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First Impressions

By

Rem-chan

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I was the one who found him, you know. Sure, we could all sense it. But it was me. Moi. Myself, I, so on and so forth. You can bet I was feeling pretty damn proud of myself when I figured out I was closest to him when he was born. Well…not feel. That's impossible, don't ya know. But I hear pride is more a mental thing than a heart thing, so maybe I did? Eh, I usually don't concern myself with the hows and whys of things. Slows a body down and all.

Just understand, things might have been different if it hadn't been me. That's what I think, anyway.

But it fell on me to go and get him. Pick him up before any other troublemakers—Xemnas has a real distinctive sneer when he says things like that—could get to him. Goooooo an-nd retreeeeive oo-our neeewest mee-eeemmm-ber…Xemnas' exact words. And pace. I swear, someone is pressing the slow-mo button on his remote and not letting up.

I think I was halfway there by the time he finished speaking. It wasn't too far, at least. Twilight Town…the place that's near and far. It creeps me out, and Vexen had his suspicions about that world, but that Ice King (Queen?) was off at Castle Oblivion, so at least he couldn't bore me with rhetoric beforehand. It was only a quick in-and-out job, really, since the newbie was supposed to be unconscious. The plan was that I'd pick him up, bring him back to base, and let Xemnas do whatever. Same thing that had happened to the rest of us that weren't part of the founding group.

The thing was, Roxas had been wide awake for a while before I got there. Even in the beginning, he just didn't follow the rules. My kinda guy, right from the first. Tho', damn, it was a pain in the ass catching him.

Not that I blame him. Poor kid was completely naked, in a town he didn't know, with a whole heart missing. What, did you think we just popped up out of nowhere, looking exactly like we do now? No way. It's called being born for a reason. Got it memorized?

It took me a couple of hours to finally corner him in some back alley. For a guy whose memory was probably fucked up at best, stuck in a place he didn't know, and with yours truly at his back, he did pretty damn good. He tried to knock me down, did you know? Almost did it, too. But I had him in a headlock and just waited out his struggles. Took a long time, but eventually he stopped, and glared with what would later become his signature look.

Seeing it, that was the first time I snickered in…well, a while. I was amused. Hell, who wouldn't be? I had him, but he wasn't backing down. Stubborn, idiotic, and full of himself. That's what I thought, right then. Yet another ego to add to our long, colorful list. I couldn't wait for the drama to start. Larxene would blow up first, seeing as she would still be the only female among us barbarians—why she didn't count Vexen or Marluxia, I'll never know—then it'd be ol' Xigbar, looking for an excuse to be a pain in the ass. He did the same thing to me; his little initiation jabs, which were pretty easy to get used to after a while. One-trick pony, and all. The pecking order would be reestablished, Xemnas would give his big "this is our plan" speech, and it would be back to business as usual.

Don't get me wrong. I'm a fan of "business as usual". Just what kind of purpose would we have otherwise? None, that's what. Nothing, nowhere, no-how. If there's one thing a Nobody can do better than anyone else, it's want. We want and want and want. It's all you can do when you have nothing. You want power, you want an army, you want another woman around to celebrate the victory of claiming the shower in the morning again; you want something because you don't have anything to begin with. Business as usual meant that we—or hopefully at least just me—would get something in the end.

Funny how Roxas was anything but "usual".

He got pretty mad when I laughed in his face. It was that first time he swung a Keyblade at my chin that I was actually caught off-guard. I didn't know his name back then, y'know. Apparently I missed the memo. We don't—or at least I don't—just have information suddenly pop up into our heads. Sure, I can sense things, the echoes of feelings and impressions and static memories, but I don't have notecards that just automatically appear in my pocket that tell me what's going on. Demyx might, maybe, but definitely not me.

After I woke up it was another jolly couple of hours tracking him down again. What confused me was that he still hadn't remembered anything. All Nobodies remember something eventually; maybe not everything, but just enough in bits and pieces to drive us mad. We'd remember that in those lovely bygone days—and don't we all just adore those?—we'd had a heart. If we're lucky, or unlucky depending on your point of view, we'd remember what it was like to have one.

But Roxas didn't, and that, more than anything, made him different from the rest of us. How can you want when you don't remember what you've lost?

He didn't fight me that second time. I guess he knew me, like we always know each other in the end. A little twist on that old saying: misery loves company. Not that "loves" can ever apply to us. We just know, and so we gather, and do what we do because a life full of wanting means a life full of action. And I'm not complaining. But…it seemed like he wanted to. Weird, huh? Being able to tell, even back then. He didn't like it. Didn't like the way of things at all. Not that he—or any of us—could really do anything besides what we'd already started. Downhill train, man.

So I brought him back, and he got the works. Clothes, for one. Generic stuff for underneath, and the coat we all wear. Fashion statement? Club uniform? Woven from threads of deepest nothing? Eh, that's for us to know. Go give your heart to darkness and maybe you'll find out. I got him here, cleaned up, and then handed him over to Xemnas. Didn't see him for a long time after that, and when I did, he had his name and everything.

Roxas. Number XIII. The Key of Destiny. Only an idiot wouldn't have been able to figure out who and what he was by then. And even if somehow we didn't, Xemnas made it pretty clear: Roxas was the main tool towards our ultimate goal. A Nobody that could wield a Keyblade. We wouldn't have to bother with manipulating the current Keyblade Master into doing our dirty work. It would be smooth sailing from here on out, since every little thing would be under our control.

Too bad nobody but me realized the little flaw in that plan. That flaw being Roxas' place at the opposite end of the spectrum compared to the rest of us. Wasn't devoted to Xemnas, wasn't really under Xemnas' control. He acted like he was still following his heart. Like he still had one. Sure, we all still did, technically. Lost hearts drifting in some godless place, dark, light, or whatever. Like trying to find needles in a needle stack, folks. Only it has to be a specific little needle. We're not Heartless. We can't just steal whatever we damn well please (as fun as that is).

To a shell that's left behind, what good is having what doesn't belong?

Maybe that's why I went out of my way to hang around him. Hell, I know it was. He was more than just emptiness and want. He didn't remember everything, not completely. So he asked questions. Did we know his true name? Sure we did. Could we tell him? Not really. Did we know why he thought he could actually feel sometimes? Damn straight. Could we tell him? Never. Even a simple question like why why WHY could he swing two Keyblades at my head (and my gut, and my knee, and damnit a bruise on the ass isn't fun) while we sparred were left unanswered. If he ever knew, ever learned that truth of truths, we knew—or I did, at least, and Xemnas, too—he'd leave in heartbeat. Literally, in fact.

But then he decided to do that, anyway. Can't predict an anomaly, you know. Can't tell someone who still has a place not to go seek it out. I saw the signs way in advance. The way he'd fidget in his seat when we had our meetings, the way his attention would waver, the way he'd get distracted during our spars, staring at the Keyblades themselves instead of keeping his focus. Black and white, delicate and fierce, reflecting where they had come from. I knew, of course. Riku, the almost-hero. Kairi, the unconventional princess.

Roxas, on the other hand, had no idea. Just impressions. Flickers of memory and feeling from his faraway self. It must've drove him crazy, having the truth right on the tip of his perception, but always out of reach. I'm surprised he didn't blow up at Xemnas, or the rest of us. Or me, since I was the one always hanging around. But no, no. He just kept it all too himself, waving me off when I asked, or getting annoyed when I pressed the issue. Why did I care? It was the question he always asked.

Never really could find an answer to that. Not until the end. Not until he dropped the bomb to me, of all people.

He was going to leave. Right then. Always easiest to act as quickly as possible, he'd said. He was going to leave, and find all the answers he wanted to desperately. Heh, I guess he could want. Not for something he'd lost, but for something we wouldn't give him. I wouldn't give him. Made me feel like scum.

Yeah. Feel. That's what it seemed like, and I still don't want to question it. Take what you can, you know? Even though the feeling would curl around my stomach, giving me a sick sensation inside that I could've done without. He was going, and I couldn't stop him. If I tried, I'd have to tell him the truth, and then he would just leave anyway. Leave the vague protection the Organization gave him, leave the only thing that was supporting him in his un-life, leave…leave me.

I tried everything I could. Got angry, got snarky. Got worried. Telling him that he'd be as good as dead—deader, considering Nobodies are already pretty far gone—if he went, that there weren't any answers…but nothing worked. I said he was stubborn, didn't I? Well, this proved it, and more. Stubborn and…honest. Honest about what he wanted, what he was afraid of, what he knew he should do. Selfish in a lot of ways, but who were we, was I, to talk?

He was going, and really, who would miss him?

I couldn't believe it when he said that. Not at all. Just who did he think he was kidding? Miss him? The Organization would go batshit! Especially Xemnas. His great tool, his fast-track to Kingdom Hearts, playing hooky? No way, no how. They'd…we, we…would go after him with all we had. Every day, every night, he'd have an army at his back, hell-bent on dragging him back, willing or not.

But…

But that wasn't really what he was saying, was it? I could rant and rave all I wanted, but I knew the truth. I knew. To a Nobody, everything has a price, a value. If you can gain something from it, then hey! You want it and you want it bad. Roxas was one of those things. We could get something from him, and enjoy it, too. But he didn't want that. No, not at all.

We're no one, nothing. But if someone could want us…wouldn't that be the greatest thing? Roxas wanted answers, yeah, wanted some purpose to his existence. He just…wanted one little thing more. And I don't even think he heard me when I said it. Who would miss him? Who?

I would. I would…wouldn't you miss the guy who somehow let you feel again? Who, by some means you couldn't even understand, gave you back a little of what you'd lost and desired for years and years?

Wouldn't you?

He gave me a parting gift, though. Something to tide me over as I watched him walk away, possibly never to come back, at least not in one piece. And it was a feeling, too, a little touch of emotion to cradle in the empty hollow where my heart used to be.

Too bad loneliness sucks ass.

………Fin………

You have to have something to lose it, you know. And I like to think that Axel had Roxas, at least for a little while.

Rem-chan, 21st of April, 2006