KH3 SPOILERS BELOW
Lea spent a ton of his time lost in thought once he was back to being — whole. Recompleted, they called it, but that didn’t feel quite right. There were these gaps in his memories where he knew something was missing. It’d be real nice to know what it was, but ‘course it was never that easy.
Not like he just had to that to think about. There was this icky storm of feelings he’d been without for years and years, and every day brought something new to think about. Kairi talked to him about how they might be able to bring Roxas back, which meant they could do the same for Naminé if any of it even worked. All he could say to her was “I guess so.” Hope was a lot to, well, hope for.
He’d died twice already, and Lea just wanted to set things right this time around. There was some guilt and regret from everything he’d done in the past. Then there was that bit of hope and right on its heels was the fear of being hopeful. All of it worried him on top of the whole mess!
But things had finally turned around once Ventus was back. Lea really started to believe he was actually up to the task this time. Late, sure, but still. Having hope wasn’t as scary for Lea as it’d been in training with Kairi — after all, things were going his way now. Seemed like as good a reason as any to go celebrate another chance.
So that’s how he ended up on the clocktower, three popsicles in hand, watching the sunset and apologizing again. And to someone who wasn’t even there, but whose fault was that? “Well, Roxas. I should’ve been there for you by now. But here we are.”
“Shouldn’t you say goodbye to your real home?” He knew that voice anywhere, but he looked anyway. Saïx. Isa? Lea couldn’t fight the surprised, even hopeful gasp. ‘Course, that kicked up a whole hive of emotions all over again. Dammit, Isa.
“Why…?” There is was again, just when he was starting to get a handle on all these emotions. The hurt that he would come here, now, to do whatever he was scheming — it hurt more than Lea wanted to come to terms with.
But Isa just had a seat, calmly and naturally like this was his living room and not his old spot. He crossed one leg over the other, locking eyes with Lea. “I’m not here to fight. Relax.” Deftly, he snagged an ice cream from Lea, who grumbled as it slipped out of his hand.
“Hey!” He swiped after it, but no luck.
Isa tilted his head one way and the ice cream in the other, studying him with gold eyes Lea wanted to recognize. Or maybe he didn’t. Ugh, this was impossible! “You can’t eat all this. Why did you buy three of them?” Lea sighed, looking down at the ice cream in his hands as Isa continued. “One for Roxas… and two for good luck?”
Lea turned away, hearing the soft, crisp sound of Isa taking a bite into the sea salt ice cream. “I don’t know. Because I felt like it, okay?” More things he just didn’t have answers to. The empty spots in his memories that made him feel like he had to do things that didn’t make a lick of sense. Lea scoffed, turning that frustration on Isa with a frown. And he’s just eating Lea’s ice cream like it’s nothing. “Why are you here?”
“Got it memorized?” He even mimicked the lilt of it a bit. And that made it all worse. “Back when we were still friends, we used to sneak into the castle.”
“Yeah,” he responded, regret bleeding into his voice. ‘Back when we were still friends’, like it was all over now. If this was to answer Lea’s question, this was gonna be a big one. Not something he was sure he’d like.
“And we made a friend there, a girl. We apprenticed to Ansem the Wise to rescue her.” Isa told it like a documentary instead of something he knew already. And Lea wasn’t having any of that either.
“Yeah, and we failed!” He jabbed at Isa with one of the ice creams, snapping, “One day, she was just gone!”
Saix turned to him with a bit of something in his eyes, a feeling Lea couldn’t place. Not yet, anyway, and it was gone just as quick as it came. “You gave up.”
His voice was level, like he had nothing more pressing than a passing comment to share. Lea knew that was all for show, right then and there. Isa was telling him about how he was hurting. Because of Lea. After all this time too… why’d he wait so long to say something? Lea couldn’t look Isa in the eye, so he turned away.
“I did not give up.” A shaky breath escaped him, but he cut that short fast as he could. Had to get a grip on this whole ‘heart’ business somehow. “One day, we’re apprentices. The next, Ansem the Wise has up and vanished. The day after, we’re Nobodies. Day after that, we’re doing icky jobs for Xemnas.” The helplessness of those days rushed back to him, and Lea ended up gesturing emphatically with the ice cream at that point, admitting more than he meant to. “I couldn’t keep up with you!”
Might as well’ve just said what he felt from the start. Knowing what that was, exactly, would really help with that. Isa listened studiously, evenly, unreadable as ever through it all. When he replied, it was calm enough that Lea could actually look at him. Isa’s face was distant, his ice cream half-finished. Looked like Lea wasn’t the only one preoccupied.
“Following Xehanort’s Nobody was the only way to discover what happened to her. She was his lab rat.” Isa didn’t look or sound any different, but something was off. Lea didn’t even have to think about it. That was a nice perk to the new feelings, anyway. Time to change the tone of the conversation.
“So? You found her? I helped you rise up the ranks, so I hope it paid off.” He gestured to Isa with the ice creams, casually and almost playfully this time. Sitting here, talking like this was — kind of comfortable. Familiar. His heart warmed up, the indignant anger swapping out for nostalgia. Man, hearts were a lot. It was like they’d never stopped being friends even if Isa just said it in the past tense. He was here, and not to fight. Could it be…? Nah. Had to be wishful thinking. Probably.
From that look on Isa’s face, a faint glare out at nothing, Lea already had the answer about her. “I’m afraid not. Nary a trace.” Isa looked to Lea and for a moment, he really felt — something. “I started to wonder if we’d imagined her. Maybe she never existed.” His voice took on more emotion, layers where it was usually dry and monotone. Even as a vessel, he just more and more Isa as he sat here and talked. ‘Course he’d force his way through that, just like everything else they went up against. “And then, in time, I awakened to a new purpose.” His face steeled over, serious and driven. “I realized I could be stronger.”
Lea scoffed again. All this for that in the end? He couldn’t keep from talking with his hands, ice cream or not. “Well, then, you blew it! Wise up already and just quit.” He really was grasping at straws here, Lea knew it, but his heart was screaming for Isa to come back home. He was here, not for a fight but for ice cream and a chat, and they were talking in truths for the first time in years. It had to mean something. Just had to.
“Face it,” he started, turning to face Lea. “Roxas is just like our other friend. Gone forever.” Even if his expression showed he didn’t really mean it — he was pushing Lea’s buttons to get a reaction, and of course he knew it — it stung. He was gonna get that reaction, alright. Lea squeezed his eyes shut, turning away, pushing the hurt down. “Gone forever. You need to accept that.”
“You wish!” He lashed out, scowling at Saix. “I’m getting her back. All of ‘em!” Lea pointed with the ice cream at Isa again, who just took another bite casually. “Especially Roxas! I’m even dragging you home!” He hadn’t even thought that part out, no second guesses, just said it and meant it. That finally felt right to him. “Complete.” Isa had finished off his ice cream, leveling that watchful gaze at Lea again as he held the popsicle stick out over the town below.
“The marks under your eyes.” He looked at Lea, almost fondly if his gaze wasn’t so distant. “They’re gone.” He sounded — impressed? Surprised? Concerned? Ah, how the hell was he supposed to know what Isa felt when Lea just figured out what he felt?
His eyes widened and wandered, and Lea felt lost for just a second. He scoffed, trying to keep up the spirit of what he just said. “Yeah. Don’t need ‘em.” Lea put on his best determined look and still somehow felt like he was a child again — this time with his childhood friend just within reach.
Speaking through the small effort of standing up, Isa kept on talking. “Always told you they’d stop you from crying. The upside-down tears.”
The memories of that phrase, raw and packed with baggage, pushed Lea over the edge. How he could cut right to his core like that, dredge up all these feelings when he had his heart locked away, Lea couldn’t even guess. “Would you get lost?” He waved Isa away with the ice cream again, shaking melted drops of blue at their feet. He put on a frown, pointing at Isa with an ice cream one last time. “I’ll clobber ya tomorrow!”
And would you believe it, Isa smiled. Even chuckled. Opening a dark corridor beneath him, he held to that smile and look straight at Lea. “I expect no less.” He closed his eyes, almost content, and was swallowed up in the darkness. Gone like he’d never been there, and yet it felt like he’d never left at all. Lea’s heart was heavy — with hope, with remorse, with longing. Lea let out the breath he hadn’t realized he was holding, looking away from where Isa was just standing.
There it was. Sadness. The hollow spot of a friend you missed like crazy. He sighed again, turning his attention back to the sunset. He couldn’t bring himself to eat the rest of these, not anymore. Isa was right again. He couldn’t eat these all on his own. He needed people to share it with and he knew exactly who his heart wanted.