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So alike, yet so different.

It drives Emet-Selch up a wall, almost literally too, for he’s close to escaping every single damn time you even take a step towards his general direction. Just climb the building behind and jump out of your line of sight. Hythlodaeus notices it in the tense line of his friend’s shoulders, and when you’re not looking, he hides a laugh behind his hand that never goes unnoticed by the grumpy Convocation member.

You never notice it, all down to business and friendly-like to the other Ancients working around Elpis, always willing to give a hand to every single one of them on their tasks, boundless curiosity aflame as you get to know more of the unknown, beautiful old world around you.

There’s a familiar spark in your eye. Emet-Selch doesn’t know if he hates it, or loves it. For his part, Hythlodaeus has already decided that if he could, he’d take you home with him.

"What a curious little thing, isn’t she?" Hythlodaeus has the audacity to giggle, the cheeky smile never leaving his face even when Emet-Selch whips his head to the side to give him his most menacing glare.

It doesn’t work. It never does, nor with him, nor with Azem. And now, as he’s just discovered as you keep bouncing around from one task to another despite his annoyance, it doesn't work on you either. He doesn’t know whether to feel impressed or offended. Probably the latter, since you’ve even managed to sway him with your begging to help the stupid charybdis.

He still tries to scowl at his best friend. He has an image to maintain, after all. "Dangerously so; she’s bound to get herself into some mess or another, and I’m not wasting a single breath on her when she does."

"Ah, you sound just like when you’re trying to lecture Azem."

Emet-Selch sighs and pinches the bridge of his nose. "Hythlodaeus."

"Yes?"

"Please, stop talking."

"Then you agree with me!"

"No, I don’t," Emet-Selch hisses, aware that something in him stirs every time you look at him, and oh how he hates it, just like he hates that half of his mind seems to turn off every time Azem looks at him with fondness in her eyes. Him! Tongue tied! Emet-Selch of the Convocation of the Fourt—

"If you’re trying to get me to believe you, maybe you should try staring less."

With a groan, Emet-Selch stomps away, yanking his arm out of reach when he hears a laughing Hythlodaeus catching up to him.

"Heh heh, wait—Hades, wait!"

 


 

He’s sick of it. He’s honestly sick of it. Azem having a weird familiar chasing them around for her own fun was something he could expect, but this? The familiar being from the future? What the hells is Venat thinking?

For one horrifying moment where his thoughts race beyond his wildest imaginations, the thought of you being Azem crosses his mind: the brilliant orange hue, the curious spark in your eyes, the way you can’t sit still for a blasted moment without running to someone’s aid, your unbridled strength…

It’s right then and there when he vows to find out everything about you.

 


 

And then he regrets asking (well, demanding) and he doesn’t believe you. How can he, when everything you’ve told is a tale of destruction and loneliness and worthless sacrifice in his mind? Sacrifice half of their people to a god? Are you insane? Both of his best friends gone without a trace left in the world, forever forgotten, with Hythlodaeus’ very soul bound to that god for a millennia?

Him, a megalomaniac fool who sullied the memory of his loved ones with an illusion?

Emet knows Hythlodaeus is chasing after him once more the moment he leaves you and Venat behind after your tale. The worst thing is remembering your dejected expression and sad eyes, filled with pity, as he lashed out at you before standing up abruptly, almost toppling the chair, and storming off.

Because all he sees in his mind is a heap of limbs, all covered in black and white robes with his two friends lying on top of all of them. They’re gone—she’s gone and she doesn’t even remember him as they were.

Did he tell her, before the end took them all? Was he honest with her, in the end, about how he felt—

No. No, that can’t be. He’d never let anything bad befall them—befall Hythlodaeus, befall Azem.

Never, never while he still draws breath. You’re lying. You have to be. Even if you have a bit of Azem in you (somehow, he knows it’s true, a part of him recognizes it despite his mind being in denial). It’s not enough. You’re not her. You’re lying.

Azem would never lie like that.

You’re lying.

Azem would never forget nor him nor Hythlodaeus, no matter what.

You have to be.

Azem would never let such a calamity fall to her people, nor would he let her face it alone.

You have to be.

 


 

In a cruel twist of fate, he finds out the End is indeed coming their way, but when he wants to take it back, it’s already too late and you’re trying to reach out to him from Argos’ back as Venat takes you to safety. 

"Hades!"

Ah. You know his name.

He never told you that little detail.

Of course. You were telling the truth. Azem would never lie to him, nor to Hythlodaeus. Of course.

Of course…

Ah, then that means he will fail Azem. He will fail Hythlodaeus, too. Something grips his heart in a vice, knowing in a few seconds that he will forget his only chance to at least try to protect those he loves the most. Part of him holds on to that tiny glimmer of hope as tightly as he can; maybe if he doesn’t forget he can run and talk to Azem, be honest with her as Hythlodaeus has told him to be many times before. If the end is coming, then he has to—

He thinks of your face while calling out to him in a desperate attempt to reach for him one last time, and hopes that even if they all forget and end sundered, that memories of him stay in Azem’s soul for the time to come.

He can only hope he lives in you, with Hythlodaeus , even if you don’t remember them anymore from the days back when you were whole, with your soul and eyes as bright as the sun, and your title was Azem.

 


 

Now, they both wait, drifting along the sea of souls. Hythlodaeus did say he hoped for all three of you to meet again, after all, and so they can’t start on without you, can they? That would be rude, and besides, they’d be breaking a promise. The most important one.

Oh, Hades remembers now, and he knows— knows Azem is you, maybe you even planned this whole thing while you were still whole, with Venat no less. He’ll have to ask you personally. Heavens, knowing there was no other way to save what was left of all of them… if you knew, it must’ve weighed so heavy on you.

Will you remember when you arrive? Will it take a bit? Will you give them both a giant hug as you used to do when you returned from your adventures around Etheyris? He’s sure Hythlodaeus will grin like a fool if you do, and he kind of wants to see that face again; both yours and his wearing that giant smile again. 

He knows you’ll come. A long time ago, you three said you wanted to return to the star together, and your three souls are inevitably drawn to each other, doesn’t matter which or how many lives you go through.

Hades just hopes that this time around, all of you can enjoy life to the fullest, together, at least once. If he holds onto hope strongly enough, you three will meet again as soon as possible, just like before; grow up together, love together, go see the world together (even if you have to drag him along, he knows he’ll do it, as he’s always done) and grow old together.

Maybe this time he can be honest with you from the very beginning.

"You’re impatient. She still has her whole life to live, you know."

Hades laughs at that. "Indeed, and it was me who told her to travel and see as much as possible."

"You knew it was her calling, as it always has. Our beloved girl can’t resist a good adventure."

Hades hums in agreement, "Indeed, and because of that she’ll always drag us around one way or the other."

"You say it as if you won’t answer her summons this time around," Hythlodaeus laughs, just like he always does when trying to get a reaction from him. "Come on, Hades, you can’t fool neither me nor yourself. I know you like the palm of my hand, while I know her like the palm of my other hand, you know."

"I do know, couldn’t forget that one if I tried."

This time is Hythlodaeus who hums in response, trying to hide the smirk that usually comes before trying to snark the hell out of Hades. "Oh, even if you did, I believe I can make sure to bring those pesky memories back for you in time for her arrival. Besides, we have nothing else to do but wait, eh?"

Waiting, hm?

Before, every single day was agonizing, the weight of both your ghosts and the people he cared about heavy on his back, dragging him down every waking second he ever lived. Hope had no place within him, not even when he saw you again, broken as he perceived you with his wronged sight and desperate mind. His only solace was sleep, and even then it felt heavy on his very soul.

Now, the wait feels more like a nap; like the ones he used to take in Amaurot back then before either Hythlodaeus or you came around to bother him awake, or maybe even nap with him. Without asking, of course. More than once he’d found himself with extra weight on his shoulders and an aching neck only to see your grinning and half asleep faces looking up at him. Then came the scolding. And of course, you two never listened.

"Do you want to rest until she comes back?"

"Mmm. That sounds good," Hades mumbles, because he feels he sure is due some rest. "I presume you will stay here as well?"

Hythlodaeus grins again, smiling even with his eyes. It’s so him that Hades can’t help but return a small one in his direction. "Of course, where else would I go? I would wait for you, and her as well, forever if I had to. We promised, remember?"

"Yes, I do, and of course you would wait regardless of it. You sentimental fool."

"Hmm, like you’re one to talk."

Smiling still, Hades slowly gives in to his rest, knowing that when the time comes, he’ll wake and the most important people to him will be there beside him to journey on. He’ll wake home, because none else but you and Hythlodaeus alone are his home.

Finally, Hades drifts off to sleep, dreams of home, and feels at peace.