“You’ve had a restless night’s sleep.”
Lynus glanced over his shoulder when Axel made that comment and found his redheaded landsknecht looking at him with an expression of concern of his face. Lynus smiled softly in return and nodded his head slightly, not at all surprised by his beloved’s highly levelled observation skills when it comes to his wellbeing.
“Had an unwelcomed dream, I suppose you could say,” Lynus answered as his smile slipped from his lips. “A memory.”
Axel immediately understood what he was implying and with a couple of steps he was right behind him, his arms wrapped around Lynus’ waist as he rested his chin on top of Lynus’ head. Lynus felt his smile return and he leaned back against Axel’s chest, feeling that warm security and comfort of his arms overtake the residual sadness that his dream had left behind.
He had a dream about Shiki. About that time he was...forced to leave them. He didn’t want to leave, and yet Lynus had sensed and felt that while he wanted to stay to protect him and Rahas, he was also somewhat...ready to leave this world. Back then Lynus thought it was due to the pain and suffering he (like all other hostages) had endured during Taksony’s control. But now? Maybe...maybe he knew that Sandra was gone and had feared or been told that there was no one left of his old life. So he just wanted to...be a peace.
It was painful to think about.
“Maybe you should take the day off?” Axel suggested as he lifted his chin from top of Lynus’ head and leaned down to press a soft kiss to his temple.
Honestly, Lynus had thought about it, but Axel had things he needed to do today and he knew that he wouldn’t be able to get any rest if he wasn’t also with him. Besides, working a few hours at the hospital would be a good distraction for him.
Lynus turned his face toward Axel to answer him when he felt a strange but somewhat familiar tremor race down his spine. His brow furrowed and he immediately stiffened. Though he could feel Axel’s surprise by his reaction, Lynus instead focused on that strange aura he felt. It was different than those he was used to, and yet it was still very familiar. Like someone he hadn’t seen for years had suddenly returned.
It…reminded him of Shiki.
N-no...it couldn’t be...It was just the residual energy from his dream, surely?
“What’s wrong?” Axel asked him as he held him closer and tighter.
“I...don’t know,” Lynus answered honestly, his heart pounding in his chest. “There’s...someone here that feels familiar somehow. Here. In the inn’s foyer.”
Though Axel didn’t fully understand Lynus’ new ability to sense to auras of their friends and family members, not that Lynus blamed him because half the time he didn’t fully understand either, but he trusted him completely. If he sensed someone or something, then he would go to investigate.
Always reluctant to remove his hold around him, Axel loosen his arms but kept a hand against his side as the two of them slipped out of their room and toward the foyer of the inn. And with each step they took, Lynus felt that sense of familiarity grow stronger. His heart was well and truly into the triple digits when they finally stepped out into the inn’s foyer.
At the inn’s entrance was a small gathering of people. Hamza and Gerald were there and at the centre was another man with ash grey hair and scars littering the entirety of his upper body, though most hidden from view due to a tattered cloak he wore around his neck and shoulders. He appeared to be that of a ronin, if the large katana and golden armlets were any indication.
By first appearance, he didn’t look all that familiar, and yet there was something about that smile on his lips and his red eyes that were very familiar to Lynus. A sense of nostalgia washed over him. He had seen those same eyes years ago.
Greeting the man warmly, Hamza wore an expression that gave the indication that he was surprised and shocked, but also relieved as he regarded the ronin with a firm handshake with one hand as the other clasped the man’s shoulder. And it wasn’t only his expression that gave that away, his aura also held these same emotions. He was utterly surprised and happy to see the man before him.
And that man...
Lynus felt himself tremble and his heart race as he placed his hands over his mouth when he felt tears begin to pool in his eyes. He heard Axel ask him what was wrong in a highly concerned manner as Lynus took a shaky step from his arms, but all Lynus could do was stare forward. That man, his aura reminded him of…
Though he had uttered that name in a whimper behind his hands, the man with ashen grey hair immediately turned his face toward him. And in those eyes, Lynus saw familiarity. And recognition.
Lynus’ heart leapt into his throat as tears rolled down his cheek.
“Lynus?” he uttered as he took a step forward, those around him wordlessly moving back.
Tears flowed unimpeded down Lynus’ cheeks now and he felt himself tremble, his legs threatening to give out from under him. But he managed to stay standing. It was him. It really was…
“It’s really you.”
With a sob, Lynus found himself running haphazardly forward toward the man, toward Shiki, who met him half way to sweep him up into his arms and hold him tightly against his chest. Lynus pressed his face against Shiki’s broad shoulder as he cried, sobbing and hiccupping softly as he grasped at that tattered cloak of Shiki’s so tightly that his knuckles turned white.
Though nearly five years had passed since Lynus had felt Shiki’s comfort, he immediately remembered how safe he felt whenever Shiki consoled him. He was so tall and big back then, and Lynus so small that he felt he could hide in Shiki’s arms.
“Y-you’re alive,” Lynus sniffled against Shiki’s shoulder, completely oblivious to the other people around them.
Shiki drew in a deep breath before sighing. “Yeah, kiddo, I’m alive.”
“I’m…so relieved.” God, that was an understatement. But it was all he could say. He couldn’t really form any other words right now. All he could think was Shiki was actually alive. And he was back.
With one arm around his shoulders as the other gently cradled the back of his head, Lynus felt and heard Shiki utter a shaky laugh, one that was filled with relief and joy. “You’re still so tiny,” he murmured in a purely fatherly way.
Lynus’ tears barely faltered as he continued to sob and whimper against Shiki’s shoulder, Shiki gently whispering words of comfort to him as he rubbed a hand up and down his back. He had…missed him so much. He felt like he had just been reunited with a family member again. In a way, he had. Shiki was so much like a father to him during those four years he knew him.
There were so many questions running through Lynus’ head; where had he been all these years? How did he survive? When did he return? What about Simmons? Did Simmons know? Did Simmons remember him? What happened to his arm? He could feel and sense the scarring underneath the bandages. Was that from the labyrinth?
But one thought overshadowed them all.
Though tears blurred his vision and his chest hurt from emitting such painful yet relieving sobs, Lynus lifted his face from Shiki’s shoulder and look straight into his eyes. “Rahas,” he said. “He needs to see you. Y-you have to see him.”
Shiki appeared startled for a moment before a flick of realisation appeared in his eyes and he gave Lynus a half smile. “Ah, still thinking of others, are you?”
“I-I have so much to ask you, to tell you,” Lynus said as he gave a slight shake of his head. “B-but that can wait. He…needs you now. P-please, find him. He should be attempting to sneak out to train now. Through the window.”
The corner of Shiki’s mouth unexpectedly twitched into a half smirk. “Ah, finally learnt to use the windows, has he?” he said in a somewhat amused manner.
Though understandably reluctant to remove his hands from Shiki’s cloak and chest in fear that the man would somehow disappear on him or be taken away yet again, Lynus took a shaky step back. “He…might punch you. I don’t know how he will react.”
But the grin on Shiki’s lips only grew. “I should hope so,” he said before his eyes softened and he reached out to place a large hand atop of Lynus’ head. “Don’t worry; I’ll look after him for now.”
Lynus nodded his head as another fresh wave of tears threatened to fall. But he swallowed them back and watched as Shiki gave him a comforting smile before he turned and headed through the doors of the inn. He watched until he was out of sight before a sob unexpectedly escaped his throat and he abruptly turned toward Axel and all but threw himself into his arms and resting against his chest.
Axel immediately wrapped his arms tightly around him, one wrapped securely around his waist as the other rubbed comforting circles against his back. Lynus nuzzled his head under Axel’s chin as his beloved redhead whispered soothing words to him.
All Lynus could think was that Shiki was alive. And that everything should be ok now.
Rahas…has his own dad back, too.
… … … … …
Dropping out of the tree he used to escape his room on the second floor, Rahas shoved his hands into his pockets and hunched his shoulders as he turned away from the inn and headed in the direction of his usual training spot. He could hear a bit of a commotion back at the entrance of the inn, but he wasn’t interested.
It wouldn’t involve him, anyway.
Despite instinctively flinching, Rahas still furrowed his brow in slight concern when he recognised the voice. Why was Simmons at the inn so early? He usually slept in if he had nothing planned or was hanging around at his usual training spot if he had something to do that day. Probably drawn to the commotion at the front of the inn.
Turning around to face the landsknecht, Rahas immediately noted that Simmons was grinning ear to ear. He wasn’t goofily happy like he had seen so many times before. No, he looked genuinely, overwhelmingly happy as he ran up to him.
“Rahas, guess what?!” Simmons said to him in his usual loud and excited voice.
Rahas sighed and scratched the back of his neck. A little too early in the morning to be playing these games. “I don’t know, what?”
“My dad’s back!”
Rahas looked at him with narrow eyes. “And…?”
Rahas felt like he had been punched in the stomach and was fairly certain that his face had drained of colour. Had he heard right? No, he couldn’t have. There was no way Shiki was back. He was dead. Dead and forgotten in that forsaken labyrinth in Etria. Because of him. Unless he arose from the grave like a fucking zombie, there is no way Shiki could be back. No, he was probably scattered in tiny, bitsy pieces all over that fucking labyrinth.
He was dead. Dead. Aint no coming back dead.
Wait, shit, what if it was some asshole pretending to be Simmons’ dad for some unknown but more than likely malicious reason? Did Gerald know? What about Kerri? Those two wouldn’t let some asshole near Simmons, he was fairly certain, but…
“Dad says he knows you,” Simmons went on to say, unwittingly causing Rahas’ heart to all but stop beating. “He knows Lynus, too. He also knows Hamza. Hamza was so surprised to see him, you know? Heh, I bet Lynus will be, too!”
For Rahas, time seemed to simply…stop. Heard nothing. Felt nothing. Saw nothing but Simmons standing in front of him with that obnoxiously happy smile on his face as he continued to prattle.
Then, from over Simmons’ shoulder, Rahas saw someone approach. Ash-grey hair and pale skin, scars and bandages on his arms and chest. A ronin by clothing and armour. But Rahas honestly wasn’t looking at the tattered cloak or simple clothing. That man had piercing red eyes.
Eyes that looked so much like Simmons’.
…He had to be hallucinating. Did he have a fever? Maybe he was sick. Y-yeah, that had to be it. There was no way…
“No…” Rahas muttered as he took a shaky step backwards, his legs unexpectedly feeling weak as he stared wide eyed at the man as he moved closer. “No no no no, you’re dead. You c-can’t be here.”
From the corner of his eye, he could see Simmons look confused, startled even. But the man simply walked up to him and patted the back of his head in an all too fatherly way. He said something to him, though Rahas couldn’t hear the words, he believed that the man was telling Simmons to step back for now. Or something.
He then turned those same damned eyes that had haunted Rahas’ dreams since seeing that damn photo at the bar toward him.
Rahas felt himself take another step back as his head screamed at him to simply run. That the man before him could not be the same man that was forced to be his trainer, his mentor. The man that was ripped away from his family. The man he had all but killed for simply knowing him.
His fight or flight instincts suddenly kicked in when the man moved closer to him, and as he stopped to stand in front of him, Rahas reacted. Without a second thought to any possible repercussions, he reared back an arm, curled his hand into a fist and threw a punch toward the man’s face.
He managed to strike him on the cheek, but the man barely even turned his head. Instead he just looked at Rahas with those god damn too familiar red eyes, Rahas’ fist still connected to his cheek.
Rahas stared at him with wide, unblinking eyes for the longest of moments, neither of them saying anything. Then…Rahas’ face crumbled as tears blurred his vision. Shiki used to…let him hit him as a kid. Strike at him with his tiny little fists. Letting him release his anger and frustrations onto him before crumbling into fitful tears of exhaustion.
“Y-you’re supposed to be dead…” Rahas choked as tears rolled down his cheeks like small rivers. “You’re supposed to be dead because of me…Why?”
Shakily, Rahas lowered his hand from the man, no Shiki’s cheek and stumbled backwards. He felt nauseated, as if he had been kicked in the guts, and his heart was pounding in his chest. His arms and legs felt weakened. He wanted to lash out at him again, to punch him square in the face and ask him why; why did he leave him? Why was he still alive? Why was he back?
With a sob hitching in his throat and feeling light-headed, Rahas reared back his arm in an attempt to hit Shiki again. But his movements were slow, sluggish, and instead of letting his fist connect to him in some way, Shiki caught his hand in his.
In one swift, almost dizzying movement, Shiki hugged Rahas tightly; one arm across the middle of his back at the other cradled the back of his head. Rahas felt his legs buckle beneath him, but Shiki kept him standing with his strong arms wrapped tightly around him.
“You’re supposed to be dead…” Rahas murmured again as he squeezed his eyes shut. “This is just a sick fucking joke.”
“I’m not dead, Rahas,” Shiki’s voice rung through his ears.
“T-they took you away,” Rahas whimpered, falling limp in Shiki’s hold. “They killed you. They should have killed you. Because of me. It’s my fault.”
“It’s not your fault,” Shiki said firmly, sternly. “Nothing is your fault. Nothing.”
That damn voice. He really was Shiki. He was…
With a loud, pain-filled sob, Rahas grasped the back of Shiki’s cloak and buried his face against his shoulder. He felt nauseated and dizzy, his chest hurt and his throat felt so tight that it was almost hard to breath. And he couldn’t stop crying.
With his face pressed against Shiki’s shoulder, Rahas continued to sob. “A-asshole, what took you so long?”
Shiki simply chuckled, but didn’t reply. He just hugged him tighter.