realize at which point he stopped looking around the city and started looking at Isa instead. Never once did he let go of Isa's hand. He didn't want to. They had been talking the whole walk, pointing out things they found interesting or noteworthy for any reason, but when they had fallen into a relaxed silence, that's when Terra found he couldn't quite look away from Isa. He didn't think he wanted to, either.
Eventually, he did notice it was starting to get dark, and an idea dawned upon him.
"Hey, let's head back and get dinner. Then… if you're up to it… let's look at the stars together," he said while still staring at Isa as he walked. It had been so long since he'd stargazed. He missed it. And maybe part of him wanted to have that memory with Isa, so he wouldn't have to think of only Aqua and Ventus everytime. He wanted to share this with Isa.
The warm fuzzy feeling had grown, spreading throughout every fiber of Isa's being. He'd found himself lulled into a calm that was very rarely achieved for him, and certainly hadn't been in quite a long time. He felt. . . happy. Completely happy and content, at least for the moment, and hopeful that things would stay that way.
He felt at home.
Terra's suggestion had him smiling, only then realizing how late it was getting, and he nodded in agreement. "Yes, certainly. . .I'd like that very much."
He already had a recipe planned, which hopefully wouldn't take too long to cook. And the thought of looking at the stars with Terra at his side was absolutely wonderful . . . though he was starting to think he'd like doing anything as long as they were together. What the hell did that mean?
There was also that part of him, as they walked home, that wondered if Terra was actually . . . no, there's no way that was the case. He was simply the sweetest man on the face of the planet. There was no way in hell he'd ever intend to . . .
Well, date him.
Still, Isa refused to let himself dwell on those thoughts as they arrived home and settled down before making their way to the kitchen. "Care to help me out?" he asked softly, knowing perfectly well he was capable of doing this on his own, but reluctant to give up Terra's company. It was odd, really . . . how he suddenly didn't want to be alone anymore.
After receiving such an answer, Terra was nearly bouncing with excitement. He was ready to dig into some of Isa's phenomenal cooking, and then they were going to stargaze together! It was perfect. The plan for a perfect night. Just the two of them. Why did that thought make him so excited?
He followed Isa into the kitchen, slipping his shoes off and dropping the clothing bag by the door. He'd pick them up later. "You want my help?" he asked, a little surprised, before smiling, "I'd love to. Though, I gotta warn you, I'm really not the best at cooking."
He moved to stand directly beside Isa, maybe a little closer than most people would stand. "What do I need to do?"
The proximity ordinarily would have bothered Isa, but he was starting to find he'd grown used to Terra's instinct to stay close. And, considering how he felt about the man, Isa didn't really mind. Instead, he chuckled, and nudged the other man with his elbow as he started gathering ingredients.
"I'm making stuffed mushrooms -- it's relatively simple to make with the kind we've bought, and I think you'll find it enjoyable. I hope so, at least -- Now, find me a large bowl and a mixing spoon while I start measuring things. Where'd I put the thyme. . . "
Terra smiled brightly. "That sounds wonderful," he said before immediately starting to dig through the cabinets for the desired objects. He set them on the counter as he found them. Stuffed mushrooms sounded… really good.
When had the last time he'd helped with a meal been? Before coming here, Aqua took care of all the cooking for both him and Ventus. He knew that was because she needed to keep busy and make sure they were ok, but he still often wanted to help. And before everything happened, Eraqus had learned Terra was a safety hazard in the kitchen. So… it hasn't been since he was a child. Perhaps ten, helping Eraqus mix things while Eraqus did everything with the oven. Terra hadn't realized how much he'd missed cooking with someone. It felt special to do this with Isa. Working together to make something for them both to enjoy.
"Excellent, thank you," Isa replied happily as he laid out the ingredients out on the counter. He hadn't actually had anyone help him cook before, and he wasn't yet sure how to manage. Part of him hadn't actually expected Terra to agree to help. . .
Isa recognized that part of himself was an idiot. "Here, I'll measure while you mix things together? Is that alright?" he asked when he finally got everything laid out, including the missing thyme.
Terra beamed while setting up his own spot with the mixing bowl. "Of course," he said while stretching his arms, "after all, you're the chef. I don't know how to do this stuff, but I can move my arms in circles for long periods of time." He laughed a bit at the end. Stirring was simple and had that tinge of nostalgia that made him happy to do it. And hopefully now that he was a good bit taller than the counter, he would manage not to spill it on himself.
Isa chuckled in response, light but entirely genuine, and started measuring ingredients into Terra's bowl. Cheese, thyme, oil, various other seasonings. . . a second and third kind of cheese. . . green onions, snipped from the stalk . . .
"There we are, go ahead and start," he murmured, once they were all together. "Thank you -- now I'll cut the mushrooms and get them ready to fill while you stir."
To be perfectly honest, Terra didn't recognize most of what Isa was putting together. He had never known much about spices and such, but he trusted that Isa knew what he was doing. So he did as instructed, leaning over slightly to focus. He maybe stirred a little too fast, resulting in a small amount splashing up on his face. He let out a small gasp of surprise before chuckling sheepishly. "Oops," he said with a smile, slightly embarrassed.
Even when he was screwing up, Terra managed to do it adorably.
It simply wasn't fair.
Isa made an odd snorting noise and moved closer to the other man, licking his own thumb and using it to wipe away the little spill before he could contain himself. "Careful," he scolded, gently. "Or we won't have any left for dinner."
First there was that sound, it was… oddly cute, and then suddenly Isa was touching his face. Could Isa also hear that loud beating or was that just him? Terra was stunned for a moment. Briefly, he had a thought of leaning into the touch, perhaps even trying for more, but he quickly shoved that away. That would just make Isa uncomfortable, wouldn't it? Even though Isa was initiating this?
So, he didn't move, but his face felt hot under the touch of Isa's cool fingers. Really hot.
"S-sorry," he stuttered as Isa touched his face, "guess I got a bit overzealous." He chuckled a little. A very quiet part of him debated whether or not it would be suspicious to "accidentally" spill something else on his face.
Finally realizing what he'd done, Isa flushed a bit, but continued to smile as he retracted his fingers. "No, it's alright -- think nothing of it. As much as I abhor messes, the kitchen is one place where I suppose they're inevitable."
There was a part of him that almost wished Terra would make another mess -- this one to be cleaned with Isa's tongue. He chose not to think about that and, instead, made a show of laying out the mushrooms in a skillet.
"Alright -- when you're done mixing, simply put a spoonful in each cap."
The slight tint on Terra's face never left as he turned back to his task. Neither did the soft smile.
"Yeah, messes happen while cooking," he said, briefly recalling the time as a child he'd completely dumped a bag of flour over himself, Aqua, and Eraqus, "luckily, you seem to know how to clean it. I'll just need to learn the same way."
He set back to stirring, slower now. Once he deemed it thoroughly mixed, he started trying to spoon it into the mushrooms as instructed. It wasn't pretty nor consistent, but he was sure it would be alright. After all, they'd still taste good since Isa made it.
"What next, chef?" he said, a little playful.
Though the tone of Terra's voice had Isa wanting to suggest significantly less innocent activities than cooking should come next, he managed to contain himself. His eye was twitching just slightly at the manner in which Terra had stuffed the mushrooms -- a good deal sloppier than Isa would have done, after all -- but Terra looked so proud and happy that he simply couldn't complain.
"I'm going to wrap them in tin foil," he indicated the material they were laid out on, "And grill them in the skillet. Unless you'd prefer them baked? Help me wrap them, kindly, and we'll continue."
"I don't really know enough to have a preference, so whichever you think is best," he said while setting to work.
It was fairly easy to wrap the things in tin foil. Plus, there was the bonus of standing closer to Isa to do so. He didn't know why, but Isa's very presence was starting to bring a familiar sort of happiness. As if they'd been friends for far longer than they actually had. It was honestly a nice feeling. And he was sure the more he learned about Isa, the more this feeling would grow.
Rather quickly, the mushrooms were wrapped in foil and cooking, Isa monitoring them and every so often adjusting one in the pan. He supposed it had gone a bit faster and easier with Terra's help . . . not to mention he had the pleasure of seeing that smile. . .
He didn't realize, not really, but he'd started to crave and seek Terra's presence. Mostly unconsciously, he moved closer, and actually found himself leaning on the other ever so slightly as he lost himself in cooking.
Terra had been watching in a content silence, the ambient noise of cooking having been enough to keep the shadows in his mind far away. Plus, Isa was here. Right here. Leaning on him. Maybe it should have surprised Terra, but it… was starting to become familiar and comfortable. It seemed like that was the case for Isa too. Why else would he have been the one to initiate it?
Slowly, some part of him a little worried Isa would change his mind, he wrapped his arms around Isa's waist, leaning back into him slightly. His head rested against Isa's as he continued to watch Isa cook. He didn't say anything. He didn't feel like he needed to. Something about this filled him with a content happiness that he just couldn't explain. He'd worry about it later.
Isa had always been scolded for touching people. Never hugged. . . nor held. . . or even a little hair ruffle, the entire time he was growing up.
Then he had grown up, and he'd been averse to it. Scorned it, even. . . he'd have never thought he'd ever find himself in a moment like this one. Yet, here he was. . .
. . . leaning into the touch, not stiffening at all. It was still incredibly tingly . . . a bit overwhelming. . . and yet, it was incredible. Warm. Human. And that's what they were, weren't they? Beautifully -- perfectly -- just human.
He knew the touch didn't mean what he hoped it did. He knew Terra was simply a cuddly person. . . touch seeking in the way that Isa had been averse. Still, that didn't stop him from enjoying it, even nuzzling Terra's shoulder slightly as he finished the dish.
" . . . They're ready."
Terra didn't even fully realize the depth of what he was doing. Even growing up in a far more affectionate household than Isa, this was far more intimate than he'd ever held someone before. And… he didn't want to let go, not even to eat. That was a new, odd feeling. To want to hold someone more anything else.
But he knew he needed to.
Hesitantly, he loosened his hold but didn't let go completely.
"Already? That was quick," he said while he pressed his head a little more into the side of Isa's, "it smells really good." To be perfectly honest, he mostly smelled Isa, but that was also a pleasant scent… for some reason.
"As I said, it's a simple dish," Isa answered, just as simply, as he shifted a bit to try to fix plates. He distantly noted an intense urge that had suddenly come over him to lean backwards and kiss Terra's temple. "Now, come on . . . to the table. Before we miss the best stars."
As he spoke, he gathered the plates in his hands and gently nudged Terra's belly with his elbow, prompting him to move but not necessarily pull away.
Why. . . why didn't he want to separate? Why was it getting harder and harder to ignore the urges that were begging him to press his lips to the other man's skin?
Terra's hands more or less rested on Isa's stomach as they moved around. He was gonna have to let go eventually. They needed to sit down and eat before they could go outside. But he didn't quite let go yet.
Once they got to the table, he tried not to sigh while giving Isa one tight squeeze. He let go and sat down.
"Well, knowing you, it'll taste amazing no matter how simple it is," he said while looking at Isa with a fond smile.
Not sure if the flush on his face was from the lingering squeezes or the comment, Isa only smiled and settled himself down at the table as well. He could still feel Terra's hands on his skin, like a lingering ghost. The places where he'd touched felt almost. . . . cold.
Still, the mushrooms were warm, and Isa didn't even care that he didn't like them. He was smiling as he pulled out a bit of filling and took a small bite. ". . . You flatter me," he murmured. "Just -- eat your dinner, silly man."
Terra stared at Isa's smile far longer than he probably should have, but he snapped out of it when Isa spoke. He smiled for a moment before digging into his meal. It was… incredible. He couldn't remember the last time he'd eaten something he liked this much, much less one he had helped make.
He somehow managed to restrain himself from scarfing it down as fast as he possibly could and savored it. "I love this," he said between bites, "even if you think it's simple, I think it's amazing." Despite trying to take his time eating, he barely came up to breathe.
Isa chuckled, continuing to pick the filling out of his own mushroom. "I'm very glad you like it. . . don't feel the need to inhale it like it's going to run away. There's always more."
It filled him with an incredible sense of pride that Terra enjoyed his food. . . though he wondered if it was even physically possible for him to make something that Terra wouldn't like. He certainly never wanted to . . . hell, he'd cook for him every day for the rest of his life if it meant he got to see that smile. . .
He'd quickly finished what he wanted of his own dinner, and didn't realize he'd continued watching Terra with soft eyes and a heart that felt unusually full.
Terra knew that the longer he took, the longer he had to wait to see the stars with Isa. But he couldn't help it. The meal had been too go to be over . So he got up and got the small remainder of food before quickly digging into it. Despite wanting to go see the stars immediately, he really couldn't help but sit back and enjoy what he was eating.
Once he finished his second round, he stood and cleared his plate. "Sorry, I just couldn't help myself," he said with a smile, "are you ready to go? We can get to the roof I think."
"Yes, I'm ready," Isa answered softly, having already cleaned his own plate while Terra had been finishing. "Though I'm afraid I must rely on you to show me the way. I haven't exactly spent a great deal of time analyzing the apartment."
He rolled his shoulders, heart suddenly oddly aflutter, and had to remind himself this wasn't -- well, a date. Whatever it was, though, Isa was fine with it. He was happy, he loved the stars, the night sky, and he loved T-- . . .
the thought of doing this with his roommate.
Chapter 15: Sky Full of Stars
Terra smiled at Isa for a moment, kind of zoning out till he'd realized Isa had spoken. "Oh, well, I saw stairs and a sign mentioned a roof, so I figured at the top of the stairs would be the roof," he said with a sheepish look.
He opened the door and led the way. "I'm not sure which stars we'll see but there's a lot I might recognize. Part of training was studying star charts so we could navigate between worlds."
"Yes, I -- oh, hold on a moment. It's a bit chilly," Yes, that was certainly the motivation for Isa running back to grab a blanket, and not at all that he wanted an excuse to sit close to Terra underneath it. Hearts, what the hell was wrong with him?
"Sorry, yes -- alright," Isa smiled when he returned with the blanket, a little, genuinely happy one. "I'm quite fond of the stars, myself. I studied constellations and the lunar cycle as a child. . . purely out of curiosity, then later as a way to learn to manage my powers. . . it's always fascinated me. But I don't exactly have any sort of formal learning, only book reading. . .I'm quite excited to see what you know."
He actually looked a bit excited, eyes alight with an oddly innocent curiosity that was unfamiliar to his affect.
Bringing a blanket was smart. Terra wished he'd thought of that. If for no other reason than to bring back that odd but pleasant feeling he'd had earlier. The cold didn't often bother him, after all. He nodded.
"Smart plan. Definitely don't want to get sick with work tomorrow," he said before listening to Isa speak. It was kind of… cute how excited he seemed.
"It's been a while so I might not remember everything. I just hope I remember the most important thing," he said. He found the door to the roof and opened it. Luckily, the skies were clear tonight. It was perfect. And. . . maybe it was a little chilly.
It really had gotten dark while they were eating. . . It was beautiful. Isa followed Terra onto the roof, letting out a content sigh into the evening air. He turned his head towards the moon, allowing its light to grace over his skin, and visibly relaxed, expression softening and face appearing to grow younger.
After a moment, he opened his eyes again, but continued to stare lovingly at the moon. "Waning Gibbous . . . there'll be a full moon upon us, soon."
He then looked back towards Terra, and his expression didn't change. "Sorry . . . what's the most important thing?" He asked, then started to lay out the blanket. All the while, the moonlight lulled him into an odd feeling, both calm and oddly wired. He felt ready for anything in the entire world. . .but also content to stay right there, in that moment, forever.
Of course . . . maybe it wasn't just the moon promoting those feelings.
Terra stared at Isa fondly. He looked so relaxed and content... So handsome and happy. He must really love the moon and stars. Terra could understand why. It was a beautiful night.
He sat on the blanket and looked around.
"It's something Eraqus showed me when I was little. He took me to a different world to see the star that was truly our home," he gestured for Isa to sit beside him, "he taught me a trick how to find it too. Want to see?" He held a hand out for Isa to take.
It was funny, really . . . Isa never stopped to question his response. For once, just now, at this moment, there was no hesitation as Isa took Terra's hand and nodded, reserved but enthusiastic.
"Yes, of course --" he murmured, settling himself down on the blanket next to the other's side.
Unable to resist, he leaned closer to the other man than he'd ever thought he would, shoulders touching and hands still together. "Please. . . show me your world."
Terra smiled at Isa for a moment before turning towards the night sky. He looked around, searching for that one particular constellation. He smiled brightly when he found it. Gently, he raised their joined hands, shifting so Isa's hand rested on top of his.
"See this constellation here? That sort of looks like a three pointed crown?" he asked while sticking out his pointer finger to trace it slowly, "if we go to the tip of the middle point then extend your pinky like this," he stuck out his point at a small angle then tilted his hand slightly, "it ends up pointing straight at the Land of Departure."
Just like Eraqus had taught him. His hands were much bigger now than they were when he learned, but he still knew how to do it. The Land of Departure always looked a little dimmer than it used to, but that was probably just from growing up. Everything lost that perfect shine eventually. Yet, the Land of Departure was still a bright star against the black sky.
Isa follows Terra's instructions to a T, copying the movements of his hand to locate the little star and looking up it fondly when he thought he'd found it.
"There?" He extended his pinky in the same fashion, hoping he'd done so correctly. "The Land of Departure. . . it sounds lovely. It looks lovely, too, of course. . . all of them do. All the little worlds. . . still, to know that that's your home. . . It must feel comforting. To always know where you are. . . where your home is."
He was honestly touched beyond measure that Terra had shared this with him and found that his chest was doing the funny thing again.
"Yeah," Terra said when Isa located the star himself. He grabbed the corner of the blanket and put it around his far shoulder. It was actually a little chilly, but with the blanket and Isa , there wouldn't be a problem. He smiled and kept his gaze on the star.
"It is comforting. I always know my way back," he said with a nostalgic tone that was slightly tinged with longing, "Maybe one day, I'll take you there and show you. I don't think I could do that right now, but it's a beautiful world. Courtyards, libraries, grand halls. A castle meant for training defenders of light. But it was always something else to me. I grew up there, since I was three, I believe. Didn't have anywhere else to go, so Eraqus took me in both to raise and train me. Let me tell you, it's easy to get lost in such a large place as a child. But Eraqus always found me. Always."
This was Terra's home, but he didn't think he could go back there? That was interesting, to say the least. . . not that Isa hadn't already gathered that from the fact that Terra was here with him and not home where he belonged. It was different, however, to hear the information from Terra's own mouth, and he filed it away. There was no use ruining such a perfect moment with hard questions, after all. . . though he did eventually want to know.
He wanted to know anything Terra was willing to share with him, and listened intently to his words. "That sounds incredible," he murmured, shifting just the slightest bit closer. "This Eraqus sounds like a kind man. . . for taking you in and caring for you so kindly. I'd love to see your world one day, if given the chance."
"He was," Terra said softly with a small smile, "everything I am came from him. My training, my loyalty, heh, even my clothes. All things he taught or gave me." His eyes turned sad for a moment. "I miss him.." he muttered before shaking his head. No, he wasn't going to dwell on that right now. Right now he was in Twilight Town, with Isa, looking at the stars. Nothing else was important.
"I'd love to show you. There's one hill near the castle that's perfect for viewing the stars. Sometimes here's even meteor showers. It's really a beautiful sight," he said, a gentle smile returning to his face. He leaned slightly towards Isa, wanting a small bit of warmth.
So this person, who not only sounded important to Terra but was actually a parental figure, wasn't with him anymore. Isa couldn't imagine how that felt. Hell, he'd felt nothing but relief, himself, when he was finally separated from his own parents. He wanted to ask what had happened to Eraqus, but knew that was far too much. Terra was trusting him with enough information, already, and the last thing he wanted to do was fuck up their budding relationship by delving into painful memories.
"It sounds beautiful . . . very lovely," Isa returned the smile with one of his own, if a great deal more reserved. Tentatively, he reached an arm around Terra's back to rest gently on his opposite shoulder. "And for what it's worth, you're allowed to miss him. It sounds to me as if Eraqus raised a very strong, kind person. . .and I'm certain he'd be proud of you if he saw you today."
It was a relief that Isa didn't ask further about Eraqus. He couldn't do that… not yet. It was hard enough to really accept he was dead . Much less the circumstances that led to that. And the touch to his shoulder was comforting. But it was what Isa said that got him. Proud of him? Hearts, he hoped so. But there was no way of knowing now. And who would be proud of their murderer? He pushed that thought aside and tried to believe what Isa said. He desperately wanted to.
"Thank you, Isa," he said softly while scooting a small bit closer to him, "What about you? Do you know where your home is?" He wanted to change the subject. As much as he could talk about the Land of Departure for hours with various happy stories, all of it would be tinged with a small bit of mourning. A mourning he couldn't allow himself. A murder doesn't mourn their victim.
"I must confess I never learned," Isa answered quietly. "Odd, I suppose, considering how much I love the sky. But I've never really felt any loyalty to my world of origin. . . to be quite honest with you, I don't even really consider it my home."
He sighed, tilting his head back to look at the stars. "For me, I suppose the stars are less of a reminder of home and more. . . proof that there's more to life than where we currently are. In the moments where I felt the most trapped and hopeless, the stars have been there. . . space is large, and vast, and incredible, and I find the thought of all of that possibility extremely comforting. Space is infinite. . . and eternal. . . and cares not for us, nor our struggles. It simply exists, and I find that beautiful. I envy it, almost."
He wondered now, looking up and praising the stars, how he'd ever managed to live with himself as he caused them to blink out.
Terra found himself no longer looking at the stars as Isa spoke. He stared at Isa with an odd mix of awe and curiosity. Isa had really put a lot of thought into this. It was like poetry how he spoke, and there was a clear feeling behind each word. Part of him wondered what kind of life Isa had had to see the stars this way. Such a beautiful, deep way. And if Isa didn't consider where he came from as a home… did that mean he didn't have one? Isa had agreed to try to find a home… here with Terra. That fact was suddenly much more special to him. Isa wanted to try here with him when before he had had nothing.
Suddenly, he remembered a scene from an old book he had read as a teenager. It had been a cliche fantasy story, with dragons and knights and princesses. But there was one part that was coming to the forefront of his mind. The two main characters, both young aspiring knights, had also been staring at the stars. One had tried to teach the other how to know which was which, holding his hand while guiding it along the constellations. Then the other mentioned loving stars, not unlike how Isa had now. It wasn't much longer that the two had been leaning closer to each other till they finally ki-
And then Terra realized that he, himself, had been leaning his face closer to Isa's. He froze immediately, face flushing slightly. What was he about to do? Quickly thinking of some sort of subtle solution, he turned his face away and gently nudged Isa with his shoulder.
"That's such a beautiful way to think about it," he said, maybe a little timid now, "I'd never thought of it that way before." The stars had always been a reminder of other worlds. Other worlds he would one day protect as a keyblade master.
Isa had been so temporarily distracted by his thoughts, lost and captivated by the moon and stars, that he hadn't noticed Terra shifting closer until he was right beside him. When he did, every faculty of his came to a crashing halt, head turning and almost bringing their lips together. . .
Then Terra had pulled away, and he found himself reeling with shock and confusion, lips tingling even though they'd never actually touched. Had Terra really been about to . . . ? No, certainly not. He'd pulled away, after all, he'd simply leaned too close. . . or something. Isa couldn't think very logically at the moment. There was a visible change in Terra's mood, now -- one Isa desperately hoped he hadn't caused.
"Oh, um -- well thank you," He breathed out, trying to get his mind working again even as his heart hammered in his chest. "Though your way of seeing them is no less beautiful, I assure you . . . "
Terra finally decided the least awkward thing to do was to rest his head on Isa's shoulder. He kind of had to slump a little since he was a bit taller, but he didn't mind. He… wanted to be this close. He'd overanalyze what he almost did later. Besides, they'd already technically… done that, even if Isa wanted to act like it never happened. Part of him still wanted an explanation, but he could ignore that for now.
"You know, we could go out one day and explore. There's so many different worlds. Some I bet neither of us have ever seen," he said, trying to talk softly while still hearing himself over his suddenly loud heartbeat, "I'd love to discover them with you."
It was almost an actual honor to have Terra resting his head on his shoulder. Isa was afraid he'd shift, or say the wrong thing, and cause the other man to pull away. This was all too perfect. . .too peaceful . . . too soft and calm and just right.
Even if they weren't what he wanted to be. . . it was enough, just to be here, like this.
". . . I'd like that," he murmured, shifting to nuzzle his face in Terra's hair and inhale an all-too familiar scent. Hmm. . . Terra never had gotten his own shampoo, had he? Instead of bringing anger, the realization brought Isa an odd sense of calm and satisfaction. He liked that Terra smelled like that. . . like him, his favorite, most calming scents.
"There are so many places I've only read about in reports. . . but never seen. And even if I had, it would have been with the intent to bring destruction. . . I would very much like to have the chance to just. . . visit and explore. To just live. "
Hearts, Terra would be content if he never moved from this spot again. It felt so safe and warm right here. With Isa. He didn't know if that meant something more than he realized or not, but right now, he didn't care. This was a pleasant feeling. And he wanted to enjoy it as long as possible. So he nuzzled a little closer, the arm behind Isa's back almost wrapping around Isa but still supporting Terra's weight. Then he grabbed the corner of the blanket around Isa and pulled it a little closer to the center. It looked like he was just holding the blanket closer due to the chill, but he actually had wanted to hold Isa a little more. That had seemed the more subtle way.
"The only other places I've been I ended up fighting at every turn. So, I get the feeling. We could just be observers, visitors," he said with a soft smile, "the two of us simply enjoying the beauty of a world."
"That sounds lovely . . . " Isa murmured, eyes drifting shut against his will. His heart had lurched as Terra had held him closer, and it was only the realization that he'd only been going for the blanket that had kept his mind from completely blanking.
Regardless of motive. . . it was wonderful. He was starting to get used to the touches. . . more than just used to, in fact. He was starting to crave them. . . and perhaps he was using Terra a bit, to satisfy those cravings, but Terra didn't seem to mind. He seemed to need the touch just as much as Isa did. . . even if it was for an entirely different reason.
"Though, so is this. . . everything's so peaceful now. Just observers. . . is that ok? To just exist . . . just like the stars.
Terra closed his eyes and pulled himself a little closer to Isa. This was so peaceful, so relaxed. It was just the two of them enjoying the stars. No enemies. No worries. He smiled softly.
"I think so," he said, "So much has happened in the past that I think we deserve a little break. Maybe even a long break. And I'd love to spend it just like this."
For some reason, he wanted to end that sentence with "with you". But he didn't.
Unbeknownst to Terra, Isa was thinking the same thing. He'd love nothing more than to spend every single moment just like this. . . he could even care less where they were. As long as they were together, he thought anywhere would. . .
. . . well, anywhere would be home.
He didn't say anything. . . he didn't have any words. Honestly, he didn't think he needed any. Instead, he lifted the hand he'd had on Terra's shoulder to start running through his hair, wondering distantly if it would turn him away. At the same time, he started to hum, a familiar but ultimately unknown melody. Eyes closed, mind and heart wide open, he lost himself in that melody and in the feeling of Terra in his arms, moonlight bathing them in serenity.
And he simply existed.
Terra hadn't realized how tired he was until he felt a gentle hand in his hair and heard that soft humming. He'd already been relaxed, but all this made him yawn and shift to be a little more comfortable. And he was comfortable, even sitting up on a hard roof, he was content and comfortable on Isa's shoulder. He briefly tried to hum along with Isa, but, without knowing the melody, it didn't sound quite right. But he didn't mind. He dozed off before he could think about it too much anyways.
It took a moment for Isa to realize that Terra had fallen asleep. It took even longer for him to muster the will to move. But it was getting cold outside, and he couldn't have the other man sleeping on the roof of all things. . . even though Isa himself would have been perfectly willing to do so.
It was true that Isa had lost some bulk following recompletion, but he was pleased to find that he could still lift Terra rather easily into his arms. Bridal style, blanket carefully tucked around him, he carried his roommate back down the stairs into the apartment and to their bed, where he took great care in removing his shoes and tucking him in, all the while hoping that Terra stayed asleep. He deserved to rest, after all . . .
Isa then quickly undressed and changed before climbing into his own side of the bed and settling down next to the other man, and eventually closer to his side. His front facing Terra's back, he dared to wrap an arm around the other's waist and hold him close. Now, he could hold him. . . who knew for how long. But in this moment, he could, and it was alright and safe. So long as Terra didn't wake up and push him away, of course.
But Isa was starting to think Terra would have done so by now, if he had any intention to. He'd done nothing but seek out touch, after all . . .
Pushing complicated, paranoid thoughts aside, Isa nuzzled into Terra's back and drifted off, himself.
Chapter 16: Into the Night
Usually the nightmares only came after something bad had happened to cause Isa significant distress.
This time wasn't like that. No -- this time, the nightmare came to prey on Isa because he was simply too happy. Having felt so secure and oddly content, his mind simply couldn't bear it, and had taken it upon itself to remind him of all the reasons he was unworthy of that happiness.
Nothing in particular had happened in the nightmare. It was only a memory of his past. . . those cold, dark days in the organization. He felt hollow. . . cold, angry, and seeing those loathing looks from other members every moment. Working towards destruction. . . days a mass of bitterness and an awful, festering anger that he knew he could never allow to break.
In this dream, it was his reality that had been fake. A brief moment of hope interrupting days of living hell. . . everything he'd grown happy to have suddenly torn from him in one awful moment of waking. It had been enough to bring him to tears. . . or, it would have if he'd had a heart.
And oh, how he longed for his heart. . . a heart he'd foolishly thought he'd earned back. Why on earth would he ever have believed he'd be lucky enough to have such a thing? No. He was empty, bitter and cruel. That was his lot in this life, and it always would be.
It was a cold, empty fear that this nightmare brought. Nothing that sent him gasping for air and into blessed reality. Still, when he looked into the mirror in that terrible dream and saw his own golden eyes, Isa's own snapped open in the real world.
In bed -- with Terra, exactly as he'd fallen asleep.
But Isa didn't notice, for he hadn't fully awoken. His heart and mind remained trapped in that awful, hollow fear, and he hadn't achieved anything close to complete consciousness. All he knew was that he had to leave -- he wouldn't be back here, in that cursed castle. He wouldn't -- couldn't -- do that anymore. He'd find a way out, even if it killed him.
It was with those desperate thoughts that a dead-eyed Isa rose from his bed, not seeing anything around him, and stumbled out of the bedroom. He had to get away -- he wasn't a tool anymore -- not a weapon. He wasn't cruel, or evil -- no, no, he wouldn't be. He refused.
He'd found the door and tore off into the night, not knowing where he was going but fully intending to go somewhere, anywhere where he didn't have to be a monster. Where he didn't have to feel this awful, numbing pain.
And perhaps he actually would have gotten somewhere, had he been aware of his surroundings. Then again, if he’d been aware of his surroundings he never would have left in the first place. As it was, he tripped and fell over a paving stone on the pathway leading up to their apartment, and let out a pained cry as he crashed to the ground, leg twisted beneath him and silent tears falling from hollow eyes.
Meanwhile, Terra had been sleeping peacefully. No nightmares. No problems at all. He couldn't remember the last time he'd really slept this well . Everything felt warm and content.
Until it didn't.
Something was suddenly missing. He didn't know what, but it roused him from sleep. He looked around, dazed and confused. When had he gotten to his bed? Hadn't they been on the roof? And then a truly terrible thought passed his mind.
Where was Isa?
Had he finally done it? Had he made Isa uncomfortable, and Isa had finally left? Had he been too forward? Had he been too pushy? What if Isa had just said things to be nice but had actually wanted to leave? Terra couldn't be alone. He couldn't. Maybe Isa was nearby still. Maybe Terra could convince him to stay.
He nearly jumped out of the bed and rush searched the apartment. Isa wasn't here. Anywhere. He'd left. He'd actually left. Terra couldn't believe it. No, he wasn't going to give up. Maybe Isa just… took a late night walk? Or they left the blanket on the roof and Isa had gone to get it? Regardless, Terra rushed out of the apartment. He didn't even slip his shoes on before running out.
He saw Isa on the ground immediately. After a moment of relief that he had found Isa, he noticed his leg, in a position legs certainly should not be.
"Isa!" he exclaimed while immediately dropping to the ground beside him, "Isa, are you ok!?"
That name. . .
Was that his name. . . ? He didn't think he'd heard that in years, aside from the occasional painful taunt.
And what was that voice . . . ? He didn't know that voice -- did he --?
Isa blinked, bodily eerily still despite the pain shooting up from his ankle, and lifted his blank expression to meet Terra's eyes. Those eyes. . . so familiar. . . so warm.
He didn't know who this was, or where he was, but he knew that sort of warmth had no place in his life. He didn't deserve it. He'd only hurt it.
"You should go," he muttered in a cold, monotone voice that was only a quiet whisper. His eyes were unfocused, still dripping tears. "Go before I . . . hurt you . . . I don't want to hurt anyone else."
He was very far from his right mind and, despite a near desperate urge to collapse into this stranger's arms, he wouldn't allow himself to be around someone he'd only bring pain to.
Terra looked confused. What was Isa talking about? Why didn't he look quite like himself? It was the eyes. They looked hollow and broken. Not to mention Isa was crying. Gently, he pulled Isa into a sitting position and held his shoulders.
"What are you saying? You're not going to hurt me. Come on," he said gently, "Let's go back to bed, Isa." He could tell Isa's ankle was messed up. He'd probably have to carry him.
There wasn't any fight left in a single part of Isa's body. Although he gave no sign of agreement to do as Terra said, he also made no move to resist as his position was changed. Instead, head hanging limply, he simply stared at the ground in front of him with that same vacant expression.
"I can't go back . . . " he whispered, an odd note to his voice of something uncharacteristically pitiful. "Please. . . don't take me back to the castle. I can't do it anymore. I don't want to be a monster."
Terra was only getting more confused and more concerned. What castle? Suddenly, his head hurt. White walls. Black coats. Yellow eyes. He put a hand to his head to push it away. Now was not the time.
"We're not going to any castle," he said slowly, "we're in Twilight Town." He wasn't sure how much what he was saying would help. Isa's ankle looked like it was in bad shape, and Isa was clearly not thinking straight. Was he still in some nightmare? That seemed like the only logical explanation.
So the only thing he could do was carry him back. Gently, he picked Isa up bridal style and started walking back towards their room.
Any other time, Isa would have protested greatly at the lack of dignity and independence. As it was, he simply didn't have the energy or conviction to fight, and simply hung like a ragdoll in Terra's arms, head lolling almost bonelessly against his shoulder.
He didn't have energy for words, either, and still wasn't entirely certain where he was. So he retreated, deep within himself, and allowed himself to be transported with half-lidded eyes and a vacant affect.
What was the point. . . of anything, really? The only thing that awaited was pain. Isa had learned that long ago. There was no point in fighting. . . .or running. . .whatever was going to happen would happen, and Isa had no choice but to allow it to be so.
Terra held Isa a bit tightly. He didn't know what was going through Isa's mind, but it clearly wasn't anything good. Maybe it had to do with his scar, or that "seeker of darkness" thing he had called himself. What had happened? What could have possibly happened? Part of him was almost scared to know.
"It's ok, Isa," he whispered gently as he somehow managed to get back in the apartment while holding Isa in his arms, "you're ok..."
Carefully, probably the most careful he'd ever been in his life, he put Isa on the bed. He checked Isa for any other injury before turning to the twisted ankle.
"Can.. can you move your foot?" he asked, looking at Isa for any sort of response.
Isa blinked as he was sat down, remaining sitting through pure force of will -- or at least, some remnant of it that was hanging by a thread. Terra's voice sounded almost like it was coming from underwater, and it was a struggle to make out the words. Even harder to attribute meaning to them.
He shifted, trying to do as he was asked -- in this state, Isa would do anything he was asked -- and let out a sharp hiss of pain when he tried to turn his ankle. It was the most expression he'd shown since he'd woken, that pained grimace.
Despite how it hurt, or maybe because of it, some part of Isa was grateful for the pain. It was oddly grounding, bringing him back to his body and the world. Slowly, but surely, he was rising to the surface of his clouded mind, and would hopefully break through back into reality shortly.
He didn't say anything -- not yet -- but his foggy eyes looked the slightest beat clearer.
A grimace. Not a good thing, but at least Isa was emoting . Quickly, Terra got a bag of ice with a small towel wrapped around it and gently pressed it against the ankle. That would reduce any swelling at least. Hopefully, it was just twisted a little.
"It's ok," he said quietly, "just a turned ankle or something. Nothing serious." He might have been muttering more to himself. Why did he feel so tense and upset about Isa being hurt? Why did he, more than anything else at the moment, want to make sure Isa was ok? He didn't know what else to even do.
So, gently, he moved to lay next to Isa and wrapped his arms around him. If Isa was still asleep… maybe this would wake him up from whatever nightmare he was having, or at least snap him out of it. "Please be ok..." he whispered.
The expression had faded almost as quickly as it had come, back into that awful blankness. Isa hadn't reacted as Terra had cared for his ankle, continuing to sit in hollow silence.
His mind was a swirling void of fear and hatred, and he'd turned entirely inside himself to try to make sense of it. He was lost in that void. . . and a familiar one it was. He'd been lost inside of it for weeks before, completely unresponsive as Lea had begged for him to come back.
Isa hadn't reacted to the binding of his ankle. . . but the embrace was quite different. It was warm, and grounding in the same way as that spark of pain, but in a completely opposite way. He found his head suddenly approaching the surface a lot quicker, and blinked slowly as he leaned closer to Terra as he was held, for once completely unrestrained. That voice. . . from underwater. . . begging him for something. What was it. . .?
Whatever it was, he wanted to give it.
Thus, Isa found himself fighting to break through the last remaining barrier between his prison and reality, and his lips parted to let out a low, breathy whimper. At the same time, a hand slowly raised to hold on tightly to one of Terra's arms.
Terra looked up at Isa the moment he felt movement. "Isa?" then there was a sound , which he jumped on, "Isa?! Isa, are you ok?" He didn't know why he was suddenly so desperate for a response. Something. Anything. He didn't like the blank look Isa had had before. It had seemed broken… almost dead.
He didn't realize when he sat upright and cupped Isa's face with one hand, looking for some kind of sign. His other hand took the one latched to his arm equally tightly.
The look on Isa's face wasn't exactly one of his normal expressions, but neither was it completely broken and empty like before. Instead it was slightly fragile, open and vulnerable and ultimately confused. He blinked, slowly, and unconsciously nuzzled into Terra's hand where it touched his face. All of these touches. . . electric and stimulating on his touch-starved skin. . . they were warm, and inviting, and he never wanted them to stop.
Every bit of warmth against his skin was like a lifeline, tethering him to reality and hope. Another slow blink, and this time when his eyes opened they focused the slightest amount on the brunette's face. His tongue darted out to slowly lick over dry lips, and his lips parted again.
This time, he came up with a word. A single, most important word, suddenly at the forefront of his mind. A word that felt like home, like hope, like everything that was good.
It had been a while since Terra had felt this relieved . Immediately, he wrapped his arms around Isa's chest, raising Isa into a slight sitting position.
"Isa! Are you ok? What happened? I was suddenly in our room but you were gone. Then I found you outside. A-and you were hurt. You weren't responding except for saying weird things I didn't understand and just- please tell me you're ok," the words kind of fumbled out in a worried tirade. He nuzzled in closer once he sat up. He wanted to know why this had happened. But, more importantly, he wanted to know how to help.
Though conscious again, Isa was still nowhere near his right mind. Everything was just a bit fuzzy, and he was floating in a sort of limbo. Still, most of him was there, and though his thoughts were moving sluggishly, he was able to understand Terra's words. For some reason, they didn't help to keep his tears from falling.
". . . Dreams. . . " he murmured, hands clinging tightly to Terra as if he might disappear at any moment. ". . .The dreams again, that's all . . . It's not the first time. Though. . . it's been a moment. I'm . . . ok . . . it's just the dreams. I'm sorry -- I'm sorry --"
He sniffed a bit, head hanging forward. "Didn't. . . want to scare you . . . so sorry. I didn't -- no control -- I hate it. "
"Hey," Terra said gently while carefully cupping Isa's cheek and tilting his head upward slightly, "it's ok. You can’t control nightmares. No need to apologize. The important thing is that it's over now."
This somewhat reminded him of Ventus's first year or so in the Land of Departure. Ven would often have nightmares, that he had no memory of after waking. Though, Ven would usually wake up screaming, not sleep walk and mumble about whatever horrors he saw. What could have happened to Isa to cause this?
"Do you… need to talk about it? I don't know how to help much, but I can listen," he said softly.
At any normal time, Isa would have shut down Terra's question and answered with some flippant remark about how he was alright -- that the dreams were unimportant. He'd have insisted on keeping dignity intact above all else, become closed-off in his own hurt, and shut down.
This wasn't a normal time. Not by a great amount. Isa's guard had already been weakening and, in the wake of his nightmare, it was non-existent. Instead of pulling away with a scowl, voice bitter and retreating into himself, he leaned into the touch to his face and closed his eyes.
"It was only memories," he murmured. "Those are the worst ones. Where I'm back . . . in the castle . . . in the organization. Where I'm how I was before. . .all hollow and alone. . . angry. I thought. . . that everything here, with you, had been the dream. . . and I'd woken up back in hell . . . "
Unbidden, fresh tears sprang to his eyes as he blinked them open and met Terra's with a near desperate expression.
"Terra -- please -- what color are my eyes?"
Terra gently brushed away the tears with his thumb. It was a bit dark in the room, but he could see well enough to answer the question.
"Teal," he said softly. A memory flashed in his head of Isa(?) with yellow eyes, but he pushed it aside.
Castle. Organization. Hollow. Somehow, Terra both knew what Isa was talking about and had no idea . Whatever it was, it was clearly something that hurt and even scared Isa.
"You're not back in any castle. You're in Twilight Town," he said, which was hopefully comforting.
The answer was reassuring, and Isa found himself letting out a breath of relief. He'd needed to know. . . but didn't think he'd have had the courage to look for himself.
Twilight Town. Terra. Not in the castle. . . and his eyes weren't golden. It really had been just a bad dream. . .
. . . Except it wasn't, not really. Even if his nightmare wasn't current, it had still happened. And that in and of itself was awful. Especially now that Isa was starting to settle into his new environment -- finally feeling something that might have been happiness -- it seemed all too likely that something would tear that happiness from him at any moment.
"Yes. . ." he answered in that same quiet voice. "Yes -- I am -- Twilight Town. And. . . I have my heart. . . and I don't have to hurt anyone?"
Terra gently ran his fingers through Isa's hair in an attempt to help him calm down.
"Of course not," he said while holding Isa a little closer, "We're safe here. Why would you have to hurt anyone?"
He couldn't deny that he was worried. He wanted to know what happened to make Isa like this. But he didn't want to pry and hurt Isa. It was so conflicting.
"For the greater good," Isa answered simply, letting out a huffing breath as the tension drained from his shoulders in response to the ministrations to his hair. "And because I found pleasure in it . . . to a certain extent. I did what I had to . . . and I never regretted it. . .or at least, that's what I told myself. . . "
His eyes opened again and, while they weren't as gone and hollow as they'd been before, there was still an odd vacant look to them. ". . . I was too focused on my own goals to stop and care about anything else. And before I knew it. . . I wasn't really myself, anymore. Sometimes I wonder if I even know who that is anymore."
Terra thought about Isa's words carefully. He really didn't know that much about Isa, did he? Just from those few sentences alone, he had learned more about Isa's past than he had the entire time he'd been here. Isa had been in some organization that made him do a lot of bad things… some of which he did willing and almost enjoyed.
But he wasn't like that anymore. Or, at least, it didn't seem like he was. Clearly, what he had done haunted him, to the point here he'd beg not to be brought back to that life. That meant he regretted it and never wanted to do it again. That was a good thing, right?
"Well… maybe you can find out who that is again. Here. Where you don't have to do anything but be yourself," he said slowly.
It was a nice thought. Very nice. . . almost too good to be true, in fact. Yet Isa had no choice but to believe it. At the moment, those words were the only thing he had to hold onto . . . so he'd do it desperately.
"How do I know if it's really me?" He asked in a low, scared voice. "What if it happens again. . . ? What if I'm simply too cold now to do anything else but be a villain. . . ? I'll take you down with me, just like him -- I know it. I know it. You shouldn't . . . get this close to me. I'll take you to hell with me, I know it."
"I don't think you're going to end up cold or a bad guy.." Terra said softly, "Your smile is too gentle when you're relaxed to be cold, and your laugh is too sweet to be some kind of villain. Plus, you seem so willing to try and do things for me to 'drag me down with you'."
He couldn't help thinking about how soft Isa really could look when he smiled. There was no way Isa could be a bad person. Not with how often he wanted to help Terra by cooking or being there after a nightmare. Isa seemed too compassionate to be anything he seemed so scared of being.
"But that's what I did to him," Isa muttered, wanting so badly to believe what Terra was saying but being far too afraid. It wasn't something he admitted often, but Isa spent most of his days in fear. "My only friend. . . closer to me than anyone. . . and I used him. I ruined his life and drug him into a nightmare, and things were never the same again."
He hadn't even realized that he was still crying, silent tears streaking down his face. Part of him was afraid, and desperately wishing he could just shut up -- if he kept going like this, he'd succeed in driving Terra away from him. He knew it. His sins were too numerous, secrets too dark.
Terra stayed silent for a moment. He simply pulled Isa a little closer, putting his face into Isa's hair. Isa must be talking about Lea. There was only one person Terra knew about that Isa could be talking about after all. What all had happened between them? What had they been before that had been damaged?
No, not now. He wouldn't think about that. "Well, things are different now, aren't they? We aren't in some castle. I'm someone new. And you can be yourself with no worries," he said, "and I'll be here for you. I promise."
Really? And he meant it?
There was a word on the tip of Isa's tongue -- a word that, even in this altered state of being, he couldn't find it in himself to ask. Why? Why was Terra doing this? Why was he so determined to care for him? Why had he even come after Isa in the first place?
"I've already screwed up again. . . " He muttered, unconsciously nuzzling into Terra's shoulder. "I've already scared you . . . and tried to leave. Look at that. . . look at how broken I am. I thought I was past this happening. . . I thought it had stopped, but -- it never does. How do I know it ever will?"
"Things like this don't stop immediately. I still get nightmares too. And they don't just disappear. Plus… you wanted to leave because you thought you were back in the place you didn't want to be, right? So… you want to be here. And I was only scared for you. You hurt yourself and weren't acting like yourself," Terra said softly, "And… if you think you're broken… I'm pretty good at fixing things.."
Isa pulled back just a little, expression startled and pained. What the hell was Terra talking about? Why was he doing this? Why did he care? How was he so kind -- considerate -- perfect. After everything. . . he hadn't pushed Terra away. He'd never judged him, nor criticized him, or anything. . . any of the things that Isa quite honestly deserved. Why was that? Isa knew very well that there was no way that Terra could . . . feel anything for him, so what was his motivation?
No one had ever done anything for Isa without expecting something in return. And, suddenly, the thought of what Terra could be looking for scared him more than anything. Anything, that is, except the possibility that he wanted nothing at all. Because Isa simply didn't understand how he could feel that way . . . how he could be that perfect.
"It's not your job to fix me. . . nor be burdened with my well-being. I don't want to do that to you -- I don't -- I don't want to see you disappointed when I fail to be ok again. Some things are impossible to fix and, even if you could, what would you possibly have to gain? I'm not your pet project. . . If you want company so badly, you can have it from someone who's already complete. Don't waste your life picking up every one of my shattered pieces and trying in vain to fit them together -- I guarantee there's too many missing."
"Well… maybe it's not my job, but I want to. And I'm not looking to 'gain' anything. You're my friend, and I want to help," Terra said quietly, "I want more than just company, Isa. I want your company."
He looked down. "But if you don't want me to, I can leave you alone..."
This was too much. Isa was stunned, and confused, and still so fuzzy coming out of his catatonia. How was he supposed to make sense of Terra's words? How was he supposed to just. . .
Maybe it. . . wasn't as hard as he thought it was.
He was Terra's friend . . . really and truly. And though he wanted far more than that, in his wildest dreams that is, that friendship itself was something he cherished beyond all measure.
Terra had run outside, barefoot, in the middle of the night to find him. Isa would have done the same, and far more.
What was this? Simple friendship? A bonding of broken souls, trying to repair themselves through contact with a kindred spirit? Isa didn't know how Terra had broken, but that was the only explanation for how he was so very understanding of Isa's missing pieces.
Maybe it was selfish. It was definitely scary. But regardless, Isa found himself incapable of giving it up. Letting out a shaky breath, he dropped his head back to Terra's shoulder and wrapped his arms around his waist to cling to his back.
"I don't. . . want to be alone," he whispered. And though he didn't specify the context of the statement, he murmured "I want to be with you."
Terra didn't know what prompted him to do this. Maybe it was because of memories of comforting Ventus. Maybe it was because it felt like a natural thing to do. Maybe it was because of something that he didn't fully understand yet. Regardless of the reason, that he'd surely forget to actually figure out later, he gently nuzzled his face into Isa's hair and pressed his lips against Isa's forehead. It was meant to be comforting, a reassurance that everything was ok and safe. Terra hoped Isa saw it that way and didn't get bothered by it.
"Then I'm right here," he whispered, holding Isa close, "and I won't go anywhere else. We can talk or try to go back to sleep or whatever you want. But I'll be here."
Regardless of motivation, the kiss to Isa's forehead was calming in exactly the ways Terra had intended. If it had been a bit lower, even grazed the edges of his scar, he might have panicked and been broken out of whatever odd, fuzzy state he'd found himself in.
But it wasn't. It was perfect, and his body shuddered a bit as he hugged Terra Tighter, a hitching breath escaping from his throat. He'd never felt this supported . . . he'd never had unconditional love. But there was something else to this, as well . . . something more comforting than it should have been. It was the knowledge that Terra wouldn't let himself be hurt, or abused.
When Isa had gone too far, Terra had pushed back. He'd been stern with him, called him out, and forced him to examine himself. Terra was kind, and wonderful, and gentle and brilliant -- but also strong, and not afraid to stand up to Isa if he was too cruel. That thought was wonderful, because it meant that Isa wasn't going to be able to hurt him -- not that he ever would. He didn't think he could forgive himself. Still, he was reassured in the notion that if he ever did become the monster he was afraid of, Terra wouldn't remain silent.
He almost said it. Then, and there. Three awful words were on the tip of his tongue, and barely held back through pure willpower.
" . . . I'm afraid to sleep," he murmured, instead. "But I don't want to keep you awake. . . can . . . if it's not too much, can . . . you just let me hold you? So I have something to hold onto."
Terra gently ran his fingers through Isa's hair. Something told him letting go at all wouldn't end well, if even for a moment. He wouldn't mind sleeping in his clothes anyways. So, if Isa needed here, then here he was.
"Of course, but I wouldn't mind staying awake if you need the company," he said gently while moving a stray strand out of Isa's face, "If you need anything, you can wake me up too. Though, I don't know if I'll fall asleep either."
He shifted closer to the middle of the bed so that they could both lay down with no risk of falling off of the bed. He remained facing Isa, pulling him close to his chest as he laid down.
Though Isa was moved easily, he'd forgotten his injury, and let out a hiss as they shifted, expression twisting briefly in pain. "Sorry -- " he grunted out, then buried his face in Terra's chest while trying not to think about it. He wasn't hurt. . . he couldn't be hurt. . .
. . . He had work tomorrow, damn it. He'd finally gotten a job, and he wasn't going to let a sprained ankle take him out. "I'll be alright, you can sleep. Try to, at least, I don't want to keep you up."
Terra heard the sounds of pain. He made a mental note to call Scrooge the second he woke up. Which. . . he needed to be well rested in order to be coherent for. He supposed he had to try at least. Though, he didn't want to leave Isa unattended...
"Okay... but if you need me for any reason, you better wake me up. Got it?" he said while shifting a little to get comfortable.
After a moment to settle, he started to hum a lullaby. He… didn't remember the words, just the melody. Hopefully, that'd be comforting enough for the both of them so they could sleep.
The melody was enough to soothe Isa a bit, though his mind was still full of a hazy turmoil. The thoughts were moving too quickly to focus on, and they remained a dull roar. Still, he was safe, and calm, and it was enough to hold tightly to Terra and reassure himself as best he could that everything was alright.
"I promise. . . I'll wake you if I have trouble," Isa agreed in a quiet, sincere tone as he settled down and snuggled as close to Terra as he could. It wasn't fair, really, the things this man managed to do to him. . . he'd never felt like this before in his life, and it was overwhelming. Terrifying, even.
And yet, somehow, still incredibly wonderful.
He didn't realize it was happening, and it was very much against his consent, but Isa's eyes started to close some time after they'd settled down. He didn't know if the melody was still continuing, or if he was merely imagining it, but it managed to lull him into slumber regardless.
Isa was never typically able to fall asleep after a nightmare, especially this sort. Ordinarily, he might not have slept for days after such an event. Yet, here he was, nuzzled warm and content in the arms of his roommate, suddenly lax and asleep, letting out heavy breaths that weren't quite loud enough to be snores.
Before he fell asleep, those words escaped. They'd been waiting for their chance, and simply couldn't take it. They were far too quiet to even be a whisper, and spoken only to Terra's chest. Directly to his heart, perhaps.
"I love you . . . "
Chapter 17: Dealing with the Duck
Terra had slept rather peacefully despite the last night mix up. There was something comforting about holding someone in one's arms while they both slept. He had fallen asleep shortly before Isa had and preceded to wake before Isa as well.
Waking up to a face full of blue hair confused him for a moment before he remembered the previous night. But once he did, he found himself burying his face back in and closing his eyes. For some reason, he didn't want this to stop.
But he would have to eventually. He had a phone call to make, and he needed to check Isa's ankle. He'd wait for Isa to wake up. No need to panic him by waking up alone.
Isa woke slowly, dimly realizing that he was warm. He'd never used to wake up warm. . . or slowly, in fact. It was all startled, eyes snapping open as he frantically checked his surroundings for evidence of blessed reality.
Not now. Now he woke gently, slowly, and a bit reluctantly, unwilling to pull himself from the embrace. He had no idea what time it was, but he knew he had to get moving. . . despite his strong desire to stay in bed, and the sparks of pain shooting up his leg, he had to get to work. He simply had to.
Thus, the gentle pressure on Terra's chest as he tried to pull away, mouth opening to speak words that turned into a pained groan.
"Awake?" Terra said softly, then growing concerned, "Is your ankle hurting?" It was a dumb question. Of course it was hurting. It obviously hurt.
He loosened his grip slightly. "Hey, don't worry about getting up. You can just stay in bed, and I'll make sure everything's ok," he said comfortingly while looking Isa in the eyes.
A bit more in his right mind after actually sleeping, Isa immediately tried to hide his pain, looking away from Terra's eyes even as the look caused a warmth to grow in his chest. "No, it's alright -- I only slept a bit funny. I'm sore. Nevermind it at all, I can --"
He then tried to sit up and made the mistake of bracing his foot against the bed. Though he tried very hard to hide his reaction to the sudden jolt up his leg, his jaw visibly clenched, neutral expression in general a bit too forced to be natural.
"Nope, you're staying right here," Terra said, still gentle but slightly more firm, "you can't walk around with your ankle hurt. And I didn't properly take care of it last night other than ice. So you're gonna stay right here."
He sat up and gently put a hand on Isa's chest to make him lay back down. It wasn't forceful, more of a suggestion to lay down more than anything.
There wasn't anything he could do to hide it, was there? Isa wasn't even entirely sure how he'd hurt his ankle. . . nor how he got back to the apartment in the state it was in. Though, there was a fuzzy memory that involved neither of his feet being on the ground that caused him to flush heavily with an odd mixture of embarrassment and something a great deal softer.
If only because the shock of pain was still running through his system, he responded to the touch on his chest and laid back down, even as a scowl took over his features. Daring to glance down at his ankle, he saw that it was a good deal more purple than it should have been, and his frustration grew, hands twisting in the bed sheets.
"I can't, " he protested, voice a low, angry growl. That anger wasn't directed at Terra by any stretch of the imagination -- no, it was all towards himself. "I'm supposed to start work today. . . I can't be injured . . . after finally achieving something I can't -- I won't be stopped by something as trivial as this."
Terra had to admit: the determination was admirable. However, he wasn't about to let Isa proceed to hurt himself further by ignoring and forcing himself through an injury.
"Yes, you will," he said a bit sternly, "You can't possibly think you can work while hardly being able to walk . Much less a service job where you will be on your feet for hours . You need to rest and make sure it's nothing serious before trying to do anything."
With that, Terra stood, noticing that he was still in yesterday's clothes. That would be a problem after he finished a particular phone call. "Now, you're going to stay right there, while I call the duck," he said while pulling out his gummiphone.
While part of him loathed the attention and care he was receiving, another part was simply too stunned he was receiving it in the first place to react with the fire he wanted to. Of course, had it been anyone else telling him these things, he would have told them off and scorned them for thinking him weak enough to do as they suggested.
But this wasn't exactly anyone. If Terra had Scrooge McDuck's phone number, and was willing to call and defend him, then Isa was somewhat flattered -- a little touched, even -- despite the ugly feeling of helplessness and self-hatred that had started to run through him.
"I don't need you to fight my battles for me --" he muttered while glaring intently at his own lap. Then, he forced his hands to relax and let out a heavy breath. "But -- I appreciate it. Just this once."
Terra smiled a little, glad he wouldn't have to fight Isa to help him. He stepped into the living room. It might be better if Isa didn't hear what was said, just in case he got snappy. He didn't like others seeing him angry. And he was likely at least going to get annoyed. He may not have known Scrooge McDuck well, but he knew enough to know this wasn't going to be a pleasant or likely short conversation. Scrooge was a stubborn duck. Hopefully, this would be quick and painless, but Terra wasn't naïve enough to think it would be. So, after a deep breath, he bit the bullet and called.
Did he have Scrooge's number? No. But he knew the hours of the restaurant and that number. And Scrooge himself managed it, that much was obvious. So it was unsurprising when the phone was answered by the duck Terra wanted to talk to. Normal pleasantries were passed, it seemed as if Scrooge was pleased to hear from Terra. That was good at least. Until the intention of the call was asked. Whelp.
"I'm actually calling on behalf of Isa, who you hired yesterday. See, last night he fell and really hurt his ankle. I know today was supposed to be his first day, but he really ought to stay in to heal," Terra said, only to be met with a disgruntled and suspicious response. No, he wasn't going to get angry.
"He didn't do it on purpose! .... Sir, with all due respect- ..... I understand your reservations, but- .... Sir, he's not going to-" he kept getting interrupted, which would have been frustrating enough as it was, but it was made worse by what he was being interrupted with . Isa wasn't some flight risk liability! And Isa certainly wasn't making Terra do this because he didn't want to or was cowardly! Terra was done with this damn duck.
"Sir!" he finally snapped to hopefully get a full damn sentence in, "Isa isn't trying to ditch work for some nefarious plan! Would you like to see how many shades of purple his ankle is? He's not currently able to walk without being in immense pain . I'm sorry that that inconveniences you, but he's not a liability and he certainly didn't do this on purpose. And I'd like you to stop implying so. In fact, I'm only calling because he was trying to go to work anyway! He was elated to be hired despite your suspicions. And even after this, I'm probably only going to manage to get him to stay in for one day, because he wants to work. So, I hope you realize just how dedicated an employee you'll lose if you fire him for accidentally hurting himself!”
Now that Terra had said his piece, he realized just how rude he had been. Hearts… he hoped he hadn’t just gotten Isa actually fired… Scrooge stayed silent for far too long for Terra to think there was any other result. Dammit.. He’d have to apologize to Isa ...and probably Scrooge too, really.
Until suddenly, Scrooge said something completely unexpected. Just a brief mention of how admirable it was for Terra to stand up for his friend, and ...that Isa could come in tomorrow or even the next day and still have a job. Terra was so stunned he didn’t even have the time to say thank you before Scrooge hung up. And once he did, Terra stared at his phone in a moment of shock. Had that… really worked? He blinked a few times in surprise before letting out the biggest sigh of relief. Guess he had good news for Isa.
While he hadn't been trying to listen in, Isa certainly hadn't been trying not to. He'd heard Terra's voice growing gradually louder from the other room and had started to listen intently to his words, only becoming more and more surprised as Terra spoke. His breath stilled, both in shock and in an attempt to hear as much of what Terra was saying as he could.
He sounded so very passionate. . . no one had ever defended Isa to this extent. Not that he'd ever needed or accepted defending, but. . . he didn't understand how to handle this. He knew very well how Scrooge saw him, and to hear Terra speaking on his behalf like this, though mildly uncomfortable, was incredible.
Of course, there was also that awful unpleasantness and self-hatred stirring in his gut at the notion that he was certain he'd just lost his job before he'd even started. He hadn't heard Terra say anything else after ranting at Scrooge. . . which meant the businessduck had likely hung up on him. Seething internally, he clenched the sheets tightly and tried his hardest to keep tears from his eyes.
Terra took a deep breath before stepping into the bedroom while scratching the back of his head. Man, he hoped Isa had overheard him. He smiled at Isa as he entered and tried to think of the best way to word it.
"I got good news," he started while getting a little closer, "You still have your job. In fact, you can go in either tomorrow or even the next day."
Isa looked up in surprise when Terra entered, watery eyes widening in shock. That certainly hadn't been what he'd expected to hear. He'd thought for certain he'd have been fired, if not for failing to appear on his first day then for the way Terra had spoken to his boss.
". . . Are you serious?" He asked, voice betraying his surprise. His heart was still racing at the praise he'd overheard, as well as the subsequent panic. "He really listened to you . . . ? You're not simply lying to make me feel better, are you?"
"I wouldn't lie to you, Isa," Terra said while smiling a bit sheepishly, "though, I am really surprised he actually listened. He said it was.. admirable that I stood up for you. Guess he respected that. Regardless, you can rest today, and maybe even tomorrow without any worries. Now, let me get a proper look at your ankle." Terra kneeled beside the bed and started moving the covers just enough to get to Isa's hurt ankle.
"You don't need to --" Isa protested briefly, trying to draw his knee up and injured foot away from searching eyes, but he knew it wouldn't get him very far. Instead, he simply let out a sigh and glared for a moment at the wall. ". . .Very well. Do your worst. And. . . thank you. I highly doubt he would have listened to me had I spoken for myself." He hesitated, debating whether or not to reveal he'd heard everything Terra said.
He decided not to, and kept the sound of Terra calling him dedicated close to his chest. "I . . . owe you a lot."
Terra quickly fetched his first aid kit and dug around for some sort of brace. Though he didn't have a brace per se, he had compression wrap and knew how to use it. Carefully, he started wrapping Isa's ankle, trying not to cause more pain than necessary. Isa would be in enough pain already from the injury, no need to make it worse, if even for a moment.
"You don't owe me anything," he said, remaining focused, "we're friends. And friends help each other. Plus, it's not like you did this on purpose. You shouldn't be punished for an accident. In a way, you already are since you got hurt."
"Still, it's. . . not your responsibility to care for me. Even if we are friends. And it's certainly not your responsibility to call my boss and defend me. . . I must confess I've never had nor allowed anyone to do such things for me before."
Isa didn't react visibly to the binding of his ankle save for a slight tensing of facial muscles. Whether that was from pain or anger, however, was uncertain. "I can't believe I've allowed this to happen. . ." he growled, nails digging harshly into his own thighs.
Terra sighed and stood as he finished. "Even if it's 'not my responsibility', I want to," he said while putting his hands on his hips, "and maybe you needed more people to do this for you. It might have saved you a lot of problems." Maybe that was out of bounds to say, but he couldn't help it. He was worried about Isa. "And you didn't do it on purpose.... It seemed like you were sleepwalking in a nightmare. You aren't able to control that, so don't beat yourself up about it."
There was a distinct possibility that Terra was correct. It was not, however, something that Isa was going to think about. Especially when he was far too busy seething in a horrible stew of self-hatred and helplessness. . . and with Terra posed as if he was about to scold him.
"It's what I always do . . . I ruin things," he muttered with a grimace. "I'd thought everything was going right for once. . . I was trying to get better. . . and then, my mind breaks, and I go wandering off to injure myself the day before I start work. I don't know why I'm disappointed or surprised. If it weren't for you, I don't . . . know what would have happened, exactly, but it wouldn't have been good."
Terra sighed and shook his head. He sat on the edge of the bed, trying not to jostle the bed too much. This line of thinking would truly get Isa nowhere, but Terra wasn't sure how to help. Especially not when his own thoughts often went in a similar direction. He'd destroyed his family then ran away like a coward. Then had the gall to wonder why Ventus wouldn't talk to him. That wasn't even everything.
"Just because you don't recover overnight, doesn't mean you ruined everything.." he said slowly, "and I am here. So you don't have to worry about 'if I wasn't here', because I am."
"I don't want to have to rely on you . . . I don't want to be your cross to bear," Isa replied, though his voice was a bit softer than before. That was such a comforting thought. That Terra was there. . . just existing in the same space and caring for him when he was hurt.
So Isa found himself making a vow, then and there, to make sure that he would do the same for Terra. Whenever he was hurt, or scared, or needed someone to hold him and be held. . . Isa would be there. He'd stay, and make sure that Terra wasn't alone again, as he seemed so very afraid of. He'd read to him, and keep the quiet away. . . any time he asked, and even when he didn't. When he needed something he was too afraid to mention . . . Isa would find out what, and give it without question or comment.
And that thought helped him feel better. The last thing he wanted was to use Terra, or take advantage of his kindness, so he'd simply have to make it his mission to learn how to be as good of a . . . friend. Though it wasn't the kind of love that Isa so desperately yearned for, Terra still showed an incredible amount. And if Isa could learn how to love like him, even just a little, he'd consider his mission accomplished, and his life worth living.
". . . So, I'm here for you, too." He finally murmured. "For what it's worth. I'm afraid I might not always have much to offer in the way of friendship, but. . . whatever I have is yours."
Terra smiled slightly at that. "I'm glad, Isa. I'm glad to have you with me. Just, please realize that you're not a burden to me. I'm not looking to take companionship from you. We're gonna be a team here, ok?" he said softly.
A team... Why'd he want that so badly? Did he want to have something familiar? Like he had had with Aqua and Ventus? But he didn't want it exactly the same... So what did he want? Just a friend? Something new? Something familiar? What was he trying to accomplish?
The idea of being a team sounded just as pleasant to Isa. He could handle that. Not some helpless invalid, not a charity case, but also not some sort of . . . well, commander. They were a team, working to build their lives here in whatever fashion they could.
And everything had worked out alright, hadn't it? Thanks to Terra, he still had his job, and he didn't have to injure himself further in the process. Which Isa would have done, frankly, without hesitation. So there was no point lingering in this awful mindset, then.
Isa made a choice, then, and it was somehow incredibly difficult and one of the easiest ones he'd ever made. It was a choice to stay, at least for a moment, out of his own head. "I'd like that," he said with a faint smile. "Very much. But besides all this, I only have a sprained ankle -- I'm not terminally ill. Don't let my injury keep you from doing whatever you need to. Hmm. . . and I suppose I need to stand long enough to cook at some point. . . "
"Well, I don't have my work until the weekend, sooo no worries," Terra said with a lighthearted smile. He almost did what he had done the night before to help Isa relax, but he didn't. He didn't know why he didn't. Though, he also didn't know why he had wanted to in the first place. That was probably something worth thinking over. Oh well, thinking for later.
Then he stood. "I'll fix us something. Don't worry about it. You just focus on not hurting yourself more," he said, lightly teasing but also subtly telling Isa to stay in the bed . To satisfy the weird feeling, he poked Isa's nose before turning to walk to the kitchen.
What the actual and everloving fuck was that?
Isa had opened his mouth to respond, about to say something about how he could handle a trip to the kitchen and Terra didn't need to wait on him hand and foot, and then. . . that. Why the hell had Terra touched his nose like that? His nose, of all things -- was there something on it?
What on earth did that even mean?
He was so stunned for a moment, trying to find some hidden meaning in the motion, that he failed to respond, and instead just stared blankly ahead of himself for a moment, blinking, as Terra left. His expression then morphed into something that definitely wasn't a pout, and he settled back into his pillows before grabbing his book of poetry from the nightstand.
Terra wasn't gone for a long period of time. Though, it did take a while to… figure stuff out. He'd never been really allowed to cook a lot due to his accident prone and clumsy nature, not out of malice but simply in the name of efficiency and not having a mess to clean up. Yes, he knew how to work an oven in theory , and he knew what something burnt smelt like. So hopefully those two bits of knowledge would prevent a disaster.
He did return with two plates of food. One for himself, which contained a few leftover pancakes and some scrambled eggs. And one for Isa, which only had one pancake (Isa didn't like sweets right?) and more eggs to compensate. He really hoped he'd made the eggs right. He… vaguely remembered being taught and watching it be done many times. Also, he hoped he hadn't added too much salt. That would… honestly really suck. He quickly set down the plates on a bedside table before briefly going back and grabbing the coffee he'd made for Isa (hearts, he hoped he'd used the machine right) and a cup of milk for himself.
"Here we go! Breakfast!" he said with a smile.
Isa had found a poem as he'd waited for Terra to return. This was never one that he'd read aloud . . . never. Still, something kept him re-reading it for far longer than he'd spent on most of the other poems in the book, and he found himself placing a little symbol next to the passage with an ink pen he kept at his bedside. Isa didn't like to write in books, but. . . he needed to come back to this one. He knew, all too well, that he'd want to refer to it again. He didn't put a great deal of thought into the symbol that he placed. . . it simply came to him. Perhaps there was a deep meaning. Perhaps it was as shallow as it appeared. Perhaps it was simply the shape of his beloved kingdom hearts. . . regardless, he'd left behind a tiny heart, next to an incredibly special passage.
I'll bring you coffee in bed,
if you wish.
I'll stay naked in the sheets,
if you ask.
I'll wrap these arms around you,
I'll tell you it will be ok;
I'll hold you if you're shaking,
And whisper when you ache,
I'll kiss you like it's a promise,
Look at you like an oath.
I'll stay, and I'll stay.
And I'll stay.
He was rereading the poem for the umpteenth time when Terra entered, and shut the book quickly before looking up, eyebrows raised in surprise. "Oh -- you're too kind. You didn't have to . . . do all of that." Isa was very much not accustomed to being waited on like this, and flushed very slightly as he glanced over Terra's heartfelt breakfast. It looked edible -- which was good. Very good, in fact.
Terra grabbed his stuff and plopped down on the bed next to Isa, carefully not to spill anything. Somehow, he had always been better at balancing items to prevent a mess than he was at keeping his own two feet on the ground. At least that skill was useful sometimes. He settled and smiled at Isa.
"Well, I kinda mooched off your cooking for the most part. It's been a while since I've cooked something, so hopefully it all turned out ok," he said while taking a bite of delicious pancake. Man, he wished Isa wasn't hurt so he could selfishly eat Isa's cooking all day.
"What were you reading?" he asked while glancing at the book that had nearly been slammed shut when Terra had entered. He had to admit, he was curious. Not curious enough to simply look through it himself, but definitely curious enough to ask.
At the mention of the book, a faint flush crept across Isa's cheeks, though he managed to contain the rest of his reactions. "Only a poem," he murmured. Though he tried his best to lie, there was something in him that simply wouldn't let him. The whole truth, however, could be avoided. "A particularly thought-provoking one. . . it reminded me of something. I think I'll keep that one very close to my chest."
A sense of pride surged through his chest as he watched Terra eating the pancake he'd made. He really did like it, didn't he? A faint smile crossed his lips before he took a neatly mannered bite of eggs. Though they weren't exactly gourmet, and there were a number of things Isa would have done differently in their creation, he still found them delicious. Perhaps it was the amount of heart and care that Terra had put into cooking them -- he could have simply brought back cereal, after all. Isa couldn't actually remember the last time someone had cooked for him that wasn't canned soup from Even or burnt toast from Lea.
"This is very good, Terra. Thank you." Another smile, and another little bite. "You're not half-bad in the kitchen, at all."
Terra's curiosity wasn't swayed by Isa's answer. Well, it became pointed. Despite the fact that Isa had said he wanted to keep the poem to himself, Terra found he only wanted to find out what it had been more . Plus, he kinda liked the poems, and if this one was supposedly a deeper, more thought provoking one then that meant it was a better poem, right?
However, Terra didn't press further, simply forcing his festering curiosity down. He kept eating but smiled at Isa's praise. "I barely remembered how to make it. I'm just glad they turned out half decent, honestly," he said with almost a shy chuckle, "but I'm glad you like them. That makes the worry about doing it wrong worth it."
"No worry necessary . . . " Isa chuckled. "Except, of course, for that involving spilling syrup on the bed. I doubt that would be pleasant to clean." His tone and demeanor were fairly light, especially considering the frustration he felt at being bedridden.
There were worse ways to be bedridden, after all, and in worse situations. He continued eating, and hid a wince as his teeth came into contact with the faintest hint of eggshell. It was only one, after all, and he didn't want to kill that little smile. "I appreciate you caring for me. . . though I must confess, it's going to be rather boring staying here all day. I simply don't know what to do with myself."
Terra chuckled. "Guess we'll have to be careful not to make a mess then," he said while shoving more food into his mouth. Man, he was glad there had been more of those pancakes. And now he had some protein too, so it was almost like breakfast at home. But it was better, somehow. Maybe the company. Maybe the pancakes. He'd think about it later.
"Well… I don't have a reason to go anywhere unless we need something, so you don't have to be here alone at least," he said while scratching his head a bit shyly. Why did he feel a bit shy?
There was a time when Isa would have rather been left alone. When the thought of staying trapped in a house all day with a single other person would have seemed like pure hell. As it was now, he only felt a warm sense of comfort and relief, scary in its unfamiliarity.
He felt his heart lurch a bit at Terra's body language. . .was he reading it wrong, or was the other man the slightest bit flustered? He hadn't done anything to make him feel uncomfortable, had he?
"And I appreciate that to no end," he murmured, taking a sip of his coffee and letting out a pleasured hum. "But if there's anything you'd rather be doing, don't feel any pressure to stay. Though I will confess to you that I . . . quite enjoy your company."
"What else am I gonna do except walk around the town? I'd rather do that with you anyways," Terra said before downing a large amount of milk, some still on his face when he set the cup down. He stretched slightly, carefully balancing his plate on his folded legs. Then he realized he was still in the clothes from yesterday.... Suddenly, he felt really dirty.
"Though, I guess I ought to take a shower," he said sheepishly, "you need anything? I want to help you today. Ok? You need something, and I'll do it."
Mostly unconsciously, but also because he was certain he could get away with it, Isa reached over to wipe the lingering milk from Terra's upper lip with a little chuckle. "So much for not making a mess. . . " he scolded gently. "Yes, I think a shower is in your best interest."
He paused for a moment, on the edge of saying that he'd be alright on his own, or asking Terra to help him dress. . . but that was a whole other level of no thank you that he wasn't about to get into. "And. . . well, I suppose there's no point in dressing myself if I'm to stay in bed all day . . . but I feel incredibly unkempt, and it's very unpleasant. Could you pass me my hairbrush from the dresser? And I believe I've left a few ties in the bathroom, if you care to bring me one on your way back."
Terra hadn't even noticed there was something on his face, so the touch had surprised him a little. He remained still when Isa touched his face. For some reason, the feeling lingered long after Isa moved his hand away. It was...a pleasant feeling... He almost raised a hand to touch his lip but managed to restrain himself. Why did that feeling linger like that? Why did he not want it to go away? ...He'd think about that later.
"What? Am I starting to smell already?" he joked while moving to stand, picking up his dishes as he went, "And I can get those. No problem." He set his dishes on the dresser and obtained the hairbrush. He briefly noticed just how simple Isa's things were and how little he seemed to have. He wondered why that was. Isa had implied he'd come from wealth, though seemed to resent it. But then why did everything he had imply he'd never had a single luxury in his life? Or maybe… didn't want any.
He also grabbed some of his new, comfortable clothes to change into after his shower. "Here ya go," he said while handing the brush to Isa, "I'll only be a minute, but if you need anything just call." He walked off towards the bathroom after giving Isa a soft smile.
Though he had to repress a grimace at the near overwhelming feeling of helplessness that surged through him as Terra took care of pretty much everything, Isa managed to settle back down and calm his thoughts.
"I promise, I'll be alright," he answered with a thankful smile as he accepted his hairbrush. Well. . . at least he could get his hair in order, if he was going to be confined to bed in his pajamas like some sort of shut-in. That would at least help him feel a bit more human. "Thank you. . . now, go. I promise I won't injure myself further in the time it takes you to clean yourself."
"Ok, ok," Terra gave in with a small chuckle. He wasn't normally this much of a worrier, so why did he want to make sure Isa was ok so badly? He kept feeling like something was going to go wrong the second he looked away. Maybe that was because Isa had gotten hurt while Terra had been asleep... He couldn't have helped that! Or known that it would happen! So why did he feel like he could have prevented it?
Terra shook his head to clear his thoughts as he stepped into the bathroom and closed the door behind him. Should he give Isa the ponytail holder now? Isa had wanted it after all. A small, playful smile formed on his face. He grabbed an elastic hair tie and peaked slightly out the bathroom door. He slowly lifted the hairband on his thumb, trying to aim, slowly stretched it back… and then set it loose. The band went flying and hit its mark, Isa's bicep, with no interference. He was almost proud of himself for such a good shot. He smiled proudly and playfully and shot a wink at Isa before closing the door, just to make sure Isa knew it had been in fun, not out of malice or anything.
Isa blinked in surprise as the hairtie hit his arm and, for a moment, was unsure what exactly had happened. He'd caught the thing on reflex when it bounced off his bicep and glanced down to see what it was before letting out a startled laugh. He hadn't missed Terra's wink and, while he was a little unsure why he'd thrown the band at him, he knew it had been entirely in jest.
For fun. That wasn't something Isa experienced very often. He'd always thought such matters trivial, unimportant, a waste of time. . . but maybe now, after everything, he had time to allow himself a bit of fun. Just a bit. . . after he got his hair in order, of course, which he promptly set about doing in practiced movements.
Terra chuckled slightly as he closed the door and leaned back against it for a moment. Isa's laugh had been so carefree and genuine. Exactly what Terra didn't realize he needed to hear. It had almost been… cute. Wait, why did Isa's laugh seem cute? He'd think about it la- No. He was alone now and could think about it without completely zoning out in public or with Isa. Now would be the best time to think through all the confusing new feelings he had been starting to have.
Guess it was time for introspection in the shower.
So he went through his typical shower route: turn on the water, get undressed, stare probably a bit too long at the clothes he simply dropped on the floor, turned on music on his gummiphone, and get in. Despite there already being enough noise from the shower for the silence not to bother him, he'd found that listening to music really helped him relax. Though, he hoped it wasn't too loud and bothered Isa. He really did have the volume up loud so he could hear it over the water.
Maybe he got a little too caught up in the music and forgot there was someone likely in earshot. It was one of his favorite songs, okay? An upbeat love song that somehow always made him smile, even if he'd never really had someone to sing it about. Though, suddenly a brief memory flashed in his mind of leaning on Isa's shoulder under the stars as he sang it, the song was about a sky full of stars in a way. Somehow, singing along this time… felt more natural.
And here Isa had been expecting a few moments of silence. As much as he loved Terra and everything that entailed, he also liked to sit quietly with his thoughts every now and then. Or at least, he'd convinced himself he did. Perhaps he was simply used to doing it.
Regardless, those moments of silence were quickly interrupted by the sound of . . . music. And singing. Loud singing. Not particularly skilled, but not ear splitting, either. . . though he had to confess it grew more pleasant as he listened. Hearts, Terra sounded so . . . genuinely happy.
He found himself laughing again, a quiet, gentle noise, and let his eyes close as he combed through his hair. It was wonderful just to listen. . .to someone that happy . . . and wonderful . . .
. . . he found himself having fanciful daydreams, almost, as he was listening to the song. That beautiful, idiotic, sappy song. . . though he couldn't make out the words exactly, he imagined that Terra was singing it entirely to him.
Terra had just finished washing his hair -- he really ought to get his own shampoo, but Isa hadn't seemed to notice yet -- when he might have been getting a little too into the music. He had been trying to kind of dance around, but he had forgotten something very important. Soap and water made a surface extremely slippery , and he was barefoot.
With a resounding thud , he was on his ass, barely managing to catch himself enough not to slam his head on the wall behind him, but it did hit slightly. "Ow..." he muttered, rubbing his head slightly. He'd, unfortunately, dragged the curtain partially down with him. At least it didn't look damaged... He started to stand and fix it before realizing he wasn't here alone , and him falling had been quite loud . "I-I'm okay!" he called out, hoping he hadn't worried Isa. Nice one, Terra. What are you? Two? Slipping in the shower?
One moment, Isa had been listening peacefully to Terra's impromptu shower performance. The next, his eyes had snapped open at the sound of a painfully loud crash. And that voice. . . had stopped. For a terrible few moments, Isa's heart raced in panic, breath stilled as he strongly debated storming in to rescue Terra from whatever fate had befell him -- sprained ankle be damned, along with the fact that Terra was completely naked.
Then, he'd heard him calling out, and the briefly stuttering fear had faded away. Stunned for a few moments more, Isa then let out a heavy sigh of relief and, beside himself, chuckled. Had Terra excited himself so much that he'd actually fallen in the shower? Poor man. . . well, at least he was alright. . . or. Mostly alright. He'd have to check Terra over when he came out.
"Idiot," he murmured under his breath, voice dripping with a pure and unrestrained affection he'd never have the opportunity to share with Terra directly.
Terra quickly finished fixing the shower rod. Man, he was glad he had almost been done with his shower. All he needed to do was rinse off and get out. But then… he'd have to face the embarrassment of being a grown man that couldn't stay on his own two feet. He supposed he'd already admitted to being somewhat clumsy, so it wouldn't be too bad. At least he hadn't injured himself in the process, that would have been a lot more embarrassing, especially since he was supposed to be helping Isa while he was hurt. Hearts, he hoped he hadn't bruised his tailbone, but it sure felt like it.
He quickly got dry and dressed. Part of him wished he'd discovered sweatpants before now. They were pretty comfortable. He dried his hair to the best of his ability before glancing in the mirror. No obvious signs of being injured. He didn't feel like he'd gotten hurt other than his tailbone and a little bit of the back of his head. Which, admittedly, still hurt, but not too bad.
After a moment, he stepped out of the bathroom with a sheepish look. "Hey, sorry, if I scared you," he said, slightly embarrassed.
Isa glanced up when Terra emerged, once again reading and hair now neatly brushed and tucked back into a bun. Though the smile that crossed his face as he met the other man's eyes was genuine and soft, there was also a definite edge of mirth to it.
"No matter -- I will admit you startled me, but if the worst thing to come from it is a bruised dignity then I'm satisfied. Are you sure you're alright? Here I was planning my revenge for the hairband, and you seem to have gotten ahead of me and done it yourself. " Though he was primarily amused, there was a part of him still worried for Terra's health. If he'd managed to knock his head and give himself a concussion, that would be remarkably in character.
"Yeah, I'm fine," Terra said while rubbing the back of his head slightly, "I mean, I landed kinda hard, but it's not too bad. A bruise at worst." Though, a bruised tailbone was in no way a pleasant outcome. It made it hurt to sit sometimes. But, he was sure he was fine. He'd taken harder falls with less injury.
It was good to see Isa smiling, even if it was at Terra's expense a little. He found his gaze lingering for far too long without saying anything. Isa's hair looked so nice and neat in a bun, though he couldn't help but wish it was down so he could touch it. Okay, maybe he should have tried to think through his feelings in the shower...
"Revenge?" he said with a chuckle, "Whatever would you need revenge for? I gave you the hairband, didn't I?" If there was one thing Terra was good at, it was playing dumb for his own amusement.
"You did. And in a very creative manner," Isa retorted easily. He knew exactly what Terra was doing and, while Isa adored his innocent disposition, he knew very well when it was a complete front. "But I did not expect to find myself used for target practice. I assure you that my retribution will come -- at a time when you're least expecting it."
Hearts, when was the last time he'd been able to jest like this? Isa hadn't fallen into such easy banter in ages. He wasn't actually intending to do anything, of course. He was far too dignified. But he'd relaxed enough, at least, to verbally tease.
"I will allow you to recover from your minor injury, first -- I appear to have a small sense of mercy." Never mind the fact that he couldn't even stand.
Terra couldn't resist a small teasing smile as he walked back towards the bed. "How generous of you," he said with a mock bow, "I am nothing but grateful for your mercy." He laughed a little before turning to gather the dirty dishes. He didn't like it when things weren't in the right places. Maybe that was just because of how many times he had been forced to keep his room clean.
He simply put the dishes in the sink for now though. He'd clean them later.
Though he didn't say anything besides a small nod of thanks, Isa felt a near irrational wave of relief as Terra cleared away the dishes. He'd been on the verge of limping to the kitchen, himself, had he not thought there was a distinct possibility he'd have fallen and shattered the plates, potentially slicing himself to ribbons. That likely would not have sat well with Terra, and the last thing Isa wanted to do was disappoint him -- though god knew why.