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Falling Leaves and Early Snow

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Despite the snow falling around him Eleven feels warm in front of the fire of their campsite relieved to know he had found the majority of his companions and after an emotional whirlwind of a week he'd helped Erik recovery his memories. Hendrik wasn't too far keeping watch a ways off from the campsite while Rab was sitting on a nearby barrel enjoying the Oglers Digest that never seemed out of his reach. Jade had already turned in for the night and Sylvando sat across from Eleven cleaning his flute while Erik was lying against some hay sharpening his knives. 

 

He looks over to where Serena and Veronica would usually sit an ache in his chest. I'll find you. I know I will.

 

He breathes out a light sigh and scoots closer to the fire. The last time Eleven had been to Sniflheim it was the unrelenting cold and loneliness that had left an impression on him. Even before Krystalinda's powers were at their full strength Sniflheim city felt eerily abandoned with its residents frozen like statues. He could tell his other companions had been affected by the atmosphere as well, even Sylvando's endearing optimism faltered in the frigid air and complete silence around them. 

 

Thinking back on it now Eleven realizes another reason for the lonely atmosphere was Erik. It hadn't taken long for Erik to grow on El. He knew the thief could've turned away at any moment and left El behind if he had wanted to but he hadn't. And Eleven would never forget his words on the cliff the day they met. They had hardly known each other and yet despite that Erik had said he believed in him, believed in the luminary. All of his companions had shown their loyalty and faith in him despite the rumor that he was the Darkspawn. However Erik had been the first and that had left a strong impression on El. And that had naturally lead to what Sylvando had told was a special bond.

 

Like magnets the two tended to be beside each other no matter what they were doing, whether that was fighting, traveling, eating, or sleeping Erik was a constant presence at his side. The only place he had been absent from his side was the first time he visited Sniflheim and after the fall of Yggdrasil. Reflecting back on it he remembers Erik making excuses not to go into the city even when everyone was frozen statues. He had been more than willing to help them get to Krystalindas monster at least but he'd also been distance, less talkative.

 

It had been during one of the nights they had camped out in the cold snowy wilderness on their way to fight the monster that Eleven had heard sniffling beside him in the tent. Back then he had assumed Erik was simply cold even with El's own chest squeezing painfully that night as if something was wrong. Now Eleven knew Erik had been crying. He can't help feeling guilty now, that he hadn't done anything especially after everything that had happened.

 

He recalls Erik's words from a week ago when his memory had still been blank, "I… I'm sorry… I don't mean to be a burden…"

 

He wonders now if without his memories Erik had been more inclined to let some of his inner thoughts out. Had he thought telling El of his sister would burden them? 

 

He's interrupted from his musing when someone scoots next to him on the log. Erik stretches beside him yawning loudly. Eleven can't help the smile twitching at his lips with Erik acting so carefree now that his sister was safe. Erik places a hand on his shoulder and lightly shakes him a playful grin on his face, "Hey, what are you daydreaming about? You looked so lost in thought I was worried I'd have to ask Sylv to play his flute to wake you up."

 

Sylv gives Erik an amused look aware Erik is just messing with him, "And what would be so awful about that, darling? My flute would be a wonderful sound to wake up to!"

 

He looks to Eleven for reassurance, "Don't you think, sweetie?"

 

Eleven nods quickly and Erik snorts beside him.

 

Sylvando smiles big and wide, "See El thinks it would be and he has excellent taste! Hmm in fact maybe I should wake you up with my flute tomorrow morning Erik!"

 

Erik raises his hands in mild panic, "Uhh no… that's not necessary…"

 

With his mind set Sylvando exclaims, "Oh it's no trouble, honey! Now I've got to find the perfect song for you…"

 

Sylvando pulls out a couple music sheets Eleven wasn't aware he'd brought with him. Erik shakes his head with an amused grin and turns back to Eleven bumping his shoulder with his own.

 

"Really though I'm curious now. What were you thinking about?"

 

Eleven smiles shyly. There's no reason not to be honest he supposes, "I was... thinking about you."

 

Erik's eyes widen and his cheeks turn just a shade darker. "M-me? Why? What about me?"

 

Eleven shrugs hiding his face behind his hair as he speaks, "You're happier now… it's nice. I like it."

 

Erik blinks once, twice, before quickly turning away and rubbing the back of his head bashfully, "Jeez… I mean… I wouldn't be this happy if it wasn't for you…"

 

Eleven feels warmth blossom in his chest at his words and turns instead to look at his feet with a smile on his face.

 

He feels Erik shift closer beside him, "I mean it. Really I… meeting you was probably the best thing that's ever happened to me."

 

A soft aww reaches their ears from across the fire.

 

Both El and Erik jump meeting Sylvando's gaze as he watches them with his head in his hands and a dopey smile. He waves a hand motioning for them to continue, "Oh don't mind me darlings you just keep talking."

 

Erik shuffles beside him glaring at Sylv and growls between his teeth, "Sylvando…"

 

Sylv must catch his drift as he covers his mouth with a gasp and a small "oh" and quickly stands up.

 

"Of course, you need some time alone don't you?"

 

He turns around gracefully, "Rab, darling! I think it's time we hit the hay don't you?"

 

Rab who's drooling over his magazine jumps and fumbles with it shoving it back in his bag, "Oh um ye- yes! Yer right laddie."

 

The smaller man stands up falling behind Sylv as he walks toward the tent. Sylv briefly stops sending them a wink, "Goodnight darlings! Don't stay up too late we've got a big day ahead of us tomorrow."

 

Eleven nods and Erik sends Sylv a grateful look by his side. Rab yawns and follows behind Sylv with a tired, "Goodnight laddies."

 

Once the two are in the tent the night grows silent except for the crackles of the fire. He looks off in the distance at Hendrick who is far enough away from them he doubts he'd hear them talking.

 

Eleven leans forward to catch a glimpse of Erik's face as he stares into the fire. His face appears softer than usual his eyes filled with relief and warmth that sends a shiver down his spine.

 

Erik's voice interrupts the quiet then, "I missed her so much… Mia wasn't kidding when she said all we had was each other. I never realized how lonely life could really be until I was on my own after what I did to her."

 

Eleven wants to tell Erik that what happened wasn't his fault, that he wouldn't be lonely like that ever again (if Eleven can help it) and yet… the words cling to his throat and he finds himself unable to speak. Instead he nudges his shoulder closer to Erik's hoping it's enough.

 

It must've been the right thing to do as Erik looks up at him eyes warm with a small smile. 

 

"I never told Derk you know. When I first met him in Heliodor he was homeless and… to be frank he was an awful thief. Anyone he tried to pickpocket could spot him from a mile away. He was living off of nothing but scraps."

 

"Naturally I couldn't just let him starve so we teamed up together. And it was worth it, he's got a good ear for gossip and always managed to pick up on valuable information. He was even able to get info on the guard's shifts so I could sneak in to get the red orb. We were a good team... but I still never told him about Mia. I wasn't sure what he'd think of me… leaving my sister like that..."

 

Erik looks at him with fondness briefly before chuckling softly to himself. Eleven feels like his chests going to burst and he's not sure if it's due to how sad Erik's words make him or how adorable Erik's laughter is.

 

"Heh sorry. You don't need me going on about my whole life now do you."

 

Erik looks away at the fire again a distant haze in his eyes and Eleven finally manages to find his voice and quickly responds, "I don't mind. I like listening to you."

 

Erik's eyes light up and his cheeks grow a shade darker again. Obviously not used to being told such things he smiles shyly and manages to say, "Wh- while… that… thanks."

 

Eleven smiles softly and nods. He hopes he's at least managed to convey that he truly means it. A comfortable silence fills the air as Eleven looks up at the stars above him.

 

"I really did mean it you know."

 

Eleven looks away to meet Erik's nervous gaze.

 

"I'm so glad I met you. And it's … not just because you saved my sister."

 

El feels him scooting closer and out of his peripheral vision sees Erik's hand inching towards his own.

 

"You… you make me happy Eleven."

 

Eleven is overwhelmed by just how charming Erik is and he feels warmth blossom within his chest like the buds of Yggdrasil. He realizes now that he doesn't think he's ever felt quite so fond of someone before in his life. It's a strange realization and yet he wants more of what Erik's willing to give him, wants him all to himself and needs him to know that. He moves his hand towards Erik's and takes it in his own lacing their fingers together.

 

There's something surreal about the way their hands fit together so well. Unlike when he was young holding Gemma's soft hand as they ran to the river to play, Erik's are blistered and calloused with a few scars. Eleven traces a scar with his thumb and thinks he wants Erik to tell him about it one day and realizes there's so much about Erik he doesn't know yet that he wants to know.

 

A relieved smile spreads across Erik's face and his eyes are so open and glittering with happiness. Erik leans forward bumping his forehead against Eleven's. Naturally El leans into it absorbing his warmth.

 

Erik sighs and says quietly, "This is nice…"

 

Eleven hums slowly shutting his eyes. They sit like that for long enough that El almost drifts off when Erik speaks again in a whisper.

 

"The first time I came back here with you I was surprised by how cold it was. I couldn't stop thinking about freezing out here... on my own trying to keep Mia awake."

 

Erik squeezes his hand, "But now… it's really cozy. Must be a luminary thing, huh? Always being so warm and bright."

 

Eleven's lip tug up and he laughs a little to himself. Somehow he feels better than he has since Yggdrasil fell. Without her in the sky and without his companions it felt as if there was no light left in him like he was a husk of himself. Now with Erik by his side and most of his companions with him he's able to breathe easy again, absorbing the light of hope around him and holding it close.

 

"Thank you Erik."

 

Erik shifts beside him, "For what?"

 

"For staying with me."

 

***********

 

Eleven can't think straight it's as if his mind has been clouded over with fog.

 

Most of his friends had gone their separate ways after the funeral to be alone and mourn Veronica. Eleven was no different initially finding a nearby tree in the forest to sit behind to collect his thoughts and cry freely. Even if Veronica could be sharp sometimes her strong personality had grown on him along their journey and she was always willing to lend him a hand if he needed it. It was his own failure as the Luminary that had led to her sacrifice and now he would never hear her and Erik bicker again, never smile as he watched her and her sister laugh together, never hear her loud and proud voice again. He had been so happy only a day before, he had thought everything would turn out alright. But he had been wrong. 

 

He had failed her, had failed all of them as the Luminary. If there was some way he could go back and make things right he would. By the time he walks back to the inn exhausted from crying it's dark out. The innkeeper explains softly that she's already made arrangements for them guiding him to a room with a sad smile. 

 

Once he's inside he sits on one of the beds and stares at the ground unsure of what to do with himself. Usually he'd make himself useful by forging weapons for his companions but he can't even fathom doing something like that right now. 

 

He's not sure how long he sits there unable to think beyond what could've been if he had just stopped Jasper at Yggdrasil.

 

Eventually Erik's boots enter his vision and he realizes he hadn't even heard him approach.

 

A tentative hand lands on his shoulder and then Erik says quietly, "Hey…"

 

Eleven forces himself to look up. His chest aches when he meets his gaze and he sees how exhausted Erik looks with red and puffy eyes.

 

He gets to his feet and pulls Erik into a hug burying his face in his hair fresh tears falling from his own eyes. Erik stiffens at the sudden contact but eventually his own arms wrap around Eleven's back and he presses his face against El's collarbone tears falling from his eyes as well.

 

El loses track of time again and the next thing he knows he's opening his eyes to a dimly lit room realizing he must have cried himself to sleep. Something hits his leg and he groggily looks down at the head of blue hair under his chin that can only belong to Erik. It dawns on him his friend must have fallen asleep beside him. He relaxes with a sigh and repositions his right arm over Erik willing himself to fall back asleep. However before he manages to drift off he hears shuffling from the other side of the room and tenses. He opens his eyes abruptly and sees Sylv's silhouette against the light of a candle on a nearby table easing his tension.

 

Sylvando turns around after getting his own bed ready and approaches them. El quickly shuts his eyes pretending to be asleep. 

 

He hears Sylvando sigh and whisper "Oh darlings…" the sadness in his voice making Eleven's throat choke up. 

 

Eleven feels something soft drape over them and Sylv shuffles back toward the other side of the room to his bed. Now under a warm blanket he pulls Erik closer to him and drifts back into the abyss of sleep where he can momentarily forget the darkness plaguing his heart.

 

Later that night he'll wake up to the sound of a harp and his concern for Serena will force him to fully awake but for now he sleeps and dreams that everything had ended up alright. That he hadn't failed.

 

*******

 

Mordragon hits the ground with a loud thud and fades away leaving nothing but black particles in the wind. Eleven releases a breath unaware he'd been holding it. We did it. We won.

 

On his left he hears Serena sigh and mutter to herself, "We did it Veronica…"

 

He turns to Erik on his right who looks exhausted but nonetheless sends El a grin when their eyes meet.

 

Behind Erik, Rab helps Jade up and Sylv smiles big and wide at Hendrick. Relief overcomes him like a wave.