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oh, kiddo, have mercy on your poor brother

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They really aren't all that much alike, this hero of the Source and Azem, but there are points of similarity which prick at Emet-Selch's awareness like tiny coeurl claws. It shouldn't matter; like cuttings from the same tree cultivated in distant gardens, it was only natural there could be faint echoes of those he once knew in the sundered. He's caught glimpses over the many long years, ephemeral as mist and burnt away with the sunrise. He's been here before, lost sight of them before. Whether or not his old heart could still ache for missing home, it shouldn't be enough to pull him to this quaint little room in the Crystarium, watching out of sight as the sole occupant hunched in on himself as if that might stave off the roiling Light under his skin.

Perhaps it's that the vaunted Warrior of Light (or Darkness, rather), is so damnably young, in a way Azem hadn't been at the end of all things. Oh, this H'ella Tia carried himself with all the self-assurance of a foolhardy twenty-something, full-grown by mortal standards, but to one such as Hades this Warrior resembled nothing so much as a fresh-faced student barely ready to fumble his way through even the most basic concepts. Here was a desk scattered with papers and pens, scribbled letters and pictures and a journal full of half-coded notes. There, a stack of tomes from the Cabinet of Curiosity (a most curious name indeed), organized haphazardly by whatever arcane system existed in the boy's mind. For a traveler who had only dwelled in this land for a scant handful of weeks, he had already accumulated more than a handful of knickknacks from goodness knew where, paltry trinkets for himself or for distant friends, he knew not. There was even a messy stack of astrologian's cards and a novice's globe, though the lad was a swordsman through and through, and had made little progress in his studies of magic. With what time, Emet-Selch had to wonder, between all his scampering about, slaying sin eaters and Light Wardens and running petty errands for all and sundry? His ridiculous coat was slipping over the back of the chair he was slumped in, the hem pooling on the floor, and in the dimmed light the dark green fabric looked almost black. If Emet-Selch wanted, if he reached far enough, turned his head just so, he could perhaps (perhaps!) pretend this was one of Chiron's rooms. Chiron in his youth, Chiron as the student who tugged at his sleeve in between lectures, laughing at whatever dour face he saw whilst calling him brother.

Not by blood, no, but Chiron had had a way with others, drawing people inexorably into his orbit like celestial bodies dancing around the brilliant sun. It was no wonder, then, that he served so well as Azem, travelling here and there as a stranger and leaving scores of friends in his wake.

That, too, was something this shard had in common with the greater whole.

It shouldn't matter, shouldn't mean anything. Emet-Selch may be playing the part of woefully mistrusted friend for now but in the end, if their paths diverged once more as they surely would, he's only setting himself up for disappointment. They're not terribly alike, this shard and Azem, but Hades remembered well how the man had declared, when he left, that he would have no part in any plan that would require such a staggering sacrifice of living beings, willing or no, that there must surely be another way if only they had the time to seek it out, and Emet-Selch would not disrespect Azem's memory to delude himself with thoughts that Azem might have changed his stance if he could see that the lives affected in this case were malformed and fractured things, were not being lost, truly, but rather returned to where they belonged. This shard would likely be of the same mind, for from his limited perspective they were as real as the people they were shorn from; he may be of the Source, but he clearly saw the people of the First as equals in every way that mattered. He was, after all, a hero of the sort that was ever trying to champion futile causes.

And, admittedly, annoyingly, the type of hero that seemed able to wrench things around as if by sheer willpower he could bend the star to his will.

And he could have, once. Every time but the last, Azem could seek out brighter paths from among the brambles, never minding whether the Convocation as a whole would deem it necessary, cheerful in the face of censure, for all turned out well enough, did it not?

And who was it that was left to tidy up his tangles with the bureaucracy? Of their merry cohort, it fell to Hades most often. For if they were brothers it was the lot of the elder to look after the younger, wasn't it? And he would help care for any one of them, in any case. Brothers, friends, colleagues, the title mattered little.

It matters not. Ah, sentimental old fool that he is, he's dawdled enough, hasn't he? Emet-Selch has better things to do than haunt the bedroom of a sundered child, even if that child was someone once. He should take his leave, return when there are more amusing things afoot. He steps back—

The Warrior of Light breathes in, a harsh, ragged sound, and makes to stand, and goes crashing sideways, sending paper flying and knocking chair and desk askew on his way down. As Hades watches, this mighty hero of the Source spasms, one hand curling and unfurling against the floor as if he means to push himself up, before he simply folds up into a ball where he fell. His breath hitches and shudders as he presses his face into his knees, in, in, out, and his shoulders have nearly met those silly ears where they lay flat against his skull.

Long minutes pass. The boy doesn't move except to breathe and twitch, moving bit by bit into the smallest shape he can manage. At the very edge of audible range, Hades can hear a quiet keening.

Ridiculous. Utterly ridiculous. What did the lad do, trip over his own tail? Is this all it takes to defeat him, a little agony, an imbalance of Light?

Emet-Selch should leave him there; either he would recover and this fit would pass, or perhaps he would reach the limits of his endurance and begin to turn, as unlikely as that seemed. For now at least. Already the whining was fading into nothing, his breathing evening out into the cadence of unconsciousness rather than suppressed pain; it seems he really means to stay right there on the ground. That's fine, really, the Warrior of Darkness has more than earned the horrible stiffness and aches he would wake with. He would likely bounce back before the end of breakfast, young as he is. The boy is fine.

And yet.

Hades could curse himself for a fool, but even this was somehow familiar, in the broad strokes of the scene if not the details.

It's a simple thing, to lift someone without touching them. The boy goes easily, drifting to the bed as lightly as any child, even smaller than Chiron might have been at that age. He curls up again upon making contact with the mattress, rubbing his cheek against the pillows with the faintest rumble. His voice is soft, soft when he mumbles out a name, the tone rising in question. It's no one Emet-Selch has seen amongst his erstwhile companions. No one that Emet-Selch should concern himself with, though he has some idea of who they are thanks to incessant nattering and shameless eavesdropping. A sibling.

His older brother.

Bah. Hades knows well his own appreciation for drama, the quiet lulls between the thundering highs to make tales all the sweeter, but this, this is too much for an old man. Such a small thing from such a pitiful creature and here he is, sower of chaos, founder of an empire, millennia old, rooted to the spot by overwhelming nostalgia.

He should leave. Familiar or not this boy isn't anyone so important, outside of his potential as a help or hindrance. He's long overstayed his welcome—or lack of, of course, which was to say he shouldn't have come here to begin with.

But ah, it wouldn't do to leave a mess, would it? He makes quick work of the papers and furniture, leaving everything perfectly in its place. Let the lad wonder at his own memory when he wakes; if Emet-Selch wanted to hide his presence he gave that up the moment he moved his body. If nothing else the look on his face should prove mildly amusing.

That would have to be enough for now.