His moment has come.
He doesn't expect them to call him back. Call him home. Home. Not in a thousand years. Not... ever.
Lost for so long. Lost for so long, the stars themselves have given up their glow. Lost for so long, he wonders if any of them still remember the glory days.
He does. He remembers. Every time it rains. Every time he sees the flicker of light on metal. Every time the long-healed wounds find some way to hurt again.
They don't ask him how he survived. When the shock wears off, they will. They'll want to know. How he defied death. Defied it once, twice, thrice.
He's a survivor, he'll say. That's why he endures. Why he's still here. Why they want him back.
His people don't want politicians. Don't want platitudes. Don't want some new future.
They want to be who they are.
Who they are.
Who he is.
They call him back. Promise him everything. Promise him the whole world, if he'll just show them the way again. They've lost their way. Lost it so badly, he wonders if, before he came back, he was the only one left.
No matter. He'll remake them. Rebuild them. Give the stars back their light.
The first time he sees his home again, all he can do is stare. Stare, and then close his eyes, so that every little sensory experience runs all the way through. Every sound, heard since he was a child. Every echo.
Home, he thinks. Home.
It's been so long. So long, yet he can still taste the moment it was all torn from him. Can still remember, as if it was yesterday.
It hurts. For every moment, every second, every morning he woke up and remembered it was still true, it has hurt.
The corridors still look the same. Places he knew so well. So well. They've been here all this time, waiting for him to come back.
Maybe they knew. Maybe they knew he was still alive.
Places he knew, people he knew. Feelings he knew. They all flood back like a great wave. A great wave upon a city made of shining spires. Drowning the spaces in between, until everything is as it was before.
He stands once more in his own room. It has lain dormant for so long, left many weeks before the day the world tried to take him. So long, it feels like a dream.
Fingertips run over surfaces. Over the top of his desk, the edge of a blade. Every one of them – all but his own, his first, his truest - had been gone for so long.
He lifts them one by one, greeting them like old friends.
Oh, the truths he wrought with them. The glories he won. For his people.
The memories. Some of them still taste like ash. Some... and one in particular.
But some... are like the sweetest wine. Like cool spring water. Like the first apples of the season.
He's been out of uniform for so long. Out of uniform, out of self. Walking the forests in black, waiting for his day.
It has come. His day always comes.
The familiar clothes slip over his skin, lines to cover the scars beneath. He's picked up more than a few since he's been away. Though some... are just in his mind.
All of them are real. All of them are fuel. All of them are fire.
Khaki. Deep, hidden, green. Mysteries unspoken.
It still fits as perfectly as it ever did. It is still him.
It is still home.
He's been gone so long. But the spaces in between... are just a dream now. A nightmare.
He stares at himself in the mirror. Khaki from head to toe. Gun and blade at his hip.
Fire in his eyes.
He smiles. And smiles.
Acastus Kolya is alive.