eiahmon: (Xehanort)
eiahmon ([personal profile] eiahmon) wrote2017-06-16 04:11 am
Entry tags:

Where We Belong - Part 2 of the Heirloom Trilogy

Title: Where We Belong
Rating: PG-13
Disclaimer: I only own Master Limahl.
Summary: When Xehanort falls deliriously ill, Master Limahl sets out for Destiny Islands to reclaim an important talisman he had left behind. Along the way, and at journey's end, Limahl learns a great deal about what makes Xehanort who he is.
A/N: So this is another rp by Lita_Snow and myself. I'm not sure what brought this one. I know I was writing it myself, and then I asked Lita if she would rp the conversation between Limahl and the island woman, and she ended up staying for the rest of the fic. XD She wrote the islanders and all of Xehanort's parts after Limahl visits the Destiny Islands. I handled Eraqus, Master Limahl, Xehanort before Limahl visits the islands, and Lord Xehanort himself. There is an abridged retelling of my fic "Mythology" in here, but make sure to check out the original if you want the full, much darker story. And yes, the cover image is Lord Xehanort's wayfinder, the same one mentioned in Heart to Heart, and The Price: Family. The Heirloom Trilogy are prequels to The Price series.

 

A loud banging startled him awake, and Limahl raised his head from the pillow and blearily looked at the the door just as the banging came a second time, hard enough to shake the heavy oak door in its frame. What in the world? He sat up and threw his quilt back as the banging came a third time.

"Master Limahl!" came Eraqus' voice from the other side, and Limahl felt his heart constrict as he got up and went over to the door. Eraqus and Xehanort were forbidden from disturbing him in his bedroom unless it was an emergency, so for Eraqus to be banging on his door in the middle of the night meant that something was seriously wrong.

He opened the door to find his apprentice, dressed in his night clothes, looking up at him with wide, frightened eyes.

"Master!" the child gasped, and Limahl felt his alarm increase at his obvious fear. "Xehanort! He's sick! Really, really sick!"

Limahl didn't say anything in response. He set off towards Xehanort's room at a rapid pace, with Eraqus having to jog to keep up with him. If the boy hadn't been there, he would have run the distance, but he didn't want to feed Eraqus' fear by showing his own.

Though the walk didn't take long, the castle corridors seemed to stretch on endlessly until they reached Xehanort's open door. He found the boy lying on his bed, with the blankets kicked to the floor, twisted up in the sweat damp sheets. His golden eyes were open, staring wide at things only he could see, as he tossed and turned in a fevered delirium.

"Xehanort?" Limahl sat down on the bed beside him and gently cupped the boy's flushed cheek in one hand. Xehanort's skin burned with fever, and the child whimpered at the touch.

Limahl turned to Eraqus, standing in the doorway and watching with wide eyes. "Go run a cool bath. Quickly, Eraqus." Eraqus sprinted down the hall to the bathroom, and Limahl channeled his magic through his hand to cast a Curaga on Xehanort. Healing magic wasn't very effective on illness, because of the completely different way illness and injuries worked, but it usually could be counted on to at least ease a fever.

But this time it did nothing.

Limahl cast the spell again, hoping to see the fever break, to see Xehanort relax and go quiet, but neither of those things happened. He cursed to himself, quickly untangled Xehanort from the sheets, scooped him up into his arms, and went off towards the bathroom. Eraqus was inside, and the large tub hadn't finished filling yet, but Limahl didn't care at the moment.

"Out, Eraqus. Go wait in your room." Sending him to bed would be pointless; the boy wouldn't sleep from worry. Eraqus scurried out, and Limahl sat down on the edge of the tub, held Xehanort on his lap, and quickly stripped him out of his sweat soaked pajamas. He tossed them to the floor and moved to kneel beside the tub so he could easily lower Xehanort into the water.

As soon as the cool water touched his skillet hot body, Xehanort wailed, a sound that sent shivers down Limahl's spine, and as he sunk down into the tub, he began to thrash, sending water splashing everywhere.

"I'm sorry!" he bawled as tears began to trickle from his unfocused gold eyes. "I didn't mean to get dirty!"

Limahl grabbed one flailing hand with his own, while his other tried to keep Xehanor'ts head from slipping under. "Shhhh, Xehanort, I'm here. I'm trying to get you cooled down."

"Please let me get out! It's too cold!"

Anger leads to the Darkness, anger leads to the Darkness. Limahl chanted to himself as he let go of Xehanort's hand long enough to shut the water off. Xehanort stopped thrashing about as he started to sob, and Limahl felt his heart twist in pain to see more evidence of how the child had been treated by those supposed to take care of him.

In the 18 months since he had brought the boy home, Xehanort had done his best to hide the wounds on his heart from being neglected and rejected so many times. There had been the occasional cracks in the mask of collected calmness that he always wore, but never had Limahl seen the child openly cry before. He sat him up in the tub a bit, so he could tug him over and wrap his arms around his shoulders and hold him as he wept. He made soothing sounds and rubbed Xehanort's shoulders, but the child seemed completely unaware that he was there.

After several minutes, he lifted the boy out of the water, wrapped him in a large fluffy towel, and began to dry him off. Xehanort's cries had stopped, but he still curled close to Limahl, whimpering. Limahl kissed Xehanort's damp hair, a gesture that the boy would not have allowed had he not been so ill, wrapped another towel around his waist to preserve his modesty, gathered him up, and carried him back down to his room.

Eraqus was standing in the doorway of his room, waiting for them, and Limahl warned him with a look to stay put as he carried Xehanort through the door to his room. He laid Xehanort on his bed and went to fetch him another set of pajamas from his dresser, remembering as he did so all of the things, including clothing, that he had had to get for Xehanort after he had come to live at the castle. Things that every child should have.

Shaking his head to clear those thoughts (and the anger they brought), Limahl dressed Xehanort, scooped him back up into his arms, and carried him out into the hall.

"I am taking Xehanort to my room." he told Eraqus, who was still standing in his doorway. "Lessons are canceled for tomorrow. After your chores are done, I expect you to keep yourself busy. Am I understood?"

Eraqus nodded. "Yes, Master. Will... Xehanort be all right?"

Limahl smiled, giving Eraqus reassurance that he himself did not feel. "He will be fine. Now get to bed. I still expect you to be on time to breakfast."

Eraqus ducked inside his room and closed the door, and Limahl hitched Xehanort up higher in his arms and set off down the hall. The return trip seemed much shorter, and he gently deposited Xehanort in the middle of his own large bed and tucked him under the quilt. Xehanort whimpered again before going quiet, and Limahl stepped away to change his own pajamas, which had gotten drenched during Xehanort's thrashing. He then nipped down to the kitchen to get Xehanort a glass of water, which he took upstairs.

The bath had brought the fever down some, but Xehanort was still very warm to the touch, and he whimpered again and squirmed in Limahl's embrace as he was sat up and offered the water. He sipped it down, all without opening his eyes, and he cried out when the empty glass was taken away.

He set the empty glass aside and held Xehanort close to him. "There now. You can more soon."

Xehanort shifted, and his eyes opened a tiny bit.

"You're here again." the boy mumbled, and Limahl looked down at him in puzzlement. What was he talking about?

"You came back." Xehanort mumbled sleepily. "I missed you. You make it feel better."

Limahl gently raked Xehanort's hair back from his forehead. "Just who are you talking to?" he wondered, as he realized that the boy wasn't really seeing him.

"Are you going to take me with you? Nobody else wants me."

Limahl looked down at his mumbling apprentice, appalled at what he was hearing. He, of all people, knew of the cruelty people could inflict on innocent children in their care, but it still sickened him whenever he encountered it.

"Please," Xehanort pleaded in a small voice, "I've been good. I don't wanna hurt anymore."

He held Xehanort close to his chest. "Yes, you've been good, Xehanort. You've been wonderful."

Xehanort gave him a tired smile, with his unseeing eyes half closed. "Really?"

"Really. Now it's time for you to go to sleep. You're not well and need to rest."

"You won't leave me, will you?"

"Of course not. I'll always be here when you need me. Close your eyes now. I'll stay right here with you while you sleep."

"You promise?"

Limahl gave Xehanort a gentle smile. "I promise."

Xehanort closed his eyes and laid his head against Limahl's shoulder. "G'night. M'sorry I'm so much trouble."

Limahl managed to repress the sigh that wanted to come out. "Goodnight, Xehanort."

Xehanort relaxed and went still, and Limahl closed his eyes and tried not to think of the life the child had lived before he'd met him on the beach that day 18 months ago. Whatever had happened before then, he was now home and safe. That was the most important thing.

Xehanort made a feeble attempt to hang onto him, and he made a small, distressed cry as he was laid down in the middle of the bed and tucked in.

"Shhh," Limahl soothed as he smoothed his hair back from his forehead, "I'm right here. I'm not going to leave you."

Xehanort settled down with another soft cry, and then his breathing deepened and evened out as he dropped off to sleep. Limahl watched him for a moment, and then he moved from the bed to the nearby chair. He had promised Xehanort that he would stay nearby, and it was a promise that he intended to keep.

******

It was a soft knock against his door that made him jerk himself awake later. He rubbed at his stinging eyes and nearly groaned when his back protested loudly at having slept in a chair. Forty-four, nearly forty-five, was too old to be spending the night in chairs. He stood up to check on Xehanort and found the child still and quiet, but his face was still flushed, and he was still very warm.

The soft knock came again, and Limahl repressed another groan as he stood up from the side of the bed and moved to answer the door. The cook was on the other side, carrying a loaded tray.

"Good morning, Master." the man said. "I thought that you and the young one might appreciate some breakfast."

Limahl managed a tired smile as the smell of food made his stomach growl. "Thank you for thinking of it." he said as he took the tray, careful to not spill anything.

"Let me know when he starts feeling better. I'll make his favorites."

Limahl managed another smile as the cook walked away, and he turned away from the door and used his foot to nudge it shut. He carried the tray, loaded with eggs, sausage, and biscuits for him, and a bowl of oatmeal with strawberries and cream for Xehanort, over to the bedside table and sat it down. Xehanort stirred at the sound.

"I'm hungry." he mumbled without opening his eyes.

"Breakfast is here, Xehanort."

"I'm hungry. I didn't mean to."

Not again, Limahl thought.

Xehanort sniffled. "I'm sorry. Please don't send me to bed without supper again. I haven't eaten all day. I'm hungry."

Limahl sat down on the side of the bed and reached over to shake Xehanort awake just as the child began to cry.

"It wasn't my fault! I didn't do anything! Why won't anyone believe me!"

"C'mon, Xehanort, wake up."

"I'll be good! I promise I will!"

He gave the boy a hard shake, "Xehanort!" but there was no response. The nightmare or flashback or whatever it was seemed to have Xehanort firmly in its grip.

"Please let me eat!"

Limahl dragged Xehanort over onto his lap. "Your breakfast is right here, Xehanort." He heard the door creak open behind him, and he didn't need to use his eyes to know it was Eraqus, peeking in to check on Xehanort. He didn't have time to send him away, all of his attention was focused on trying to quiet Xehanort down and wake him up.

Or maybe...

Cradling Xehanort in one arm, Limahl gently ran his free hand down the side of Xehanort's face. "Sleep," he whispered, letting the magic flow from his fingers. Xehanort went limp on his lap as his breathing abruptly slowed and deepened. His crying, and his pleas to be fed, stopped.

"How much did you hear, Eraqus?" Limahl asked as he held Xehanort on his lap.

There was a shuffling sound from the door. "They wouldn't let him eat? Why? Why would they do that?"

"You are not to mention to Xehanort that you overheard any of this, ever. Do you understand me?""

"Yes, Master."

"Now get, go find something to do. Unless you'd like me to find more chores for you?"

"Um, no. I'll be going." The door shut, and Eraqus' footsteps could be heard running down the hall, and Limahl restrained to urge to holler after him about running in the castle. Instead he only shook his head and shifted around so he could lie Xehanort back down in the bed. The child didn't stir as the quilt was pulled over him, and Limahl heaved a sigh as he watched his sleeping apprentice for a moment, and then he turned to his breakfast.

******

Xehanort slept quietly for a few hours, and it was a soft moan that made Limahl look up from his book. The boy was stirring, shifting about in bed, and one of his hands was randomly touching the mattress, as though he was searching for something.

"No," he mumbled, "No, give it back."

Limahl put his book aside and once again moved from his chair to the bed.

"It's mine," Xehanort continued. "He gave it to me. Give it back."

"Xehanort?" Limahl reached out and ran his hand over Xehanort's sweaty hair. "You're dreaming again."

"But it's mine." Xehanort whimpered as he reached out for something that only he could see. "It's from Him -"

Limahl could hear the capital letter.

"- and it's mine. Give it back!"

Limahl gave Xehanort a little shake. "Time to wake up, Xehanort."

Xehanort's eyes, still unfocused and glazed with fever, opened a crack and looked up at him. "You came back?"

"I never left, Xehanort."

"They took my wayfinder away again. Will you get it back for me?"

What is a wayfinder?

"Please?" Xehanort asked. "It was you who got it back the other times, I know. They say a brat like me doesn't deserve anything from you."

"You are not a brat." Limahl couldn't keep the scowl from his face. Xehanort was a wonderful child, a boy that any parent would be proud to call theirs, yet the islanders of his homeworld had been all too happy to see the child leave with a complete stranger, just as his own parents had been thrilled to have Master Alexia take him off of their hands. He could have had all manner of nefarious plans for Xehanort, yell all the islanders saw was a way to get rid of what they considered their resident pest.

"Everyone says I am," Xehanort said in a tiny voice. "No one wants me. They don't love me."

"That is not true." Limahl gathered Xehanort up into his arms. "I love you very much."

"Then why did you leave me with them? Can't I go home with you?"

Limahl smiled at the confused boy, knowing that it was not him that the boy was speaking to, but not really caring. Getting Xehanort out of these nightmares was more important than anything else at the moment. "You did, Xehanort. Don't you remember? I brought you home with me, and now you never have to see those people again."

Xehanort gave him another shaky smile. "You won't throw me out? I promise I'll be good."

"Never."

"Okay." Xehanort laid his head down, and Limahl smiled at the behavior, something that Xehanort never would have done if he were fully aware.

Still it was a good chance to take care of a couple of things, so he stood up and carried Xehanort into the master bath. A call to the maid resulted in clean sheets for the bed being brought in, along with a clean pair of pajamas for Xehanort. Once that was all taken care of, Limahl coaxed him into drinking down a glass of chilled apple juice that the cook had sent up earlier before tucking him back into bed.

"Can you get my wayfinder back for me?" Xehanort mumbled as he settled down. His unseeing eyes closed as Limahl tucked the quilt around him.

"I can't promise that, Xehanort."

"Won't you please try?" Xehanort yawned as he relaxed into the mattress. "It keeps... it keeps the bad dreams away."

"I'll see what I can do." Limahl brushed Xehanort's hair out of his face. "Go to sleep now."

Xehanort sighed and went still just as a soft tap came against the door, and Limahl reluctantly left his spot by Xehanort to go answer it.

Eraqus was waiting on the other side. "Is he any better?"

Limahl stepped out into the hallway and closed the door. "He's the same as he was earlier."

Eraqus looked down at the floor. "Oh."

"Eraqus, did Xehanort ever mention an object called a wayfinder to you?"

Eraquas cocked his head to the side, thinking, for a moment, and then he looked back up at him. "Yes, he did. He said they're good luck charms made by sailors for long voyages, and that he had one when his parents died. He said it was a special one and had different colors than normal, but he never said why, only that his foster parents kept taking it away from him. He would always get it back later though, because it had the magic of the gods in it."

"Hmmm," Limahl thought about that for a moment. Xehanort had had nothing but the clothes on his back when he left, so it stood to reason that the wayfinder was back on the islands somewhere. "Thank you, Eraqus. Now run along and keep yourself busy. Needless to say, lessons are canceled tomorrow as well."

"Yes, Master."

Eraqus went off down the hall, and Limahl turned and went back inside his bedroom, closing the door behind him. He paused at the bedside to check on Xehanort, who was still and quiet, and then he returned to his chair, intending to stay at Xehanort's side for as long as he was needed.

******

A scream made Limahl nearly fall out of his chair, and he lurched to his feet, wondering if he'd actually heard that, or if he'd just been dreaming, but another scream soon provided the answer.

"No!" Xehanort wailed, and Limahl turned to him to see him thrashing about again. "No, let me go!"

"Xehanort?" Limahl rushed over to him and scooped him up, noting that he was burning hot again. "It's a bad dream, Xehanort."

"Mommy! Mommy, Daddy, no!"

"Xehanort!" Limahl shook him. "Wake up!"

"They're burning! Why is everyone just standing here! They're burning! Let me go!"

Limahl had to tighten his arms around the boy as he fought to get away from him, and he tried to ignore just what conclusion Xehanort's cries were leading him to as he cast another sleep spell upon him.

It had no effect at all. Xehanort's wails and struggles continued as he threw the magic off like it was nothing. A Curaga spell was just as ineffective. It was awkward carrying the thrashing child into the bathroom, and even more difficult to start the water in the tub while holding Xehanort on his lap. He didn't wait until the tub was full; he waited long enough to get Xehanort out of his pajamas and for the water to cover the bottom of the tub before dunking him.

Xehanort shrieked and clawed at the arms that held him. "No, no, no!"

"Shhhh,"

"It's hot! They're burning! It's too hot! Let me go!"

"No one's burning, Xehanort." Except for you, if I don't get this fever down.

"Mommy!" Tears flew from Xehanort's cheeks and he shook his head violently from side to side as another sleep spell failed to calm him. The water rose up to his neck, where Limahl shut it off, and he cast another Curaga to try and break the fever. The magic bounced off of Xehanort as though a barrier spell had been cast over him. In the back of his mind, Limahl wondered how the child was resisting magic like that, but the thought was stricken from his mind when Xehanort screamed again.

"Somebody help them! Please don't just stand there! It's hot! It's hot!"

Limahl had never felt so helpless in his life. He loved Xehanort as his own, and nothing he thought of could break the fever or settle the nightmares that stalked him.

But maybe...

It might not work. He might never find it. He had promised Xehanort that he would stay with him. But if he didn't calm him down, then his promises wouldn't matter. Decision made, he reached out through his connection with the castle's protective wards and used them to nudge the maid awake. She would know that it was his doing and head right over.

A few minutes later, as he lifted a still crying and struggling, but slightly cooler, Xehanort out of the tub, he heard his door open, followed by quick footsteps. As he held Xehanort on his lap and dried him off, the maid appeared, looking worried.

"Master Limahl?"

He could barely hear her over Xehanort's howls. "I have to go offworld to find something for Xehanort. I will be back as quickly as I can, but I need you to stay with him while I am gone." He stood up and carried Xehanort back into the bedroom.

"Of course, of course, but are you sure it's safe to leave him while he's like this?"

"I don't have a choice now." He laid Xehanort down and tucked him in, only for the quilt to be kicked off as the boy thrashed about. "Nothing else is working." Xehanort wailed and blindly reached out to him, and Limahl felt his heart wrench. He took the child's hands in his own and gently squeezed them before letting go and stepping back. "Don't leave his side for an instant."

He didn't hear her answer as he stuffed his feet into his boots, put on the shoulder piece that summoned his armor, summoned it, called Master's Defender, changed it into his glider form, and opened the Lanes Between. Xehanort cried out for his father, and Limahl forced himself to not look back as he flew through.

He made a beeline straight for the pinprick of light that he knew to be the Destiny Islands, flying faster than he had ever dared. His only hope was that, since time on the islands ran faster than the Land of Departure, he would be there and back with what he came for before too much time had passed. What might happen if he was gone for too long wasn't worth thinking about. He could only hope that those gods that Xehanort was said to be descended from would be willing to help him out.

A wave of hot humidity washed over him as he reached the islands. It was late evening when he stepped down to the sand and dismissed Master's Defender. The sound of crashing surf touched his ears as a sea breeze stirred his hair. He was on the main island, that he knew from the few days he had spent here before taking Xehanort home, and it was a good of a place as any to start looking. Seeing the cluster of houses, surrounding a few businesses, he strode off straight for the center of town.

Thankfully, people were still out and about, enjoying the cooler evening. Many stared at him in confusion as he walked down the streets, but many others recognized him, and it wasn't long until whispers started up.

"Did he get tired of the brat already?"

"Hope he didn't bring him back."

"I always knew that boy wouldn't amount to anything."

Limahl grit his teeth and said nothing. His heart longed to tell these people exactly what he thought of them, but he couldn't do that until he had what he came for. With that goal in mind, he headed straight for one house in particular, the foster home Xehanort had been living in before Limahl had claimed him 18 months ago.

He strode up the porch steps and rapped sharply on the door, and a few seconds later, it swung open on slightly rusted hinges, revealing Xehanort's last foster mother, a woman who, along with her husband, had practically thrown Xehanort to Limahl and told him good riddance.

The woman stared at him for a long while, like she was trying to place him. "I'm sorry, who are you?"

Couldn't she remember the one she had nearly sold her foster son to? "I am Master Limahl. You gave Xehanort into my care a year and a half ago."

The shock rippled across her face, followed by something like dread. "You're not...you're not...trying to give him back...?" the woman queried ever so cautiously.

Limahl frowned as anger rose up in his heart. "Absolutely not, but he asked me to retrieve something for him, a family heirloom that he says was taken from him."

"I'm...I'm not sure what you mean," she lied ineffectively, unable to meet his piercing gaze.

"You know exactly what I mean." Limahl said, using the same sharp tone he used whenever he caught Eraqus misbehaving. "A wayfinder, an oddly colored one. Where is it?"

She flinched. "I don't have it anymore."

Limahl nearly growled. "And why not?"

"Well I don't know! It disappeared, maybe the brat stole it back before he left!" she snapped, losing temporary control of her filter, before remembering the dangerous person she was speaking to and silencing herself.

"It is not stealing if it rightfully belonged to him in the first place." Limahl snapped back at her, ignoring the small crowd that their conversation was drawing. "Right now I have a very sick child at home, whose life might depend on finding that wayfinder, so I hope for your sake that you can locate it quickly." The implied threat slipped out before he could stop himself, and he quickly reined in his temper, and the flaring magic that rose with it.

"Wha-now hold on a minute! I said I don't have it, and I don't! You think I didn't look for it? It was an heirloom, it was potentially valuable, I wouldn't just let it get lost! I searched our whole house to find it! It was just gone, feel free to search yourself if you don't believe me!"

"How long ago did it disappear?"

"Oh, I don't know, sometime after you left with him. I was a little busy at the time. I had to deal with paperwork and finding explanations for my real children as to where Xehanort went, along with my every day life as well. I was too preoccupied to notice when the wayfinder vanished."

"So you still had it in your possession when you threw a child that you had been responsible for the safety and well being of at a complete stranger, and you couldn't be bothered to return it to him?"

Her face flushed, and she stuttered, "You-you don't understand! You're not from here, you don't know anything about it! Xehanort was trouble, he was dangerous. His house went up in flames at dawn those years ago, a sure sign of Lord Asoth's disfavor! It was better for everyone that you took him away from here. So I didn't give him back the wayfinder, so what? We deserved something for putting up with him as long as we had, and he didn't ask for it when he left either so it didn't matter!"

Xehanort's fevered screams earlier suddenly made horrible sense, but Limahl tried to ignore that for the moment. He also ignored the mention of a Lord Asoth, whoever that was. It wasn't important now. "He was 'dangerous'?" Limahl said in a low, dangerous tone. "You 'deserved' something for 'putting up' with him? Xehanort is just a child. A child that was malnourished, underweight, wearing the most ill fitting and ill suited castoffs, and so timid that to this day, he still fears being thrown out if he so much as breathes wrong! Of course he didn't ask for it! Just as he was afraid to ask for extra helpings at meals for several months! He knew that you would refuse him! How dare you treat a child in such a way!"

"He is touched by the gods!" she shrieked in reply, panic beginning to rise in her voice. "We could not be rid of him, but neither could we accept him! He has Lord Asoth's disfavor, and I know a godless heathen like yourself can't possibly understand, but that makes him something to fear on these islands!"

"Yet, strangely enough my castle is still standing. I imagine being on another world wouldn't stop a god if he really wants to kill a single child." Limahl crossed his arms and glared down at the woman. "Now, I've wasted enough time listening to your pathetic excuses. I've been away from Xehanort's side too long already. You are going to tell me any place you can possibly think of where that wayfinder might be." As he spoke, the rays of the setting sun broke through a gap in the clouds, and he felt them warm against his back and saw them throw his shadow into stark relief on the woman in front of him.

A man suddenly bounded up from behind Limahl to the woman's side and questioned mildly, with a carrying voice, "Are you threatening my wife, sir? You're a stranger here, and islanders stick together." He didn't even attempt to be subtle in his reference to the people watching them.

Limahl eyed the man up and down. He was clearly no threat to him, but the crowd would bear watching. "Except when it comes to an orphan child that was lucky enough to survive a house fire. I sincerely hope, sir, that your home never goes up in flames at dawn, with your family surviving. Will you also be ostracized for having Lord Asoth's disfavor?" The man flinched away from him. "No, I am not threatening your wife – yet. However. I came looking for a wayfinder that she took from Xehanort. She insists she doesn't have it. Would you happen to know where it went?"

"I do not, but I remember it vanished after the boy left with you."

Limahl stared at the couple, using the same glare he had leveled at Xehanort and Eraqus the night he had caught them in the library with No Name. The wife refused to meet his gaze, but her husband looked at him straight on, and he could see no deception there.

"Where was the child's home, before the fire?" The question popped out before he could even process it, and he wondered just why he had asked it.

The man pointed north and gestured with a tilt of his head. "That way, the north end of the island. It's a ways away from the main part of town, which is a good thing in our opinion. The place is cursed, and no one goes near it."

Limahl gave the man a look. "Did you at least take care of the bodies?"

He looked affronted. "Of course! Not that there was much left of them after a fire like that anyway. We buried them at sea, and no one's been near the ruins of the house since, save for Xehanort himself."

Limahl acknowledged the information with a tilt of his head, and then he turned on his heel, walked down the steps, and through the watching crowd, summoning Master's Defender as he went as a warning not to bother him. The crowd skittered out of his way, muttering as he went.

"His home will be next."

"That boy is cursed."

"We should have drowned him years ago."

The gentle breeze that had been blowing turned into a stiff wind, stirring up debris in yards and in the street as he walked along. A glance up showed clouds beginning to gather, and he heard the islanders calling to their children as they scurried to their homes. He ignored them as he stalked off, letting his anger and the flare of darkness that it brought bleed off as he went. By the time he reached the end of town, he was much calmer, though he felt a little ill at the though of the hatred Xehanort had endured since the deaths of his parents.

The cobblestone street gradually petered off as he went, being replaced by a heavily overgrown gravel road. He could almost imagine a younger, happier Xehanort, laughing the laughter of a secure, well loved child as he ran towards home, perhaps looking back at his smiling parents as they walked behind him.

Mommy, Daddy, hurry up!

The clouds had completely obscured the sky by the time Limahl spotted his destination ahead of him. The lot was more overgrown than the road, with tall weeds and young trees sprouting up everywhere through the sand. He quickened his pace, urged on by something that he couldn't name. He approached the ruined structure cautiously, fearing that the wind that was slowly increasing in strength would somehow knock it down on top of him.

What had once housed a happy family was nearly gone. Only one wall remained mostly intact, with the the other walls, roof, and most of the floor collapsed into a pile of charred rubble between the burnt timbers that held the house above the water. The framing of the front porch and the steps that led down to the beach were still there, but they were nearly burnt through in many places, and in a few spots on the remaining wall, Limahl could just barely make out swatches of blistered blue paint. The fire must have been intense.

There was nothing that he could sense about the place. No magic, no curse, nothing to support the islanders' claims. It made Limahl's heart feel strangely heavy, realizing that the ruins represented the loss of a family, the destruction of Xehanort's life, and the beginning of many years of misery that the child endured. Even the wind, as it whistled through the fire ravaged timbers, sounded mournful.

"It was an accident." came a raspy voice from beside him, and Limahl nearly leapt out of his own skin as he turned to find a person standing on his right. How in the world had this person managed to sneak up on him? He took a step back as the hairs on his arms and the back of his neck stood up.

The stranger was wearing flowing white robes that flapped and billowed in the wind, and Limahl was quick to notice the horrific scarring that covered his – he was fairly certain the person was male – face and hands. Scar tissue was twisted and shaped into lines and knots, and his ears looked as though they had been melted. Patches of white hair poked here and there out of a scalp that was discolored and covered by more knotted scar tissue, and a white strip of cloth was tired around the head and covered the eyes.

"Who are you?" Limahl asked, as he wondered for the briefest moment if he was looking at Xehanort's father. Had the man somehow survived the fire and then decided to hide here instead of claiming his son?

The stranger ignored the question as darkness began to fall around them. "The fire was an accident; Lord Asoth had nothing to do with it, despite what the islanders think. It started early in the morning, while Riki and Josel were asleep. The smoke claimed them before anyone knew what was wrong. It was pure luck that little Xehanort had been given permission to spend the night at a friend's house. He was the one who saw the smoke and started screaming for help as he ran home."

Limahl looked back up at the ruins, and then he turned to look at the overgrown road, seeing a screaming boy running towards his blazing home.

No, no, no!

"I... I couldn't do anything." the stranger continued. "If the fire had begun one hour earlier, I could have prevented the out of control inferno that it became, but it was too late. The sun was rising in the sky, and the instant I stepped into its rays, I nearly went up in flames myself. I could do nothing more than watch from a shaded place as the house burned, as my daughter and her husband lost their lives, as their son was restrained by well meaning neighbors and forced to watch the loss of his home and his parents."

Daughter? Limahl's head was filled with questions, but all of them were swept away when the stranger turned to face him. Despite the cloth covering the eyes, he could still feel the other's gaze upon him, and he had the craziest feeling that he could see him just fine.

"I did what I could for him after that, but I feared calling too much attention to my presence around him. I tried to make things easier for him, but every time I did, they misinterpreted it and just made things worse. Now he is with you, in a home where he is welcome, surrounded by people who love him as he deserves." Limahl felt one of those scarred hands grab his own and lift it up, and a tingling ran across his skin, magic running just under the surface. He looked down to see the stranger's other hand gently placing a trinket made of five blue shells in the shape of a five point star, with a disc of carved glass in the center, in his open palm. "I gave this to him the morning after his birth. It will help him. Those fools had no right to it." He closed Limahl's fingers around it, and he felt a strange calm settle over him. His worry for Xehanort, his anger at the islanders, and his surprise at being snuck up on so easily seemed to fade away as the stranger stepped back.

"You must leave," said that raspy voice again. "It won't be safe to be here soon. They abused a child of the gods, and now that he is safe, they can be made to pay for it."

Limahl took a step back as the stranger's entire bearing changed, becoming menacing, threatening. Behind him, the waves began to crash down on the beach with a sudden ferocity as the wind increased even further. The ruined house next to them groaned with the sudden strain, and the remains of the last wall swayed, toppled, and crashed down to land on the pile of rubble below.

"He is never to come back here," the stranger said as he began to back away towards the growing waves. Salt spray splattered against his hair and clothes, but he seemed to take no note of it. "They do not deserve him after what they have done. Go home, give him that; it will help his fever and nightmares. And, Limahl Lindholm," Limahl jumped as he was addressed by his full name, which he had not used since he was a child, "take care of my little one."

The wind began to scream, and the stranger's scarred face curled up into a sardonic smile. A large wave climbed up onto the beach behind him, and just as it was about to crash down on top of him, he suddenly vanished, like he had never been there.

Limahl blinked, shook his head, and rubbed at his eyes with one hand. Where... where had he gone? People just couldn't vanish like that! He reached out with his senses, but there were no hearts near him. There had been no magic, no teleportation spell, no opening of the Lanes Between. The stranger was just gone.

Water from breaking waves splattered against him, and the burnt house groaned again as the water rushed up around its support pillars. Limahl shook his head again, backed away from the swaying structure, tucked the wayfinder into a pocket of his shirt, and then summoned his armor and glider. He opened the path to the Lanes Between and flew through just as the remains of Xehanort's former home finally succumbed and crashed down into the foaming surf.

He streaked away from the islands as fast as the glider would go, whilst trying not to think of the encounter he had just had. No, the most important thing was getting home to Xehanort as quickly as possible.

He could hear Xehanort's cries as soon as he exited the Lanes in the hallway outside of his bedroom. The door was open, and as he ran through it, desummoning his armor and keyblade as he went, he could see Xehanort cradled in the maid's arms as she rocked him and cooed to him. His golden eyes were wild and unseeing, and Limahl spotted a teary Eraqus in the corner of the room, watching with a trembling chin.

Limahl went right up to Xehanort, laid the wayfinder on his chest, and carefully placed one of the boy's own hands over it. Xehanort's fingers curled weakly around it, and within a second or two, his cries began to quiet. He went still, and his eyes closed. Within seconds, he was calm, quiet, and sleeping deeply. Limahl, the maid, and Eraqus simultaneously breathed a sigh of relief, and then Limahl gently scooped Xehanort up into his arms just as he broke out into a drenching sweat. Limahl's shirt and the sheet Xehanort was wrapped in were quickly soaked through as the raging fever broke.

"I think he'll be all right now." Limahl said, feeling suddenly tired as he sat down on the edge of the bed. He looked at the maid, who had stood up. "Thank you for staying with him."

"Of course, Master Limahl. Whatever he needs. If you don't need me for anything else?"

"No, you may go. Go back to bed, and take tomorrow off."

"Thank you, Master Limahl." She nodded respectfully at him and left the room, and Limahl turned to Eraqus.

"Go to bed, Eraqus. Xehanort is going to be fine."

Eraqus tentatively approached and looked down at Xehanort. "Are you sure? He was so sick.."

Limahl managed a tired smile. "He will be fine. Get on to bed now."

Eraqus bit his lip, and then he nodded and walked out of the room. Once he was gone, and the door had shut behind him, Limahl heaved another sigh and held Xehanort tight for a moment. The child was still clutching at the wayfinder, and Limahl leaned down to kiss the sweaty forehead before he stood up to lie him down. Xehanort was as naked as the day he was born, but Limahl couldn't bring himself to care at the moment. Later on, after he'd slept for a few hours, he would bathe the child again and dress him. For now though, he tucked Xehanort into the middle of the bed under the quilt, kicked his boots off, and laid down on top of the quilt next to him. His eyes were closed before his head touched the pillow.

******

Xehanort was still sleeping quietly when Limahl slowly woke up the next day. The sun shining through the windows let him know that it was the early afternoon as he sat up and finger combed his hair back out of his face.

Xehanort was still, his breathing slow, deep, and even, and his right hand was still gripping the wayfinder like he intended to never let it go. Fingers pressed lightly against his forehead confirmed that his fever was gone. Limahl managed another smile, this one of relief, before he stood up from the bed to start the day.

A quick shower finished waking him up, and once he'd dressed and combed out his hair, he nipped down to the kitchen to find some lunch. He returned several minutes later, carrying a loaded tray, to find Xehanort stirring. He set the tray down just as Xehanort's eyes cracked open, and to his relief, they found and focused on him, instead of roving about wildly.

"Master Limahl?" he said in a faint, slightly raspy voice, and Limahl shivered as he remembered the stranger with the raspy voice that he had met earlier. He then shoved that down and turned to his apprentice.

"How do you feel, Xehanort?"

"Tired," Xehanort yawned. "Very tired."

"That is not surprising. You've been very ill for a couple of days."

"I don't remember."

"That is also not a surprise. You've been delirious with a blazing fever for most of it."

"Oh," Xehanort shifted again, and then he froze. Slowly, he raised his shaking hand up to his face, so he could at what he was holding. "My wayfinder," he said in a whisper. "How…how did it get here?"

"I went and found it for you."

"You went back to the Destiny Islands? But... how did you know?"

Limahl sat down next to him. "You asked for it, you said it kept the bad dreams away."

Xehanort's face flushed. "I talked in my sleep?"

"In your delirium, yes, you did."

"What did I say?"

"Enough to make me want to hunt down every single person on those islands that hurt you and make them suffer."

Xehanort averted his gaze and lowered his head. "I'm sorry you had to listen to me. I didn't mean to be a bother."

Limahl gave the boy a chiding look. "You will never be a bother, young man, so I don't want to hear you apologize for that again."

"But -"

"How those fools treated you back on the islands is no way to treat a child. Any other world would have breathed a sigh of relief that you were not home the night your parents died, instead those idiots punished you for something that was in no way your fault."

He fiddled with the wayfinder as he responded, keeping his eyes on the colored glass. "Well, no, but...you don't understand the islander way of thinking. You don't know our gods. Religion is very important there. I know it's not the same here, but to the islands, worship of the gods, respect and fear for them, all of that is really important to their way of life. So if they believe someone has any god's disfavor, that person becomes a danger to those around them. They might bring that disfavor down on them as well."

"Even one who is said to be descended from one of those gods?"

"The god of the sea, who was very nearly killed by his father, the sun god's, rage," Xehanort stated flatly.

Limahl paused for a second, thinking of large waves and horrendous scarring.

Xehanort shifted uncomfortably in the silence, and froze as he realized the sheets slid along his body a little too freely.

Limahl took a deep breath and turned around just in time to see Xehanort freeze in place. "Are you all right?"

"...I'm not wearing pajamas. Why is that?" His voice was decidedly mild for such an otherwise exaggerated reaction.

Limahl resisted the urge to smile: Xehanort likely wouldn't take it well. "Ah well, you had to have an emergency dunking a couple of times, and you'd sweated through your pajamas. They haven't been washed yet, and as hot as you were, clothing was more of a hindrance than anything." The corner of his mouth twitched despite his best efforts. "Just relax and I'll run you a bath. I imagine that you feel rather grimy."

"Um, yeah, that would be good." If he weren't still flushed from being sick, he would have burned red from embarrassment. He moved to gather one of his blankets around him so he could preserve some level of his modesty to go to the bathroom, only to realize the bedspread was not his. "Wait...this isn't my room. Why am I not in my room?" came the obvious question.

Limahl paused in the bathroom doorway to look at him. "For three reasons. One, it was the best way to prevent Eraqus from staying up all night worrying about you. Two, it would be easier for me to keep an eye on you up here. And three?" He smiled gently at the boy. "Because I was worried about you and wanted you close to me." He disappeared into the bathroom and started the water running in the tub.

His face suddenly felt a lot warmer than it had before. That reminded him. He had to wait to ask until Master Limahl could hear him again, but when he reappeared, Xehanort queried, "Is Eraqus all right? He didn't get sick too, right?"

Limahl sat down on the side of the bed while they waited for the tub to fill up. "No, he's fine. A bit bored, I'm certain, since I canceled lessons for two days while I looked after you. I'm sure he'll be happy to see you awake later. Now, do you feel up to walking into the bathroom? I can carry you if you're not sure."

Well that meant he had to try to go on his own. There were too many blankets, so it was a minor struggle getting free of most of them while still holding onto one for propriety's sake, but eventually he swung his legs free over the side of the bed and slid to his feet. His muscles felt shaky; it didn't seem surprising now to know he'd been down sick for so long.

Limahl hovered behind as Xehanort tottered into the bathroom like a little old man. "Call for me if you need help in there. I don't care how embarrassing it is."

"Yes, Master," Xehanort agreed, because what other choice did he really have here? He waited for Master Limahl to retreat and clambered into the bathtub gracelessly. He hissed a little at the heat, but managed to settle in fairly quickly, and took great comfort in scrubbing himself clean of the last few days.

Limahl finally laughed quietly to himself as the bathroom door shut behind Xehanort, and he turned his attention to getting clean sheets on the bed, and using the wards to nudge the cook. The man would know why. Xehanort hadn't eaten in over two days and had been thrashing in a fevered delirium. He was probably starving.

Xehanort almost fell asleep in the bath once he had finished cleaning himself and leaned back against the ceramic to rest, but managed to rouse himself the moment he realized that would be a very bad idea (not to mention Master Limahl would probably be upset). So he levered himself upright again, wrung out his hair, and stepped out of the tub, grabbing the towel immediately to ward off the colder air.

Limahl took the tray, and a recently washed set of Xehanort's pajamas that the maid had sent up (Hadn't he given her the day off?), from the cook and carried it into the room just as the bathroom door opened, and Xehanort came out, wrapped in a towel.

"Get dressed, and get back into bed," he directed him, "and then you can have something to eat."

Xehanort noted the bed had clean sheets now, so he didn't argue, just retreated into the bathroom again with the clean clothes to change. He emerged feeling somewhat more like himself again, and slid into bed without complaint. He had just expended quite a bit of his still low energy reserves, so he was very much ready to let his body rest again. But first, food.

Limahl handed him a bowl of chicken and rice soup and watched with a smile as the boy starting downing it like he hadn't eaten in weeks. "Slower now, don't make yourself sick." He only smiled again at the annoyed glance that was flicked his way.

"So," he began once Xehanort had plowed his way through the soup and was working on a grilled cheese sandwich, "one of of the islanders mentioned a Lord Asoth? I think it was. Is that the sun god you mentioned earlier?"

The boy swallowed before replying. "Yes. Lord Asoth is the god of the sun, with a vicious anger streak. Lady Lassierra is the goddess of the moon, gentle and kind. Lord Xehanort is their son, the god of the sea. He hides in his mother's shadow from his hateful father during the day, and can only come out at night or Lord Asoth will hurt him again." He took another bite of his sandwich.

Limahl paused again, shivering slightly as he remembered the words of the stranger near the ruined house. "So you were named after him, then?" he finally said, commanding his voice to not shake, but not fully succeeding.

"Yes. I also bear his original appearance, the white hair and gold eyes, before he was burned beyond recognition by Lord Asoth. That's the real reason why I was named after him."

"That's -" Limahl's throat tightened suddenly at Xehanort's words, which made his voice come out as a squeaky croak, "-fascinating. So why did his father burn him?"

Xehanort shot him a concerned look at the unusual sound in his voice. "Well...that's kind of a long story. Do you really want to hear the legend?"

Limahl thought about it for a second; did he really? After what he had encountered on the beach? But then he shrugged. Why not? "Might as well. We're not going to be doing much else today. Are you up to telling it now? I don't want you to overtax yourself."

"Yeah, it's fine. I know it better than any other memory I can think of. It won't be hard." He had repeated his mother's telling of the story over and over to himself after she died, as it was the only thing of hers he had left: the memory of her voice and the cadence of the storytelling.

Limahl handed over a napkin so Xehanort could wipe the butter from the grilled cheese from his fingers, followed by a glass of chilled apple juice. The boy had never seen the temperate climate fruit before coming to the Land of Departure, and he had quickly grown to love it. Xehanort smiled as he took the glass, and Limahl waited quietly for him to drink some of it before he began his tale.

"In the beginning, there was the sun and moon, floating opposite each other in the endless void," Xehanort began, directly quoting his mother's words from so long ago. "They watched each other, and in time, they began to love each other, and they conceived a set of twin boys. The firstborn son had white hair that mirrored his mother's light, and eyes like his father's firey glow. He laughed, and in the void between his parents, a small world of water was born, ocean without beginning or end. The second son was the opposite, with golden hair and skin like his father, and eyes dark as his mother's shadow. He cried, and islands rose from the sea in the world the elder brother had created. The second son was favored by the sun, and was named Xehas. The moon favored her firstborn, and he was named Xehanort." Xehanort paused to take a short rest to gather his thoughts and drink more of the juice.

Ah creation myths, Limahl thought. With all the worlds he had visited in his life, he'd heard plenty of them, and they always seemed to start off with celestial bodies having children somehow.

After another small sip, the boy set the glass down and resumed the story, but this time he paraphrased it, combining the facts from his mother's tale and what he'd heard from other villagers growing up to make a more cohesive, though darker, tale. "The brothers were inseparable as they grew. They played on the small world that they had created, and in time they populated the world with plants and animals to join their games. Xehanort had dominion of the water, and created all the fish and sea mammals within it, while Xehas held dominion of the land, and created the trees and plants that now grew across the chain of islands. The ocean obeyed Xehanort's every whim, as the earth did Xehas'.

"As they grew from boys to adolescents, their love and friendship grew into something more, and they became one another's lover and partner. From their union, they created two new things together, the Paopu Tree, and the Thalassa shell." At this, Xehanort moved the wayfinder back into his lap from the table where it had sat as he ate, and his thumb idly caressed one of the blue shells that made up the star-shaped symbol.

Limahl watched him as he held the trinket on his lap, lightly running his thumb over one of the shells, and said nothing. Questions could wait until after the story was finished, though he had to admit to himself that he found himself intrigued. Maybe it was because of the connection the child in front of him had to the mythology of the islands and how the villagers had reacted to it.

Or maybe he was trying to avoid connecting the dots his mind was lining up as he listened.

Xehanort continued. "In time the brothers grew bored and together created people, humans in their image, to populate the islands with them. They included them in their games and enjoyed watching them explore and take pleasure in this new life they had been given by their gods' grace. Even as the humans were like the two brothers, there was still something that held them apart. One group was created by the other. That could not be fully ignored. The brothers remained devoted to one another.

"But as they grew into adults, something changed.

"They were strong and beautiful, and the human women admired them greatly. And while Xehas felt that his heart and body belonged to his brother, Xehanort found himself drawn to one of these women in particular, a woman with hair like the moon's shadow and skin pale as its light. Her name was Sasha, and despite his care for his brother, Xehanort could not stop himself from being unfaithful to him and taking Sasha to his bed. He did not intend to return to her, but he found himself drawn back to her time and time again. For two years, they were together, Xehanort splitting his time carefully between Sasha and Xehas, ensuring that his brother never noticed, and that he never met her under the sun where his father's eyes would see them. Only the moon knew, and his mother would never tell his secrets.

"Xehanort came to find that his love for Sasha began to outpace that for his brother, though he still loved Xehas fiercely. He felt guilty to be betraying his brother by loving Sasha, but he couldn't keep himself away. And it came to pass that Sasha became pregnant with Xehanort's child. Xehanort was worried, because a child was something rather more difficult to keep a secret than a woman alone, but at the same time, his joy could not be outmatched." Here the young storyteller paused again to drink more juice.

"But Xehanort had miscalculated," he continued, borrowing one of his mother's phrases word for word. "The brothers had been together their entire lives, and knew each other better than anyone else ever could. Xehanort's behavior had changed, and it made Xehas suspicious. One night he followed Xehanort, and saw him with his human lover, and he saw also that she was heavily pregnant. Xehanort seemed so very happy, and it broke Xehas' heart. He could not imagine how Xehanort could betray him so, and after Xehanort left just before dawn, Xehas stormed into the woman's house, filled with rage. He beat her terribly, and in the end he killed her. In his crazed state, he looked at the woman's belly and thought to himself that there was one more life to take. He cut the child out, and dropped it into the nearby well to let it drown alone.

"But Xehas too had miscalculated. Xehanort had dominion over the sea, but his affinity was for all water. The moment his child landed into the water of the well, Xehanort knew of it, and flew to the spot. He rescued his child, and immediately thereafter found the body of the woman he loved. He wandered the beach in a daze, his crying son in his arms. When the moon rose again, she helped him, guiding him to a family that had just lost their baby. He knew he could not care for his son, and so he left his child in their hands, with only his talisman of thalassa shells to speak of his heritage." Xehanort again caressed the wayfinder, eyes locked onto it.

"I take it things are not going to end well for the brothers then?" Limahl said lightly. It wasn't hard to guess, seeing as Xehanort had already told him that the sea god had been horribly burned by the sun.

"Not. Remotely," Xehanort answered with overly clear enunciation to emphasize it. He resumed the tale. "Xehanort came across his twin, waiting for him on the beach, and he lost his battle with grief, collapsing against his twin as he wept. But to his surprise, his twin did nothing to comfort him, did not even ask what was wrong. Xehanort looked up and saw his brother smirking down at him, and Xehanort knew. He knew that it was his brother that had brutally murdered Sasha and tried to drown his son.

"Darkness swept into his heart, and Xehanort's heartbreak twisted into rage and a need for vengeance. The sea rose into a massive hurricane, crashing into his brother. His strength and advantage of surprise was such that though Xehas fought, he could not break free of the storm, and the water crushed him to death. Xehanort came back to himself as he watched his brother die, and horror filled him. He picked the body of his brother up and brought it before his parents to confess to them what he had done.

"His mother cried and grieved, but his father... The sun stared at his favored child for a moment, and then attacked his firstborn. His fury was unparalleled, and he burned the skin from his body, tore his hair from his scalp, withdrew much of the water from his body, and lastly sent his fire through every orifice of Xehanort's body to burn him from the inside as well." Xehanort delivered this horrific torture in a very subdued tone, trying not to picture it. His mother's tale had been much less graphic at this part, but the islanders had a much darker description they would bandy about as a horror story at late bonfires. Xehanort had not truly been welcome at such things, but he would sneak to them anyway to hear the stories no one would tell him otherwise. And later he heard the tale directly when a foster sibling had wanted to scare him by taunting him about Lord Asoth's disfavor in him. I'll tell you all about what he'll do if you catch his eye, baby Xeh-Xeh! Better stay away from the sun if you don't want to suffer like Lord Xehanort did!

Limahl shivered suddenly. After a story like that, why exactly had Xehanort's parents saddled their son with that name? That almost seemed to be asking for misfortune to befall the child. He shivered again and took a moment to steady himself. "I assume that he survived what his father did to him?"

Xehanort nodded. "Barely. His mother screamed for the sun to stop, to not kill their only remaining child, and the sun at last released Xehanort to drop at his mother's feet. The sun cursed him then to wander forever in darkness, never to feel his father's light and warmth again lest he rekindle the sun's rage and lose his life the next time. He turned his back on Xehanort and left him to his mother's care.

"The moon cradled her son, but nothing she could do would heal his wounds, so her son was left blind and deaf and in unimaginable pain. All she could do now was protect him, so she placed Xehanort into a deep sleep and set him on her back in the darkness of her shadow, safe from his father's sight."

Xehanort ended the story with the traditional comments that usually finish such a legend. "It is said that Lord Xehanort sleeps on his mother's back still, and that is why she never shows her back to the world or to the sun. Some say that when he is healed, Lord Xehanort will awaken from his sleep, and once he awakes, he will fight his father for vengeance over the suffering he endured. Some say that he will simply return to the islands to live out his life while some say he will seek out his descendants. To do what, no one can definitively say. Some say it is the son that Xehanort left behind that is the source of the white hair that appears among the islanders, and even rarer, some with tanned skin and eyes with a gold shade to them." Xehanort fingered a lock of his own snowy white hair, a bright contrast to his light brown skin.

"Xehanort's descendants are heirs to the power of the sea, and thus are treated with a degree of reverence, for all islanders know that to disrespect the power of the ocean is to lose your life to it." He raised his eyes to Master Limahl. "My mother said that she chose to name me as she did because she felt compelled. She said that she felt there was no other choice, when I first opened my eyes and she saw that they were golden yellow. She passed the wayfinder to me the moment I was old enough to handle it safely. She said no one had seen it in living memory until it appeared beside me the day after I was born, but she knew in her heart that it was Lord Xehanort's own talisman, the one he gave to his son, and I've always believed it too. It really feels like there's something special about it. But it's always been with me, until that woman took it from me. It was the one thing I always fought to get back, even though I would get in a lot of trouble for it every time. Even though it was always mine, and they're the ones who stole it and wouldn't give it back unless I made them. Sometimes when I couldn't, though, I would just...find it again. I'd come home and cry myself to sleep, and in the morning it'd be sitting by my pillow like it had never been gone. And…well, this might just be wishful thinking, but…I've always thought that maybe…Lord Xehanort was the one who would bring it back to me. Since it used to be his and all. But regardless, this wayfinder is definitely different from any of the others. I don't know if you can feel it. It has to be special. Not just any shell talisman could find its way home like that."

I gave this to him the morning after his birth. The memory of that raspy voice speaking those words replayed through his mind, and Limahl repressed another shiver as he shifted in his chair. He also tried not to picture a younger Xehanort crying himself to sleep, alone and unwanted. It make him want to do things that Master Alexia would not approve of.

"I can feel it." he admitted as he looked at the wayfinder, held securely in Xehanort's hand. "I felt it when it was handed to me, and I saw with my own eyes how it brought you out of your nightmares and broke your fever within a few seconds of you touching it. Even now I can sense something about it just by being close to it."

Xehanort's eyes brightened and it softened all the sad lines in his face. "Right? I knew I wasn't imagining it. It has power. It means something. It's mine, so it means...I matter. To someone, I'm important, enough to have given it to me to begin with. Enough that it always comes back to me."

"Of course you matter to someone." Limahl said, perhaps a bit sharper than he intended, "You matter to me, and to Eraqus. I wouldn't have dealt with those idiots back there to get that back for you otherwise. I assume that those fools believe that this Lord Asoth burned down your home to get back at his son then?"

His tone took Xehanort by surprise, and his mind stalled for a moment before he gathered himself to reply, "Um, yes, something like that. It happened right at dawn. And since I look just like Lord Xehanort did, since I'm his clear descendant...yes."

"That is so ridiculous that I don't even know where to start. So let's say that he did start the fire as soon as he came up for the day. Why? Why did he wait for so long? I assume this legends is hundreds, if not thousands of years old, possibly even predating the Keyblade War. He could have nailed his son's descendants at any time, but he just rose one day and thought: 'I'm going to burn Xehanort's descendants, who happen to also be my descendants, in their home. Why not?' Now let's say he didn't realize that you weren't home at the time before going through with this. Why didn't he finish what he started? I assume you went out during the day for school and such. I met you standing in the full view of the setting sun on the play island. Yet not once has the sun attempted to kill you. If a god wants someone dead, there is nothing anyone can do to stop it. Yet your foster homes didn't burn, this very castle is still standing intact, and here you are, alive."

Limahl paused for a moment to calm himself. It wouldn't do to upset the child with his anger. His own homeworld had had its gods and religion, and said religion just happened to neatly line up with whatever the wealthy class had wanted at the time. His own parents had used it as an excuse to neglect and ignore him for the first ten years of his life. Seeing religion used as an excuse to neglect another child made him loathe those responsible more than he ever thought possible.

"Well, yeah... I never said it made a lot of sense. I never really believed it myself, not really." He fiddled with the wayfinder. "I've always thought Lord Asoth didn't care about humans even remotely. We're not worth his time. He wouldn't bother targeting somebody specific, lookalike or not. Besides, I'm still a child. It was the adult form that the sun hated. I don't know if he'd even notice the similarities while I'm still a kid. If anything, he should only really notice me once I'm an adult and look like the version of his son that killed Xehas. Frankly, though, Xehas deserved it. Though I've always wondered, if Mother Moon saw it all, why did she never do anything? She could have stopped all of what happened in the story."

Limahl tilted his head in acknowledgment. "Perhaps she knew her consort well enough to know that saying anything would have only incited his anger. Perhaps she was not as powerful as him. If gods are real -" And I'm fairly certain I met one earlier, "-then we cannot hope to understand why they act the way they do. Personally I'm more curious about why Mother Moon would have children with someone as angry and violent as Asoth if she's as gentle and kind as the legend says."

"I don't know. But she could have intervened with her children too. She could have talked to them, tried to help them out somehow. If Xehas hadn't been so attached, or if Xehanort hadn't cheated...ugh. Mythology is too complex and miscommunication causes so many problems," Xehanort groaned.

Limahl smiled at the look on the boy's face. "Well then, that is a conversation for another day." He stood up. "I think you need to rest for a while."

"Yeah...I probably should." Predictably, he yawned. He tucked the wayfinder under his pillow, his hand holding onto it gently, as he wiggled down into the bed to curl under the covers again.

Limahl resisted the urge to tuck him in; the boy hadn't appreciated it the last time. "I'll be close by after I make sure Eraqus isn't climbing the walls. Call me if you need anything."

"Okay." He closed his eyes as Limahl left the room, and fell fast asleep in moments.

******

When Xehanort opened his eyes again, hours had passed, and he found Limahl sitting nearby, just as he had said he would. He blinked blearily at him for a few minutes without saying anything.

Limahl looked up when the child stirred. "How do you feel?"

"Tired still," the child rasped. "Thirsty."

He picked up another glass of chilled apple juice that had been brought up along with dinner just a few minutes before and handed it to him after he sat up. "Do you feel up to eating some supper?"

He still felt full from eating earlier, but it was never a good idea to turn down food. "Maybe a little," he replied, trying not to look uncomfortable while he started to pick at the plate offered to him.

Limahl watched Xehanort while he tried to show interest in his meal. Normally, the child ate as fast as politeness would allow, as if he was afraid it would be taken from him if he took too long. Now though, he was barely picking at it.

"Are you not hungry? Since you've been so ill, I'm not going to make you eat if you don't want to."

"I..I know that. I just...don't want to waste food." That wasn't the whole story but it was all he wanted to say about it.

"I'm not going to get angry if you don't clear your plate."

"No...but what if I get hungry later? It'll be my fault that I didn't eat now while it's being offered."

He should have suspected as much. "What did I tell you, Xehanort, when I brought you here and caught you stealing food in the middle of the night?"

He poked at his mashed potatoes, staring them down instead of looking at his master. "That I would never go without here. That if I need something, I just have to ask," he answered dutifully.

"You have been very, very sick. I brought that here for you, fully aware that you might not want it. If you don't eat now and wake up hungry later, then I will get you something then. I'd rather you ask for a sandwich at 2am instead of forcing yourself to eat when you don't want to and risk making yourself sick."

He sort of curled into himself a little bit under the chastisement, dropping his spoon with a loud clink. "Yes, Master," he said in a very quiet voice.

Limahl sighed. Wonderful, now the boy thought he was angry at him. Eraqus had had issues with stealing food at first as well, but his parents had loved him dearly, so he hadn't had the issues Xehanort dealt with.

He moved from the chair to sit beside Xehanort. "I'm not angry with you, Xehanort. If you don't feel up to eating now, you can try again later. Do you understand?"

He nodded shakily; he still felt off balance, despite Master Limahl's assurances. But he believed him when he said he can eat later, no restriction.

"I did bring you some more apple juice though, and I do want you to drink some of it." He handed Xehanort another glass before he took the tray and set it aside.

He sucked that down without complaint. He did really love apples, and the juice made his throat feel better. Now that he was calmer, he finally ventured, "So...since I'm getting better now, I should go back to my room, right?"

"Well, if you want, but seeing as how weak you still are, I'd rather you be close. Besides, it's really too late to be moving from one bed to another."

"But...this is your room. I can't just stay here. I'm well enough to be on my own. You don't need me to stay in your bed."

Limahl nodded. "Yes, this is my room, and I brought you up here to make it easier to look after you. Yes, you are getting better, but you still wobble like a drunk when you try to walk. I don't want you to go back to your room and then fall trying to make it down the hall to the bathroom."

"No, it's fine, I'll be fine. I don't want you to be so burdened by me, you've already devoted two days to looking after me and even went back to the Islands for me, I can't have you do anything more," he rambled nervously, unable to make his mouth stop chattering to form proper sentences.

"You are not a burden, Xehanort. You never will be. I want to strangle those fools on the islands for making you think that way."

"You say that now, but in time you won't think so anymore. It always goes that way," he argued quietly.

"Ah, but you see, I'm not worried about the sun burning down my castle because you're in it. I welcomed you into my home willingly after having been told several times that you were a trouble child. You've been here for a year and a half, have I given you any signs that I didn't want you here?"

"I...I stayed with my friend, for the first two years after...my parents. But they kicked me out in the end too."

"So you think that at the two year mark, I'll just throw you out into the wilds and expect you to forage for yourself?"

"Oh I don't know!" he snapped. "But no one has ever kept me, why should you?"

Limahl gave him a warning look over his tone, but said nothing about it. He recognized why Xehanort was acting this way, because he'd once done the same years ago. Scolding him wouldn't help the point he was trying to make.

"Because, Xehanort. I. Chose. You. I didn't care about what the others were saying about you. I didn't care when I was told that you were bad luck. I didn't care then, and I don't care now. All I care about is convincing you that you are home, that you are loved, and that you are never leaving here until after you pass the Mark of Mastery exam, and even then, only if you want to."

Xehanort's throat convulsed as he swallowed hard, and he started hiccuping just as tears started to trickle down his face.

"Come here." Limahl said gently as he tugged Xehanort out from under the blankets and onto his lap. "I imagine that you've been holding this back for years." He held Xehanort tight, giving him an anchor to cling to as the tears poured out of him. "I love you."

Xehanort's hands gripped the sleeves of Limahl's shirt as he sobbed out seven years of grief and hurt, his body shaking as he was held.

"There is nothing, nothing in the universe, that could make me throw you out. I didn't throw you out when I caught you stealing food. I didn't when you got into spats with Eraqus, and I didn't when you made No Name your own. You are mine, my apprentice, my child, my son, and this castle is your home for as long as you want it.

"I don't know what made me stop at the Destiny Islands the day I found you, but I've never regretted it. It brought me you, and I will never stop loving you. Ever."

"Even," Xehanort said between sobs and hiccups, "even if I make you angry? Even if I do something that you hate?"

"I still won't stop loving you. Even when I'm grounding you for a month or giving you the lecture of your life, I'll be doing it because that's what a loving parent does, they make sure the child grows up right, not because I think you're cursed or that you're bad luck.

"You are not a burden. You are not trouble. You are a child, a child with great potential. As soon as I saw you, I immediately starting planning to speak to your parents about training you. Your foster parents practically shoving you out the door at me was something I was all too happy to accept. Their loss was certainly my gain."

Xehanort raised his head and looked at him. The boy's face was blotchy from crying, with red, swollen eyes, and a dripping nose. "You really do want me?" he asked in a tiny voice.

"For as long as I live."

Xehanort laid his head down again as his tears started anew. "Let's get all of those tears out," Limahl said as he rocked him. "You won't be needing them anymore. You 're home now, and Eraqus and I are your family."

He held and murmured soothingly to Xehanort for several minutes as the child cried, until the recent illness began to catch up to him, and he went quiet. A quick check showed that he had cried himself to sleep, and Limahl couldn't help but smile faintly at the sight of Xehanort asleep with his head on his shoulder. He held him for a minute longer and then he carefully laid him down in bed and pulled the quilt over him. One of Xehanort's hands reached under the pillow to touch the wayfinder, while his other reached out in Limahl's direction.

"Don't go," he whispered in his sleep.

"Never," Limahl said softly as he took Xehanort's hand in his own and squeezed it. "I'll be right here."

Xehanort went still and quiet, sleeping deeply and peacefully, and true to his word, Limahl stayed beside him as the hours ticked by.

******

When Xehanort woke again much later, it took him a long minute to figure out why one of his hands felt so much warmer than the other that was gripping the cool edges of his wayfinder. He looked over to see Master Limahl still beside him, and his hand held in the man's grasp. He flushed and cringed into his pillow as he remembered the events that led to this. I can't believe I bawled like a baby! Agh, thank goodness Eraqus wasn't here to see it at least.

The feel of Xehanort moving around startled Limahl out of the half doze he had been in, and he nearly groaned when his back protested sitting slumped like that for several hours. He felt Xehanort pull his hand away, and he took the opportunity to stretch his arms above his head for a moment. The room was only lit by bright moonlight that poured through the mullioned windows, leaving patterns on the well worn wood floor and across the bed.

He looked over to Xehanort to see that the moonlight shining on his hair made it glow like silver fire, and it was so bright that he was just barely able to see that the child's eyes were open.

"How do you feel, little one?"

"...Really embarrassed," he admitted dryly. He rubbed his eyes with his fingers and yawned.

"Don't be. You aren't the first to cry on my shoulder, and years ago it was me crying on Master Alexia's shoulder, so you're in good company."

"R-really? You, Master?" he repeated, looking at him with wide eyes.

Limahl laughed at Xehanort's surprise. "Oh yes. She had been treating me just as I treat you and Eraqus, and I was convinced that it was all some sort of cruel joke and that she would start acting just as every other adult in my life had acted. When she finally convinced me that she wasn't acting, I fell to pieces in her arms and cried for over an hour."

"I...I didn't know that you were..." just like me.

"I was born to parents that had no need for another child. They fed, clothed, and housed me, but that was all. I was ignored the rest of the time and told to stay out of sight."

"Oh..." How sad, not to be wanted by your own parents. At least Xehanort had always known that his parents had loved him dearly. It was everyone else that was suspect.

Limahl reached out and ruffled Xehanort's hair. "Eventually, I met Master Alexia, and she brought me here, and it was the best thing to ever happen to me."

"Do they know what happened to you? How strong you are? What a great person you became?" Xehanort always had a slight obsession with fame, with making a name for himself and seeing the names of others. With being strong and obtaining power to prove his worth. "Do they regret giving you away?"

"I don't know." Limahl shook his head slightly. "I only went back twice, when I was sent back by the council to try and learn why there were so many Heartless on that world. I assume that they figured that since I was from that world, that I would know my way around. I did find out why the Heartless were so prevalent there, and I did seal the world's keyhole, but I heard from listening to gossip that my parents were gone, and my eldest brother was the head of the family. I didn't bother to seek him out. He had ignored me just as our parents had, and I had no desire to meet him. Instead, after sealing the keyhole, I found one of the few lights left on that world and brought him here." He smiled at the memory.

Xehanort blinked a couple times, putting that together quickly. "Eraqus? He's from the same world as you?"

Limahl inclined his head. "He is, and if you want to know more about how he got here, that is his story to tell."

He accepted that answer easily, because something else distracted him. Aww. Why couldn't he have something like that connecting him to them? Once again he was the outsider in their little group of three.

Limahl reached out and tapped him on the nose. "Just because you come from a different world doesn't make you less of a member of our little family."

He scrunched his nose belatedly from the tap. "If you say so. It's just, Eraqus has been with you most of his life. I've been here less than two years. I couldn't ever possibly overcome that gap."

"Why would you need to? I love you both as though you were my own children. There's nothing to overcome there."

"But how can you, really? You've known him nearly all his life. I've only been here for a little while. You can't possibly love me so much already. You hardly know me." Xehanort struggled to overcome invasive thoughts of inferiority, but it wasn't an easy thing. He might accept that this place was home for him now, that he was welcome here and had a place here, but one could not overcome close to a decade of emotional trauma in a single afternoon.

"Do you think that parents love their younger children less because they haven't known them as long?"

He merely blinked at him. "Probably. I wouldn't know. I was an only child. And now I never will."

"You're not an only child anymore, and I certainly do not love you less because I met you second."

"If you say so." It was clear he still doubted it, though. It may well be that such an understanding would simply require time.

"I didn't believe Master Alexia either at first." Limahl stood up and stretched. "Do you want to try and eat something? Do you need the bathroom?"

"Uh, bathroom," he admitted. All that apple juice...

"Here, let me help you up."

Xehanort silently suffered being assisted, wishing he felt well enough to move autonomously, but alas, it was not to be. Master Limahl helped him to the bathroom, then left him to manage himself. When he finished up, he washed his hands and then let Limahl help him back to the bed again. "I think...I could eat something now. Not anything too big. But I would like a little something."

Limahl patted the quilt around his shoulders. "I'll be back in just a moment then." He left the child curled up in the middle of the bed, with the moonlight still shining brightly down on him, and went down to the quiet, empty kitchen, where he quickly gathered up a few cake doughnuts and another glass of apple juice. He took it back upstairs to find Xehanort halfway to asleep, but the boy woke up when he approached the bed.

"Are those doughnuts?" he verified, eyes shining. He loved doughnuts. The type they made on the islands tasted completely different, and these were way better.

"Indeed they are." Limahl said with a smile. He sat down and handed the plate over, and Xehanort looked like he'd been handed the keys to the universe as he took it.

It took a serious exercise of control not to scarf them down, but that would probably be a bad idea given the circumstances. Instead he forced himself to take small bites spaced several seconds apart.

Limahl watched him with a faint smile, and he waited until the child had polished off two of the doughnuts before asking the question that had been plaguing him for nearly three days.

"Xehanort," he began, which made the boy pause and look at him with questioning look in his eyes, "when you were delirious, you were speaking to someone, and it wasn't me. Do you know who you were talking to? You don't have to tell me if you don't want to, but I am curious."

Xehanort bit his lip briefly and picked at the third doughnut. "Oh. Well, I don't remember, but it was probably Lord Xehanort," he answered quietly.

"You spoke like you'd met him before. Did you ever see him?"

"I'm...not entirely sure. The times when I felt there was someone with me, I was...in pretty bad shape. He only came when I was on the brink, when I really needed someone to be there for me, someone to care. So I don't really remember much. But I always thought...maybe it was him. Who else would care about me, if no one else did? And he never said otherwise, that I can remember."

"Did that happen often? Did no one else ever notice him?"

"Like I said, it was only when things would be at their worst. And he only came in the dead of night. Of course no one else ever noticed him. Sometimes I slept in a room alone, and when I had roommates, they were always dead asleep. But I usually slept alone, so that I wouldn't bother anyone during nights when I was punished, or sick, or whatever I was at the time."

Limahl closed his eyes and took a deep breath to center himself and calm the anger that Xehanort's words brought. "I am very glad," he said once the anger had gone, "that you had him until I came to bring you home."

Xehanort nodded. "You don't...think I was crazy, or that I just...imagined it all?"

"No." Limahl replied with a heavy sigh as he raked his hair out of his face. "I've seen too many unexplainable things in my life to dismiss it. And... I'm fairly certain that I met him too."

Xehanort blinked a couple times, wondering if he heard that correctly. "You...met him too? Really? How, when?"

"I, ah," Limahl paused for a second, at a loss for words. "I confronted your last foster parents about the missing wayfinder, and they denied having it. Something made me ask where your parents' home used to be – I spoke the question before I even realized I was saying anything. I went there, and he somehow managed to walk up to me without me ever noticing. Heavily scarred? White robes? Cloth over the eyes?"

Aside from the scarring, Xehanort was certain he hadn't described anything else about Lord Xehanort's appearance. "Y-yes...that's right. I'm...surprised. I didn't know he'd show himself to an outsider. But since you're my teacher, maybe you don't count anymore. If you're family to me, then maybe you're family to him too."

The thought brought a smile to Limahl's face. "That certainly is something to think about." He shifted in the chair, making it creak. "He is the one who gave me the wayfinder. He knew that you were feverish and delirious, when I had only said that you were very sick, and I'm certain that he wasn't around when I said that. He also knew my last name, which I haven't used since Master Alexia brought me here 34 years ago. I think she was the only one outside of my parents and brother that even knew I had a family name, so it was quite a shock to hear him address me by my full name."

"Oh...I forgot family names exist elsewhere. Islanders don't have that. We refer to others like 'this person or that person's son or daughter' if we need to differentiate someone. It seems like it would be harder to remember even more names for the same people."

"It's easier than it sounds, though family names seem to be pretty uncommon on the whole. Only the largest worlds, like Radiant Garden, use them."

"Is that where you're from?" he asked promptly, given that information.

"Haha, no. Eraqus and I are from a world so far removed from Radiant Garden, it might as well be in another universe. Those two worlds are night and day."

"Then you should take us to see Radiant Garden, Master!" Xehanort suggested avidly, then corrected himself, "When Eraqus can summon his own keyblade, I mean. I want to see a world bigger than the islands. I want to see them all!"

Limahl smiled at the boy's exuberance. "I will in time. Eraqus must summon his own keyblade, then the two of you will have to learn how to find the glider forms. And then you will have to learn to fly. You, especially, will have fun with that part, I think."

The boy's eyes lit up thinking about it. "I bet! I look forward to it, Master."

Limahl stood up from his chair and stretched. "For now though, it is time for all Keyblade Masters and future Keyblade Masters to get some rest. It is late, and I'm sure you're tired."

Xehanort had been trying to stifle and/or hide a yawn, and froze like he'd been caught doing something bad. "Yes, Master," he answered with chagrin.

Limahl tucked Xehanort back in, trying not to smile at the annoyance that flickered across the boy's face. "I'm going to go lie down on my couch. Call me if you need me. Goodnight."

Xehanort settled down, thinking of all the worlds he could visit in the future. They would have to get Eraqus his own keyblade soon! His joy then suddenly subsided a little as he gained a pensive look on his face, thinking back to earlier in the conversation. "Um, Master...Lord Xehanort, he really gave you the wayfinder to give back to me?"

"He did." Limahl looked over at him from where he was reclining on the couch. "He said 'those fools' had no right to it." He shifted around, trying to get comfortable. "Xehanort? He also said the fire was accidental. Asoth had nothing to do with it."

Xehanort took a deep breath and let it out slowly. "Okay. Thank you. That...that helps."

Limahl smiled faintly. "Goodnight, little one."

He could practically see the face Xehanort made in the dark in his general direction. "Master," he complained.

He couldn't help but laugh again. "Goodnight, Xehanort."

"Night." He settled into the mattress more firmly and watched Limahl relax on the sofa. Yeah, he would definitely go back to his room tomorrow. It wasn't fair for his master to be sleeping on his own couch. Xehanort had a perfectly good bed in his own room, and he was getting better now. He'd be fine tomorrow.

******

Xehanort woke once again with late morning light streaming through the window. He sat up and groggily rubbed his eyes. Aside from a bit of sluggishness, though, he was feeling a good deal better than he had lately.

Limahl, lounging on his couch with another book, looked up when he heard Xehanort sit up.

"How are you feeling?"

"A lot better," he answered promptly. He did sound stronger. "I can probably go back to my room now. I'm sure I can move around without help."

"Hmmm," Limahl stood up and made a big show of walking over to Xehanort's side and sloooowly looking him over. "Are you sure you're feeling better?" he said as the corner of his mouth twitched.

"Master, yes!" He pouted a little bit, putting his hands on his hips. Not a very effective pose when sitting in bed, but not for lack of trying. "I'm not lying."

There was a knock on the door then, and Limahl smiled at the irritation on Xehanort's face as Limahl called for the knocker to come in. The door creaked open and Eraqus stuck his head in. "Master Limahl? Is Xehanort feeling better? May I visit him?"

"Eraqus! Yes, I'm feeling better, help me convince Master," he demanded.

Limahl couldn't contain his mirth any further, and he started to laugh. "Go on, Xehanort. Go take a bath, get dressed, and I'll see you in the dining room for lunch. Lessons resume tomorrow." He smiled and shooed the two boys out of the room. "Go on now."

He clambered from the bed with minor struggling, and though he wanted to move quickly, decided it would be better to be moderate so as not to overextend himself so soon after being sick. He joined Eraqus at the door and they made their way back down the hall.

"Xehanort!" Limahl called him back, and once the boy had reappeared at the door, looking like he expected to be ordered back into bed, he simply smiled at him. "You forgot this." He held out the wayfinder, which had been left under the pillow.

"Oh!" Xehanort accepted it quickly, holding it to his chest. "Thank you, Master. It would be bad to lose it again now."

"And we wouldn't want that, would we?" He then reached out and caught the surprised child in a hug.

Xehanort wasn't expecting it, no. But a part of him accepted it, and he returned the hug for the first time. Then, blushing furiously, he pulled away and raced back down the hall.

Limahl watched him go with a fond smile, and he listened to his footsteps receding down the hallway as he chased after Eraqus. He then shook his head and followed them out of the room as the sun's light shone through the windows behind him.

Heirloom --


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