And In The Calm
“Old soldiers never die, they just fade away.”
It's hard, living like this. I tell everyone I’m going to go and lead a normal life, but I can't. I try, I really do, but I just can't. I've lost too much, seen too much, done too much that I regret and would give anything to change… I can't go back. I’m so fixated on going back to normal, to the way things were, but I can't ever seem to get there. It's not until I’m laying awake one night, tangled in sheets and trying to slow the pounding of my heart after another nightmare, that I realize why I can't.
I don't have a "normal" to go back to.
It scares me, and yet at the same time, I’m relieved. I can't be normal because I never was. It's one less thing to keep me awake at night. No real loss, though, because I have hundreds of other worries to think about.
Some days, I miss it. The traveling, the friends, the exhaustion, the memories, the pain… everything associated with saving the world. I know it's terrible, but I wish something would happen so I can try to save the world again. Maybe this time, I'll get it right and die trying so I won't have to live afterwards. Surviving the battles and the losses is hard, hard as hell, but at least I knew that it would end, one day. I’d die or win, and move on either way.
Surviving life, after the fight… that's the hard part. Waking up every morning and knowing that I’m facing nothing but emptiness and lonely years, a hero that no one remembers, once the glory fades. The thought makes me smile, sometimes; I didn't even get the glory.
I’ve often wondered why I haven’t just killed myself yet. I’ve thought about it, but something always stops me. I feel obligated to keep on living, I guess. I saved the world, I’m supposed to enjoy it. Even though I can't, and I know it. They don't, the ones who love me and care about me. Yes, they were with me, but… it was different, for them. Some of them had homes or loves to return to. Others didn't, but they just hadn't lost as much as I had.
They hadn't lost a part of themselves.
I know something's missing from my soul, and I spend some of the sleepless nights going over everything, piece by piece, trying to find out where it disappeared. Maybe, if I knew where I lost it, I could go back and find it again, and maybe feel whole.
It's a shame, though. I just can't figure out what I lost.
He’s been living with her for about two months now. Not because they’re lovers, but because he has no where else to go. She’s always been his focal point, the one constant in his life, so he wants to stay close to her. And she loves him more than life itself, so she lets him. He knows that she’s in love with him, and he thinks that someday, he’ll be able to love her back. But he can’t, now. He’s too hurt, too broken inside to love anyone, even himself.
Despite all the reassurances, all the nights spent talking and remembering, he still can’t forgive himself. Intellectually, he knows that none of it was really his fault. He couldn’t have stopped Sephiroth from attacking his town, from attacking her. He couldn’t have saved Zack, or Aeris, or his mother. He couldn’t control the Mako in his blood and his mind, so he’s not responsible for the lies.
He knows all that is true, but it doesn’t take away the guilt. It doesn’t take away the nightmares that send him to her room, seeking comfort in the presence of another human being. She holds him while he tells her what he can of the terrors before he has to stop talking or start crying. She tells him that everything’s all right, that he’s safe, that no one is going to hurt him, reassuring him until he falls asleep.
Their relationship is… strange, at the very least. They say that they’re best friends, but they seem more like lovers. He’s recently realized that he’s been starved of human contact, and thus often finds himself cuddling with her on the couch or holding her hand while they walk. He wakes up in her bed more often than not, and neither of them ever says a word about it. She puts on a good act of not being bothered, but he knows better. He knows it hurts her to see him in pain and to be stuck in this bizarre relationship of theirs. He can’t help it, though; he needs her too much to leave, and he’s too scared to love her back.
She sings along to the radio while she makes dinner for the two of them, and he’s surprised to hear a woman’s voice instead of the girl he remembers. It’s hard, sometimes, knowing that they’ve grown up. He’s not used to thinking of her as an adult, even though it’s been nearly six months since they were reunited. He’s not used to thinking of himself as an adult. The five years that he was supposed to spend growing up were instead spent in a lab, being tested and tortured. He feels like he doesn’t know how to be twenty-one years old, like he’s still pretending to be someone he’s not. He wonders sometimes if he’ll ever feel like himself again. He asked her that once, after another nightmare. She toyed with his hair for a few minutes, then told him he’d feel like himself once he figured out who that was.
She makes it sound easy, even though they both know it’s not. So he spends his days reading and remembering, trying to piece together the scattered shards of his identity. And he spends his nights beside her, trying to show that he loves her as best he knows how.
Somehow, it’s enough.
“What makes loneliness an anguish
Is not that I have no one to bear my burden,
I have only my own burden to bear.” – Dag Hammarskjold, Markings
He’s running away again. He always runs, as if he can somehow escape himself and his memories. I know he’s in constant pain; I can see it in his eyes, in the way he always seems to be hunched in on himself, waiting for the next blow to fall. I know the guilt is destroying him. The nightmares are testament enough to that. And I know I could help him, if he’d let me. But he won’t. He won’t let me in, won’t tell me what demons he’s fighting.
I’m here for him. I’ve told him that, and he knows it. He used to come to me for comfort, for support, for a sympathetic ear to pour his fears and doubts into. But lately, he’s stayed away—physically and emotionally. The kids miss him. They don’t say it, out right, but I can tell by the way they watch the door that they’re waiting for him to come back.
I’m waiting for him. I miss him, too. I miss the talks we used to have. I miss falling asleep beside him, knowing that for a little while, he was at peace. I miss being able to make him smile, now and again. Something’s eating away at him, and he’s hiding it to keep me from getting hurt.
He doesn’t know that his silence hurts me more than any confession ever could.