THOSE LACKING SPINES
by Gexegee (of Organization VI)
A/N: (UPDATE: 5-16-10) Been a while, hasn't it, guys? In all my OCDness I'm trying to go back through and fix these chapters so that the paragraph breaks that FF.N so rudely removed will be back in the story.
In the meantime of my absence however, this story's gotten a lot of attention—even a TV Tropes page. Can I just say two things; WOW and THANK YOU? I'm glad my story continues to make people laugh, even a few years later!
Incidentally, I just about died when it turned out Zexion's Other really was an eight year old.
In any case, thanks for the love and enjoy the paragraph breaks!
Chapter One: If He Wasn't Bishounen, Would You Be So Into Him?
There was nothing to do in The World That Never Was.
Dark City, for all the foreboding architecture, neon alien symbols and fanboyish excitement to be found in it, was surprisingly lacking of interesting things to do. Sure, the place was cool enough to look at, but the local economy was learning the hard way that it's a bad idea to build an entire city without so much as an outlet mall.
Blame flew in all directions—why did the original six members of the Organization pick the most far-off, destitute, backwater world in (non)existence for their fortress? Why did they erect a city of Nobodies that didn't have so much as a bowling alley, a nightclub or a video arcade? Did they really plan to do nothing but plot domination of the worlds and sit in their castle all day, brooding and whining about how they didn't have any hearts, boo hoo, woe is them?
Whatever the case, there was really very little that could draw the members of Organization XIII out into the city they'd built for any reason whatsoever (except, of course, to film pretentious cut scenes to give birth to a sweeping wave of fan spooge prior to the release of the next game in the series).
Even within the castle, it was often difficult to find something to do. There were only so many hours and days you could spend locked in your private quarters, angsting and staring at Kingdom Hearts out the window or muttering, "I do believe in my own existence! I do believe in my own existence! I do, I do!" For morale's sake, the Organization had done their best to remedy the situation a few years back, but their efforts never really amounted to anything. The satellite channels and DSL connections from Twilight Town were known to periodically crap out, and by the time any mortal pizza guy arrived--having been devoured by Heartless and resurrected as a Dusk-- the cheese was always cold. (It is actually a little known fact that Demyx, the Organization's Number Nine, began as a lowly pizza boy).
Xaldin lamented this fact, sitting in his room (dramatically nicknamed the Nonentity's Library) reading a blank-covered volume of short fiction one dreary, nonexistent morning. He'd thought he might run out that day and menace some innocent world inhabitants for fun, but Xemnas had him holding down the fort—nothing left to do but go through the library and look for something to read besides the redundant books full of blank verse.
Allow the narrator to take a brief interlude into the present tense so that I may introduce you to Xaldin. He is the esteemed Number Three of the Organization, and his nickname is "The Whirlwind Lancer". He wields six spears in combat and possesses the element of wind, and also controls the ranks of the Dragoon Nobodies. He is easily recognized by his muscular frame, his sharp blue eyes, his braids (don't ever call them dreadlocks—do you know what you have to do to your hair to get dreadlocks?), but most people instead choose to pick him out by his sideburns, which are rumored to think and act independently of him.
The narrator feels so inclined as to introduce him to you because for some reason, either due to sheer coincidence or the incorrect belief that obvious male features and the lack of wispy bishounen girl hair make a person "ugly", Xaldin is something of a nonentity in his own fandom. The first person to dig up ten stories that star or even importantly mention Number Three will win a free sandwich of their choice at participating Subway restaurants.
Search your feelings; you know it to be true. Except for the Subway thing. No seriously, back off, the narrator ain't buying you lunch, you deadbeat.
"The narrator will kindly get on with things?" Xaldin glanced up from his book, cutting in from the other side of the fourth wall.
Yes. The narrator apologizes.
After several hours of in-depth study of the book he'd picked out for the day, and dreading the next time there would be a stupid "nothing" reference to something in the prose, Xaldin was relieved to hear someone arriving through the gateways upstairs. He set the book on a nearby table and stepped through the portal, reappearing in the Proof of Existence room just in time to catch Number Seven, Saïx on his way back in from somewhere.
"Interesting mission?" Xaldin asked, noticing a series of long claw marks on the sleeves of Saïx's coat.
"Heartless. Such nuisances," Saïx sneered, repairing his coat with a few waves of a gloved hand. "Superior sent Roxas and me to scout out Hollow Bastion to see what those loathsome creatures are doing, mobilized around the Villain's Vale." He swept a stray piece of his purple hair back behind his ear.
Xaldin looked intrigued. "And they snuck up on you?"
"In my defense, I'd never seen the type before," Saïx replied. "Smaller, faster, nastier bites," holding up one of his hands to show the hole punched clean through his glove. "One of them wounded me."
"Where is Roxas?" Xaldin asked him.
"I'm not sure. He came back before I did," Saïx turned towards the stairs. "Now if you'll excuse me, I must report to the Superior."
Filing away the conversation, which would no doubt be crucial to the plot later on, Xaldin made his way down a few floors to the Lounge of the Non-Existent.
The Lounge seemed the place to be this particular morning, Xaldin noted, watching the activity around him as he started up the cycle on the Coffeemaker of Nada. Number Twelve, Larxene sat on a stool at the counter, filing her nails and pretending not to listen to the rally of insults flying between Demyx and Luxord, playing cards at the table.
"You are totally cheating," Demyx complained, throwing his cards down suddenly. "There's no way you could be beating me so bad!"
"Go Fish is my game," Number Ten, Luxord shrugged, casually setting down another set of pairs.
"He's the Gambler of Fate, stupid, everything's his game," Larxene snickered cattily from behind them.
"Hey—don't take his side!" Demyx protested, recovering his cards nonetheless.
"I'm not. I'm just running some commentary," she shrugged.
"Well, uh… don't!"
"And who are you to order it?"
"Higher rank than you," Demyx pointed out.
"Both of you shut up," Luxord said. "Do you have any fours, Number Nine?"
"Aw, no WAY!" Demyx threw down a few cards, crossing his arms in a pout. "Why did I agree to play with you?"
"You're a dumbass," Larxene offered.
"Try not to undermine authority while I'm standing right here, Number Twelve," Xaldin said suddenly, pouring himself a cup of coffee and taking it black—LIKE HIS SOUL.
Rather, that should say "cream and two sugars". LIKE HIS SOUL. The narrator emphasizes that the lack of a heart does not turn everyone into a whiny, angsty, wrist-cutting loser.
"Screw this-- Where'd Roxas skip off to?" Larxene sniffed, "I can push him around and he can't complain."
"He was in here a minute ago getting a snack, but he said he had something to do this afternoon," Demyx asked. "He's probably with Axel."
"OH HO HO!" Larxene burst out giggling. "He's with Axel?"
"Yes—they got the PS2 working again yesterday," Demyx nodded, very sure of himself as Luxord and Xaldin eyed their female colleague, curious at her outburst.
"I'll find him, if you like," Xaldin offered. "I need something to occupy my time anyway."
"Yeah? Send him on in here when you find him," Luxord waved as Xaldin turned to leave. "I'm on a roll fleecing stupid young people today."
Standing outside the Lounge as though ready to enter was the hulking, muscular form of the Organization's Number Five, Lexaeus. A man of tremendous stature and strength (once again, not to be confused with "ugly") with wiry reddish-brown hair, blue eyes and a strong jaw line, he is known as "The Silent Hero" and wields a tremendous tomahawk as well as the element of earth. There is an idiotic tendency to portray Lexaeus as a big dolt. This is perhaps due to his size or his tendency to stay silent in large group settings, but it is, in fact, an incorrect assumption—he is rather fond of the occasional obscure brick of a Russian novel, and his silence only makes him a better listener. He is notable as a very good source of information regarding goings-on within the Organization.
Once again, the narrator feels inclined to tell you this because nobody in the world seems to know who poor Lexaeus is or how to properly introduce him—unless, of course, he is portrayed to be having sex with his close associate Number Six, Zexion. Lexaeus looks shamefully upon his fan fiction portrayal and asks the narrator not to discuss it further.
"Xaldin," he said, nodding respectfully. "Good afternoon."
"Afternoon? Is it really?" Xaldin replied. The sky was always dark outside, hell if he knew how to tell.
"I am not sure. It feels like an afternoon," Lexaeus shrugged.
"Ah, yes. How are you today, my friend? Anything of note going on?"
"Not particularly," he replied. "I was looking for Vexen—I wanted to hear about the results of his last experiment. Rumor has it he's discovered a new type of Heartless."
Xaldin raised an eyebrow. "Really? Odd, I didn't know he was looking into anything like that."
"Yes, it seems several of the Dusks were found to have unique injuries last time they came back from patrol. Vexen studied the wounds and Zexion says he was able to isolate the presence a new breed from them. Superior wants me to check on his results," Lexaeus nodded.
"Intriguing. Saïx said he encountered a new breed on patrol today," Xaldin told him. "Perhaps they are the same? Presenting the information together may prove useful."
"That's a good idea. Perhaps it will get the main plot of the story going too," Lexaeus suggested. "Let's go."
To make a long story shorter, they found Vexen in his laboratory in the lower levels of the castle.
Vexen is the third of our trio of heroes—he has long dirty blond hair, green eyes, and is over the age of thirty, which makes him an "old geezer" in the eyes of our ageist culture. He is Number Four in the Organization, "The Chilly Academic", with control over the element of ice and a pretty bitchin' shield he can use for attacks.
In Vexen's defense, it is not his fault he's so cranky. Popular opinion places him as a pissy, bitching white trash intellectual with a two-foot-stick up his ass and an odd penchant for child molestation.
"Good evening, gentlemen," Vexen stood from his desk and greeted them with a polite bow.
"Afternoon, actually," Xaldin corrected. "The sky is off today, it seems."
"Is it really? Hm."
"We came to see about your latest research, Number Four," Lexaeus explained.
"Oh, yes! I just finished drawing up a chart for such an explanation," Vexen looked giddy all of a sudden, rushing over to his desk and lifting up a series of complicated notes and diagrams detailing his research. "I've got a torrent of exposition all ready for you."
"Do you hear that?" Xaldin eyed the readers. "Pay attention. This is important."
Clearing his throat, Vexen held up an image of a pathetic, shriveled little Heartless that looked more like a ghostly worm than anything. "This, gentlemen, is the new species in its most basic form."
"Those are the things that almost kicked Saïx's ass?" Xaldin's eyes widened considerably. "That little worm?"
"Ah, but it has much more bite than bark," Vexen grinned. "In any case, this new species is unique in that they seem to affect a part of the body other than the heart. From my research, it's possible to ascertain that they are programmed to seek out and eliminate the, uh…"
There was a short pause. He bobbed his head in an obvious downward motion.
"The 'you know'?" Xaldin bobbed his head as well.
"The 'that'?" Lexaeus queried.
"No, no, not 'that'," Vexen waved his hands around in a circular motion. "The… you know."
"Oh," Xaldin and Lexaeus said quietly.
"I call this species the Gutless."
"That's an interesting name," Lexaeus commented. "If they target the… you know."
"Yes, I was going to call them the Nutless, but Disney put their foot down," Vexen sighed. "Some nonsense about not scaring the children and lawsuits, something about a VHS cover or something. But never mind all that. They're rather interesting though, don't you think? I can only imagine why our enemies in the Heartless would send out such a creature."
"You don't suppose there's a separate kingdom for…" Xaldin drifted off, thankfully before anybody got any terrible ideas.
The narrator said BEFORE anybody got any terrible ideas- STOP THAT GIGGLING AND CLOSE YOUR WORD PROCESSOR, RIGHT NOW.
"You said that Saïx ran into a new species of Heartless today?" Lexaeus reminded Xaldin with a nudge in the shoulder.
"Oh yes. Perhaps the Heartless are employing this new species into battle already—Saïx said he and Roxas ran into a large group of them in Hollow Bastion today," Xaldin said. "He was wounded in the hand by one of them."
"Was he?" Vexen looked excited suddenly. "Do you suppose he's already healed the wound? I'd like to have a look at it to add the notes to my research."
"I haven't the slightest idea," Xaldin shook his head. "We ought to check, though, and ask Roxas—you know how Saïx gets in battle. Roxas will have gotten a better look at them."
"After this are we done jumping around from floor to floor?" Lexaeus asked. "I'm quite hoping we'll get to the main plot one of these paragraphs."
Muffled noises from within the portal to Saïx's chamber should have tipped off our triumphant trio that something was terribly wrong inside, but there wasn't any other bad sign until Lexaeus knocked on the side of the portal and called inside, "Saïx, are you in?"
There was no response.
"He had gone to see Superior a while ago," Xaldin raised an eyebrow. "Perhaps he isn't back yet."
"Come in!" Saïx's voice fluttered through the portal.
"Wait a minute—'fluttered'?" Vexen made a face. "What an interesting verb to use in conjunction with our stoic, somewhat psychotic comrade."
Vexen would find himself a fair bit more disturbed when the trio entered Saïx's room to find that Number Seven had been busy doing a little redecorating in the unlikely twenty minutes since Xaldin had last seen him. A fresh coat of cheerful lavender paint had been haphazardly flung all over previously white walls, and colorful sun catchers in the shape of stars and moons hung from the ceiling on pink string. Throw pillows were tossed around piles of fluffy blankets, and cherry-flavored incense wafted across the room in tendrils of smoke.
Saïx himself was kneeling in front of a mirror, whistling "Zip-Ah-Dee-Doo-Dah" and curling his hair. "Hello fellows!" he called in a chipper voice, waving with his other hand. "How does this evening see you?"
Xaldin, Vexen and Lexaeus took a moment to survey this scene and replace their wide-open dropped jaws.
"Saïx, we were…" Xaldin drifted off. "… Just coming to ask about that new Heartless you found."
"Oh, those silly old things? No matter no matter!" Saïx giggled, tossing his hand. "They were sooooo mean! Like oh my GOD. I didn't think Roxy and I were gonna get out! They were all, shape-shifty and stuff!"
"…'like oh my God'?" Xaldin murmured.
"…'Roxy'?" Lexaeus echoed.
"Shape-shifting! Really?" Vexen pulled out a notebook to write that down.
"Yeah, they could like… turn into little teethy-guys an' stuff," Saïx began to hum again, fluffing up his hair and standing up to twirl around in circles in front of the mirror. "Somebody's gorgeous!"
Near the doorway, Vexen was still furiously taking notes as Xaldin and Lexaeus eyed each other.
"Something very strange is going on," Lexaeus commented. "He wasn't like this earlier, Xaldin, was he?"
"No," Xaldin looked puzzled. "I think perhaps Marluxia's been dumping his dead herbs into the water again."
"Maybe he's not feeling well from his encounter with the Heartless earlier," Lexaeus suggested.
"Saïx," Vexen said suddenly, "I wonder if I might have a look at your wound from today?"
"Oh yeah!" Saïx squeaked, waltzing over and pulling off his glove. "I was gonna heal it up earlier but it was like, really itching—so I decided to wait until later to do it. Lookit the rash! Isn't it like totally weird?"
Saïx's hand was host to a small, pink, heart-shaped rash centered by the fang marks Xaldin had noticed earlier. The wound hadn't quite closed yet, very unusual for a Nobody, but even more unusual was how warm to the touch Number Seven's skin felt.
Vexen glanced at his notes concernedly, and then up at Saïx. "Saïx, you said it's been itchy? And this was from one of those new Heartless?"
"Mmhmm," Saïx pursed his lips and nodded. "Roxy and I got attacked earlier while we were on patrol. I got bitten in the hands and, um… I think Roxy got nicked in the ankle—mean little buggers! Looked like little worms but then they got these big teeth…"
Vexen closed his notebook suddenly. "Ah. Thank you, Saïx. That's all I need- Lexaeus, Xaldin, if you will follow me back out into the Proof?"
"Oh my GOD, you guys should totally stick around!" Saïx hopped up and down suddenly. "I'm gonna make some tea and cookies and we can sit around in a circle with all my new pillows and talk about our feelings! I'm telling you, there's this beautiful little flutter in the place where my heart would be lately… I think I'm in LOOOOVE!"
"The tea sounds lovely, Saïx, but we're a bit busy this afternoon," Xaldin told him as he ducked through the portal.
"Afternoon? Is it really?" Saïx cocked his head.
"Er… yes. Maybe some other time?" Lexaeus followed the others out.
"That was the most terrifying thing I've ever seen," Lexaeus said simply once they had all reappeared.
"I can't believe it… I thought the data was just a fluke, but it looks like I was right," Vexen's face was a mix between triumph and horror.
"Did you leave something out of the exposition, Vexen?" Xaldin asked crossly. "Something, perhaps, involving permanent side-effects?"
"It sounded impossible—a few of my reports found the presence of some kind of… hmm… I guess you could most easily call it a 'virus' or a 'parasite'—some sort of organism in the saliva of the Gutless," Vexen explained. "The Gutless are so weak it's difficult to imagine anyone being overtaken by them, resulting in the loss of… you know."
"So they evolved a parasite to pass onto their victims instead?" Lexaeus's pupils got very small.
"Yes—data suggests that this parasite slowly inhibits the function of… you know, rendering the victim into a state I will colloquially refer to as 'ukefication'," Vexen announced. "This state wipes the personality and demeanor of a victim completely clean, replacing it with one of complete and utter submission. This causes the victim to become weak, fluffy, emotional and utterly incapable of standing up for themselves, wanting only to be in contact with others to further spread the epidemic. It is quite frankly disgusting."
"This sounds like the plot of a really horrible pornography," Xaldin noted. "So Saïx has the parasite—and he's lost his… you know. That would explain the giggling and the sissy redecorating. The Saïx we recruited is stoic, collected, and mildly psychopathic with a sadistic twist."
"Poor Saïx," Lexaeus looked horrified at the mere thought, as the group began a brisk walk towards the top of the room and the path to Xemnas' chamber. "We must alert the Superior before it spreads."
"Just… how contagious is it?" Xaldin asked all of a sudden.
Vexen thought about it for a moment, and made an expression of dawning realization. "In a sealed wound I wouldn't think it too bad… but Saïx's wound has been open all day… Has he been around any of the others?"
"He went to see Xemnas earlier," Xaldin said with concern. "And he was with Roxas when the attack occurred… Roxas was in the Lounge earlier and he's with Axel now."
"More immediately, perhaps, we were just in contact with Saïx," Lexaeus said with dawning terror.
There was a short pause.
"We split up," Xaldin finally announced. "Vexen, you go find Roxas and check the upper levels to make sure those upstairs haven't been affected. Lexaeus, you head to the Lounge. I'll go speak with the Superior. Meet me there when you've finished and we'll discuss what we're to do."
Finding Roxas and Axel's rooms both empty, Vexen wandered around the floor until he came to Marluxia's chambers (formally known as The Conservatory Where Nothing Grows). "Marluxia—there's been an incident," he called as he brushed a few vines and flowers out of his way into the doorway. "There's… oh dear."
Vexen always did hate coming in here. The Organization members were allowed to decorate their rooms however they liked—Xaldin's was a sophisticated library, Lexaeus's was a gym, and Vexen's was an underground laboratory. Marluxia had chosen to turn his into a fabulous garden, with giant vines and colorful flowers growing in all corners.
Not to mention Marluxia was a pretentious, conniving, underhanded fruitcake.
Marluxia was in the process of caring for a giant pink orchid in the center of the room, lovingly stroking it and talking to it in a sweet tone. "Yes, we are thirsty today, my little flower, aren't we? Yes, let Daddy give you some water…" He kissed its petals and tipped a pink watering can around the flower's base, sprouting up from cracks in the stone floor. "We are such a healthy little flower, aren't we? Yes, precious, beautiful… Grow up big and beautiful for Daddy… Mmm, precious, your pollen is growing so fragrant… I just love the scent of your beautiful pollen… Good morning, Vexen. Out to let a little light on your shriveled, lifeless complexion?"
"Afternoon," Vexen corrected. "And no."
Marluxia flipped his ash-brown hair out of his face and frowned. "Is it really? Hmm. I've wasted half the day away planting seeds and watering one little precious. How the time flies."
"Have you been feeling… all right today?" Vexen eyed the circumstances he had found Number Eleven in, but promptly remembered, "Then again I suppose this isn't really out of the ordinary for you."
"Oh, how droll you are," Marluxia tossed his head, crossing his arms. "To each his own. Some people like to give life to beauty, others like to lock themselves in stuffy basements playing mad scientist and talking to test tubes."
"I would rather be in a stuffy basement than surrounded by such vibrant symbols of femininity," Vexen sneered, somewhat ironically since the narrator believes if you squint at him in the right light, he looks like Galadriel from Lord of the Rings. "And in any case, straighten up. There's been an incident downstairs."
"Mmm, has there?" Marluxia raised an eyebrow. "Has Larxene finally had her way with the basta... oh, never mind."
"Nothing, nothing, don't mind me. What sort of incident?" Marluxia pressed, taking the time to water a few more of the flowers in his garden. "Oh dear, were you in charge of positioning guards today? Shall I run for my life?"
"I need to know if you've looked up from your flowers long enough to see Saïx or Roxas today," Vexen said shortly.
"I see Saïx and Roxas every day," Marluxia smiled.
"You know what I mean, you preening, uppity primadonna."
"Only briefly. Roxas and Axel were playing their atrocious 'video games' again, and making a hell of a lot of noise. My lilies were starting to wilt from the din."
Vexen marveled at Marluxia's ability to make absolutely anything sound like a terrible innuendo. He was truly the master. "Where are they now?"
"I don't know," Marluxia huffed. "As I said, I've been in here all day planting seeds and watering. These beauties don't grow this lovely on their own, you know."
"I heard some voices and an odd noise from Axel's room earlier," Marluxia shrugged. "That is, I think I did. Who could tell over that awful game?"
"I see. Well, do us all a favor and stay in here for the time being, while Number Three, Five and I look into this incident," Vexen said. "And that is a command."
"Very well," Marluxia nodded crisply, turning back around to water more plants. "Do watch yourself on the way out. My man eaters haven't been fed yet."
Dammit. He had to be doing that on purpose. He HAD to be.
The card game had been all but abandoned by the time Lexaeus reached the Lounge. He was, unfortunately, too late to prevent the atrocity he walked in on.
Suffice to say, the earlier insult war brewing between Luxord, Demyx and Larxene was nowhere to be seen. Larxene, in fact, was nowhere to be seen, but it was difficult to miss Luxord and Demyx sprawled out on the floor in the throes of a loving embrace. Fully clothed, you sick, twisted little freakmonkeys.
"I just… I just feel so… so… safe with you."
"Yes… yes, I've… I've always wanted somebody to love…"
"I know… I know the feeling."
"Touch my face and tell me I exist."
"Where do I exist?"
"In my… HEART…"
"We don't have hearts," Lexaeus protested, looking on the verge of projectile vomiting.
"Yes we do!" Demyx screamed. "I have a heart- and it belongs to LUXORD!"
"And my heart belongs to DEMYX!" Luxord cried triumphantly.
"This is disgusting. I'm going to put a stop to this right now," Lexaeus stepped forward to deal with his comrades.
"He's going to separate us, Luxord!" Demyx wailed.
"I wouldn't bet on it!" Luxord looked for a moment like he was going to stand up and do something about the infringement on Demyx and his parasitic psycho "love", but instead hugged the younger Nobody closer and cuddled him.
Lexaeus promptly fixed it, however, by grabbing Demyx by the back of the coat and yanking him away, hanging him on a coat rack and out of commission while he dealt with the sobbing, sensitive Luxord.
"Don't take him away from me! I LOVE HIM!" Luxord wailed pathetically, clinging to Lexaeus's sleeve and sobbing like a six-year-old girl.
"I LOVE YOU TOO, LUXORD!" Demyx shrieked, reaching out his hand. "Tell me you'll never leave me!"
"I'll NEVER LEAVE YOU!"
Mercifully, Lexaeus knocked Luxord unconscious and promptly stuffed his body in an upright cabinet, latching the door with a spatula.
"You can't do this, Lexaeus!" Demyx screeched, kicking and fighting to loose himself from the coat rack. "You can't separate true love!"
"You don't know how stupid and disgusting what you're saying is, Demyx," Lexaeus shook his head and announced, "And for the time being, I am appointing myself your Mercy Angel. I will do whatever it takes to keep you from humiliating yourself to the point of suicide once we figure out how to recover your… you know."
"MEANIE!" Demyx crossed his arms and sobbed.
"I won't bother asking if the two of you are feeling all right," Lexaeus was busy tearing a dishtowel into a strip and tying Demyx's hands with it to prevent his escaping and letting Luxord out. "Roxas was in here earlier, then?"
"Yes, and he would RESPECT OUR LOVE!"
"That means he must have the parasite too, then, to have spread it to the two of you," Lexaeus said mostly to himself. "It didn't seem to take long at all…" He turned his thoughts to himself, assessing how he felt—no different than normal—certainly not as though he was suffering the malfunction of his… you know. Did the parasite really kick in so suddenly, out of the blue?
"What happened to Larxene?" he asked Demyx a moment later, shaking away the troubling thoughts.
"I don't know! I wasn't paying attention—I was too busy looking for someone to watch over me…" Demyx sighed miserably. "I… I was thinking…"
"Please! P-please, Lexaeus… I beg of you… I… I just need somebody to prove I exist… show me they love me… please…"
"You are barking up the wrong tree entirely, Number Nine," Lexaeus patted him on the head. "You stay here and don't move. We shall fix you."
Lexaeus was interrupted by the door to the Lounge swinging open and a shadowy figure stumbling out of the hallway.
Zexion was sporting black eyeliner and a set of Hot Topic spiked wristbands as he held out his arms and stepped towards the giant. "Lexaeus! I… I have a confession…"
"HE'S MINE, YOU BITCH!" Demyx squealed.
"No! NO! He promised he loved me!" Zexion threw himself forward, missing Lexaeus by a hair as he stepped backwards abruptly and summoned his tomahawk. "Lexaeus! I, well… What's the worst that I can say? Things are better if I stay…"
"SO LONG AND GOODNIGHT!" Demyx contributed to the vicious potshot, much to the narrator's enjoyment.
"So long… and goodnight… Unless you can show me I exist, I'm going to…" Zexion drifted off overdramatically, staring at the wall in a fairly transcendent manner. "… End it."
"I don't think so, Number Six," Lexaeus said reasonably. "You are not yourself."
"Your tomahawk is so…" Zexion zoned out on it and began to drool a bit. "… shiny… and… and colorful… and… I want to touch it…"
"Thank you. But I don't think so," Lexaeus supported the weapon on his shoulder, noting how Zexion seemed unwilling to take his eyes off it and concentrate on the manner at hand. Perhaps there was a second wave of parasites known as the Brainless?
"I've always… always needed somebody to show me the way…" Zexion murmured stupidly.
"Me… me too!" Demyx's eyes watered.
"Really?" Zexion's eyes got big and watery as he eyed his comrade hanging from the wall. "That's so… so…"
"Beautiful…" Demyx drifted off with a moronic grin.
"I apologize for this, but I can't stand to hear anymore of your cornball dialogue," Lexaeus took the opportunity while Zexion was turned and stepped forward, mercilessly kicking the smaller man away from him. Zexion caught himself on the coat hook that Demyx dangled from, ripping it out of the wall and freeing the young man to untie his hands and make his own effort at winning Lexaeus's lack of a heart.
"Well that didn't work as planned," Lexaeus said to no one in particular, a hint of alarm in his voice.
"DOMINATE MEEEE!" the others shrieked together.
They leapt for him simultaneously, but Lexaeus evaded, smacking their heads together to knock them both unconscious and summoning a portal to make a break for it in.
"This is really turning out to be one of those days," Lexaeus grumbled.
"Yes, sir. I understand how it feels to lack a heart and be without true emotions, in anything more than the intellectual sense. After all I too, am a Nobody—I've been around from the beginning and have quite a lot of experience in the matter. I also understand our desperation to restore ourselves to complete forms, necessitating the entire plot involving Kingdom Hearts and our tracking and trailing of the Heartless. However…"
Xaldin tucked his braids behind his ears and glared disapprovingly at Xemnas. "I don't think it is necessary, nor is it productive, for you to do this."
"Come, Xaldin. Bask in the darkness with me. Together, we can find it… the light…" Xemnas said broodingly over the sparkling flames of at least forty-three votive candles laid all over his throne. He lay in a sprawling heap on the ground, staring up at his subordinate with melancholy, tearful orange eyes and surrounded by books upon books of gothic haiku he'd seemingly written within the last half hour.
"I'm going to have to decline your gracious offer, Superior," Xaldin took a few steps back in case the ailing Nobody would attempt to cling to his leg. "And Xigbar, you really shouldn't be encouraging him."
"I am so totally numb," Xigbar murmured with a faint, stupid smile on his face, similarly laid out next to Xemnas and waving his hands in the air above him. "Everything is so… bleak, y'know? I need somethin' to make me feel… whoooooole…"
"I do too…" Xemnas whispered, staring at his second with a plastered grin.
"If the two of you could kindly refrain from that before I get the hell out of here, that would be very courteous," Xaldin commented.
"You're so cruel, Xaldin…" Xigbar whimpered. "I… I don't think I get enough cruelty, man…"
"Well, seeing as both Number One and Number Two are out of commission, I suppose that puts me in charge, doesn't it?" Xaldin said pleasantly to his companions. "Wait—what am I asking you for? You two are brainless vegetables."
"TALK DIRTY TO ME! TELL ME I'M A SLUT!" Xemnas screamed desperately.
"I can't tell you how happy I am that I don't have to take orders from you anymore," Xaldin sighed with relief.
"Xaldin? Oh hell. Here too?" Lexaeus appeared on the other side of the room from a portal, eyeing the candles, the poetry, and the sad state of affairs in the upper chain of the Organization's command. "Luxord, Demyx and Zexion have all been infected. I couldn't find Larxene and she wasn't in her chambers."
"Axel and Roxas are gone too," Vexen arrived from his own portal, carrying a stack of notes that he'd just been down to his lab to fetch. "Marluxia's no more of a blithering, simpering cupcake than usual, it seems."
"This is a sorry, sickening state of affairs, gentlemen," Xaldin said, disdain lacing his voice. "This could very well be the greatest threat our Organization has ever suffered… left unchecked, this parasite will destroy us from within and leave us nothing but angsty, moping, wrist-cutting loser boys."
"What about us, though?" Lexaeus asked gravely. "We were exposed to it too, multiple times now. Are we going to end up like them?"
"Yes, I have looked into that, actually…" Vexen pulled out his stack of notes and shuffled through them. "While I was in Roxas's room, I took a swabbing of the controller on his PS2 and made a culture of the parasite particles. I went down to my laboratory and analyzed it, and was able to pick up some new data from the computer."
"Out with it, then," Xaldin urged him.
"It seems that these Gutless are not Heartless at all. They are an entirely new species that originate from a series of worlds approximately here," Vexen held up a world map and circled his finger around a huge, blank area beyond any explored regions. "I got into the DSL and did a little research on this area—it seems this is the area surrounding the legendary Fandom Hearts."
"Fandom Hearts?" Lexaeus echoed. "I thought that place was only a myth."
"No, it seems to be true. Out there in the universe somewhere there is an alternate dimension exactly like, and yet, extremely different than our own," Vexen went on. "There are hundreds, if not thousands of doubles and multiples of people in this universe on the other side of Fandom Hearts. The Gutless seem to be congregating around Fandom Hearts, as though they are mobilizing to conquer it much as the Heartless are planning in our own dimension. They are attracted to the worlds on the other side of Fandom Hearts."
"Worlds on the other side?" Xaldin asked.
"Yes. There are countless of them, and multiple versions of the people in our own, real universe are invoked there every time a new one is created. However, it seems the Gutless are aiming to destroy Fandom Hearts… by affecting the people within our universe."
"So basically, there's a lot of copies of our universe being invoked, and the Gutless keep screwing them up by turning us into sobbing wussies," Xaldin translated.
"Precisely. In short, we three are immune to the Gutless," Vexen concluded.
"How do you figure?" Lexaeus raised an eyebrow.
"Statistics," Vexen lifted another sheet of printouts and passed a piece of paper to both Xaldin and Lexaeus. "This is data concerning how many times each of the three of us has been obviously invoked in one of the alternate worlds of Fandom Hearts. It covers nearly ten thousand alternate worlds. I was invoked in a shoddy 0.0014 percent of them."
"0.0014 percent? Out of ten thousand?" Lexaeus sounded disbelieving. "I was only invoked in 0.0005 percent of them. Xaldin?"
Xaldin looked extremely insulted at his paltry 0.0004 percent appearance rate. "We hardly appear at all."
"Indeed. It is my hypothesis that the Gutless don't know we exist, and therefore, we are immune to them," Vexen looked, for lack of a better word, vexed. "Under the circumstances, I am extremely grateful."
Lexaeus was inclined to agree. "What do you suppose happened to Larxene, Roxas and Axel?"
"I would imagine Larxene is also immune to them, seeing as she has no… you know. I don't have a clue where she could have run off to," Vexen guessed. "As for Roxas and Axel, I don't know. It is my hope that Axel, at least, was able to escape infection and ran off somewhere to save himself. Marluxia has not been infected either, but it's only a matter of time before the parasite robs him of whatever little shriveled bits of… you know he has left."
"Well, enough of this nonsense, then," Xaldin huffed. "Since Superior and Xigbar are out of sorts, as Number Three, I am hereby taking over control of Organization XIII. And as my first order of business, we're going to put things back to normal and restore the Organization to its former glory," he pounded his fist in his other hand. "Is there a cure, Vexen?"
"I do not have one readily available, unfortunately, Xaldin. However, it is my guess that the… you know of our comrades have been taken into Fandom Hearts by the Gutless. If we make the journey there ourselves, hopefully we should be able to restore them back to normal and perhaps put an end to this nonsense once and for all," Vexen said confidently.
"Ah, the plot has finally arrived," Lexaeus nodded in approval. "There's no time to waste. Shall we be off?"
"One moment," Xaldin snapped his fingers to summon the captain of the Dragoon Nobodies, who silently nodded to his commander. "You and the others, including the other types, are to stand guard here at the castle. Make sure no one comes in or out, and send several of your men to keep an eye on Superior and the others. Keep them from doing anything they'll regret later."
The Dragoon Captain eyed Xemnas and Xigbar on the floor behind it, and glanced back at Xaldin with something akin to alarm.
"Don't worry. They're harmless, spineless little wimps and shouldn't give you any trouble," Xaldin assured the creature before it nodded again and disappeared. He motioned for the other two to follow him to the door. "Now, let's—"
Marluxia's voice erupted into a shrill scream as he entered the room, dropping to his knees and rolling around on the ground in terror. His three colleagues eyed him with wonderment as he covered his ears and began rocking back and forth."PLEASE Vexen! I didn't mean it NO! DON'T… RAPE… MEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!"
"What? I beg your pardon, why would I ever rape you; much less rape anyone at all?" Vexen looked quite insulted.
"LEXAEUS! XALDIN! You won't let him rape me, will you?" Marluxia sobbed, clutching at the bottoms of their robes and sniveling for all he was worth. "I'M TIRED OF BEING RAPED! PLEASE!"
"I'm fairly certain you've never been raped, Number Eleven," Lexaeus assured him.
"If I were even the type, Eleven, I would die before I'd rape you. Who knows where you've been?" Vexen snapped.
"I take it the parasite's gotten to him, too," Xaldin sighed, placing a weary hand on his forehead. "Never mind. Just leave him here. We've got things to be doing."
"NOT ME!" Marluxia whimpered, covering his face with his hood. "NOT ME!"
"That's right, not you," Vexen spoke condescendingly, as though he were a child. "Why don't you stay here and keep an eye on everyone? One and Two are in here, Six, Nine and Ten are in the Lounge and Seven is in his room. Let's make sure they all stay nice and unconscious."
"Why should I listen to you?" Marluxia said miserably. "I… haaaate you!"
"If you do it we'll buy you a nice sun bonnet while we're out," Xaldin suggested.
Lip quivering, Marluxia suddenly nodded, meeker than an anemic kitten. "'Kay."
"Come, gentlemen. We're off," Xaldin glanced triumphantly out the window at the Dark City before them.
It seems he'd finally found something interesting to do.