His conscience screamed from somewhere deep within but his body wouldn't listen as he grabbed his opponent's neck in one hand, the other catching the deactivated energy blade falling from her hand. There came a strangled noise; he smirked as he hissed "Soluna will fall to me, its trusted hero!"
He tightened his grip, fully extending his arm to lift the flailing smaller figure off the ashen ground. "Soluna will fall pathetically, as countless others have, to the Shadowscythe Empire!"
The garbled chants of strange dark figures surrounded him; he had the blade's hilt against its owner's stomach, thumb pressing the ignition button. "Cower before the--hrrrrgkk!!!!!!"
A sharp pain caught him between the legs, he stumbled backward, dropping the blade and its owner to the floor. Wait, floor? He fell onto something soft and for a moment he lay in the darkness, blood rushing through his body. Then, fumbling, he flipped on the bedside lamplight, blinking as he hesitantly sat up, relieved his movements were his alone.
There came a strangled noise; trembling, Sys-Zero slowly glanced through his long yellow bangs toward the opposite side of the hospital room.
Tyler Smith was sprawled on the floor, dressed in Specific Hospital scrubs, one hand over a singed spot on her shirt, the other around the hilt of her energy blade, which was pointed towards him; with a voice to match her shaking body, her mouth barely moved as she whimpered "C-c-capt'n?" She had tear-stains on her thin cheekbones.
It was his turn to make a strangled noise, "T-Tyler? What--I-?" Then he understood; within a second his face was planted in his pillow as he muffled his screams, entire body shaking.
"C-captain?" His student repeated; she stepped towards him.
Briefly lifting his face from the pillow, he choked out "Go away!" then went back to the dampening cotton. He heard her move out of the room, then the only sounds were his barely audible screams. At least you can't hear tears.
A few minutes later Sys-Zero heard boot-steps approaching; he slowly sat up, put the pillow back in place, then reached for his goggles on the nightstand. He had just pulled them on when the door opened and Tyler reentered, a stethoscope slung around her neck. She paused, attempting to discreetly adjust some bandaging on her waist, before shutting the door, then moved to him.
"Captain," her tone was quiet, "I am both your student and your lesser rank in piloting. However, I am also your nurse for the 12 to 3 am shift at the hospital, and I will not neglect my duties to any patient." She sat down beside him on the bed, put in the earbuds of the stethoscope, instructing him, "Turn your back to me, and breathe deeply, okay?"
He silently did so; she lifted the back of his shirt, the Captain flinched not only when the cold rubber on the head of the stethoscope touched his brown skin, but also when he thought of how many scars spanned across his back from his time with the Shadowscythe....He grimaced, fingers curling into the bed-sheets as the nightmare resurfaced....He barely noticed as Tyler removed the stethoscope, letting his shirt fall, to record the data on the clipboard at the foot of his bed. He paid no heed when she took his blood pressure or his temperature, writing the numbers in the charts.
Then, before he could react, she pulled off his goggles. Splash. The tears that had puddled between the tinted glass and his face spilled out onto his pajama pants. But that wasn't what startled her most; "Captain, your eyes are--"
"Shadowscythe crimson, I know," he barely whispered, lowering his gaze, trying to hide the physical symptom of the nano-virus. "...Go away, Tyler...please. Save yourself from the monster inside me..." The fistfuls of fabric in his shaking hands were soaked with sweat.
He didn't look up when he heard raspy, irregular breathing. Then her voice, tight, "Sir, I'm going to disobey protocol."
Suddenly Tyler was beside him, her hands on his forearm as she softly cried. "I-I'm sorry...Capt'n...but...I cry for people I care about. I'm sorry, Capt'n...forgive me, please..."
He slowly put one hand on top of both of hers; then spoke hoarsely, "Don't be sorry....I should be the one to apologize. For what happened..." he trailed off, not wanting to finish the thought.
"I forgive you," Tyler sniffed. "Please...just know that...whatever happens...you're not alone in this, Captain." She held onto his hand, as the next minutes passed in total silence, this simplicity, their hands touching, was enough to speak for the both of them.
~Time-skip brought to you by wars, the Reset, more wars, and then a block of ice~
His conscience floated somewhere among the stars; where in the galaxy didn't matter to him, the beauty of each heavenly body dancing spoke to his soul.
However, he knew deep within that this view was not like the those he had seen from a ship window; of course they might be the same planets, moons, and stars, but the feeling back then was different. It was less lonely, he decided. Back then he might glance at a student, a fellow crew member, or a GEARs faculty member standing nearby, and see the light reflected in their eyes, and he knew they might be hearing the same unspoken song of the vast expanse before them.
Now though, he was alone. Alone, and he was the only one to remember that song, those planets, moons, and stars, those people--
The sound of a door opening and closing brought him from his thoughts. Then came the approaching boot-steps; his breath caught in his throat as he recognized a gait he hadn't heard in years. How many years? He didn't dare to open his eyes, not that anyone would notice due to the thick brown hair hanging over his face, but he breathed the question: "Tyler?"
"Really, you ask for my dragon instead of me, Cysero? I feel loved," a female voice answered.
He opened his eyes to find the speaker, a young woman dressed in SoulWeaver clothing, in front of him. She had short light-brown hair, tinged blue at the tips to match the markings around her deep blue-gray eyes and her nails; her half-folded gray wings also had blue-tipped feathers. A smile tugged at the corners of her pink lips.
"Fledge Northstar!" The Green Mage jumped out of his neon-plaid armchair towards the Hero. She laughed, folding her wings so they could hug. He stepped back after a few moments, stating "You know, you never sent me a carrier-turtle about what it's like to sleep inside ice."
Without missing a beat, she replied, "I would've told you, my friend, but not once in five years was I able to reach my backpack for a pencil and paper." Her smile fell slightly, "It's really been five years....Lore has changed...a lot..."
Suddenly a Laundry Golem and a Dirty Sockmonkey chased each other into the room, and ran in circles around the Mad Weaponsmith's feet; "What hasn't changed is this half of the tower and its occupants!" he grinned, watching the creatures then charge out of the room through an air-vent.
Turning back to the Celestial Angel, he noticed her smile was gone, her eyes to the floor, as she perched on the arm of the chair. "Fledge?" When she didn't look up, he added "Hey, you okay?"
"In all honesty..." she began, then slowly shook her head. "I woke up and...I'm 23 now....Five years older than when I went to battle that day...Lore's five years older....And..." she sniffled a bit, "the changes are like blows to me. I-I feel guilty for saying that...I'm the Hero, supposed to be strong, help others, protect Lore..." Shaking her head again, she said quietly, "Sorry I'm suddenly putting all this on you, Cysero. You're always cheerful, and the last thing I want to do is make you feel bad for me."
He moved towards her, sensing it would be unwise to bring up the subject of magical socks, and said "Fledge, I asked if you were okay. You gave me an honest answer. What's there to feel sorry about?"
She half-shrugged, then, her voice tight, she whispered "I don't...think...anyone knows what it's like....Waking up and everything has changed...I know I need to go on in life but...I don't know how....I feel alone..." she broke off, hiding her face with a hand.
With those words, something deep within him rose; a memory of a similar Hero crying. He placed his hand on Fledge's free one, and barely murmured "I know it hurts, Fledge, I know, trust me, I know, it hurts..."
Before he knew it, he was hugging the Hero as she cried against his shoulder. (He thought back to the other Hero; he wanted to hug her because he knew he needed a hug just as badly as she did but he wasn't sure how she would respond.) Her slender fingers, the same ones that readily grasped a blade in the name of justice, grasped the green fabric of his tunic in a comfort-seeking action.
"...'Please just know that whatever happens, you're not alone in this', Fledge." It mattered not whether she heard his words; he knew that the meanings of his actions weren't lost.