DiZ raised his head in slow perplexity.R E J E C T E D
His strange eyes studied the screen intently.R E J E C T E D
He could hear Ansem's approach as the computer announced once more,R E J E C T E D
"DiZ, what's happening?"R E J E C T E D
"Rejected…" he whispered.R E J E C T E D
"DiZ!"R E J E C T E D
"Sora…'s body rejected Roxas."R E J E C T E D
"What? But how?"
R E J E C T E D
R E J E C T E D
R E J E C T E D
"Sora has grown strong enough to survive without him!"
R E J E C T E D
"Is he waking up?" Ansem was completely on edge and ready to bolt the second word was given.
R E J E C T E D
"Now we have two of them…"
R E J E C T E D
R E J E C T E D
"This calls for a change of plans."
He could remember every moment exactly as it was. The taunting man in red had gone and Sora's crystalline chamber had opened its petals, exposing the boy. He could remember staring up at that face and knowing it was his own. The keyblade had gone from his hands, anger dissipating into sadness and resignation.
"You're lucky, Sora…"
He could remember giving himself back. He knew he did it! But then Sora stepped down the glass flower petal towards him, backlit in white. Sora yawned and rubbed at his eyes, oblivious to his audience and his ill-fitting clothes.
"W-where are we?" the boy grated out, scratching at his hair then.
"I don't know, Sora," the cricket from his shoulder said.
His memory from there became a little fuzzy, because right about then Sora noticed him and began talking to him and Roxas didn't remember a word he said.
He remembered being led outside where he met Hayner, Pence, and Olette once again and kind of wanted to cry, or hit something.
He knew the town like the back of his hand, could have walked it in his sleep, listed all the people in it alphabetically!
It got fuzzy again there but he remembered the train ride because…Sora got a message from some King and they had to go ride the train and Sora had to bring him along because they looked so eerily alike.
More fuzziness…somehow they got in the tower…up and up and up…Yen Sid had been there and he…hadn't been expecting Roxas and…they had to explain to Sora. Halfway through, the freak in the face wrappings and his crony showed up and Yen Sid didn't look happy to see them, not at all.
Roxas could remember what he did then. He left the room. He walked into the adjoining chamber where the faeries waited, got up on the table in the center of the room, flopped over and went to sleep.
When he woke up, he expected everything to be right with the world again.
He would lie on the dock, legs hanging over the side, feet just dipping into the water. He would say hello to anyone who walked past, but he never moved. He lay there, staring at the sky.
The first day he'd come home burned and blistering, but he didn't care. So, the second day Kairi made sure to cover him in sun block. He stayed on his back, staring at the sky all day. Still he burned.
The third day Kairi wandered over at noon and told him to roll over. She didn't know what it was Roxas did, staring at the clear blue sky all day, but she would protect his body while he was away.
By the end of the week his skin had peeled and blistered, but he came away from it all without notice and beautifully bronze skin.
Still he lay out on the dock, staring at the
sky, waiting for something.
He'd woken up again on the train. Sora and some man sat across from him, both talking in hushed tones. Roxas sat up and looked around, inquiring as to what was going on. Both of the others stopped speaking guiltily.
"Uh, glad you're awake, Roxas," Sora said. His clothing had changed. "We were just talking about you."
"We're sending you to Destiny Island," the other man cut in abruptly. His sentiment hit Roxas in the gut like the blunt side of a sword.
"What are you talking about?"
"Look," Sora tried to salvage the conversation. "You don't have to go, but we thought it would be good to hide you out. Someone could finally watch Kairi too!"
"What are you—" He didn't understand.
"You have his memories." The man shrugged. Roxas didn't understand, but then he looked at Sora and the dreams flooded into his head.
"While you go save the world," Roxas whispered, but then his face grew dark. "What about my heart?"
A topic of some dispute, apparently. "We'll look for a way to help you."
"You're just going back into Sora eventually."
"Riku!" Sora protested. He was staring at the man in horror and Roxas knew this man was not the Riku from the dreams. He'd changed.
"I can fight."
"But," Sora began weakly, so Riku took command.
"You're our ace in the hole. Last resort. You're going to the islands."
"Didn't I kick your ass once, Riku?" Roxas growled, standing up tall and straight, just to fall back down with a list of the train. Riku smirked at him through Ansem's face.
"I paid back in kind. This is your option, take it or we leave you for the Organization to find."
It stopped Roxas cold. He didn't remember the Organization. He remembered fighting Axel in Twilight Town but not…
Sora had come with to see his mother and father. There was a lot of crying and a lot of hugging and explaining. So much so, that they both completely missed Roxas. They were only forced to look at him when Sora finally said,
"I know you're worried about me, but I still have to go. That's why I brought Roxas for you to take care of."
Then the parents murmured. "So much like him…"
And they tearfully agreed and Sora was gone again that night.
They had Roxas sleep in Sora's room and it was full of things and memories.
Roxas couldn't sleep in that room.
Instead he climbed out the window, intent on exploring the town. It was then he found Kairi. She smiled at him and told him that Sora had come and explained everything. She said she would look out for him and Roxas laughed humorlessly.
"I'm the one supposed to be watching out for you."
Her smile became just as weak.
Summer was almost over in Destiny Islands as well. Soon, very soon, he would no longer be able to lie out on the dock and stare at the sky. Sora's parents had made it clear they expected him to go to school.
He would always just be a substitute and he didn't want to leave the waterfront. He chose that place because it was full of other people's memories: sitting eating ice cream, learning to swim, getting their first boat and…Roxas hoped to find his own memories there. The true ones. Not Sora's and not the boy from Twilight Town's. His own.
The Organization. Axel.
The first person he remembered was Demyx. They'd sent Demyx because he looked harmless, mostly was harmless.
Demyx was like a dog, he remembered. Playful, free and eager to please, but needing hierarchy. Demyx smiled at him and helped him up from the dirty streets, wrapping him up in a warm coat. He remembered that, at first, he couldn't speak. He couldn't remember anything, just like he remembered nothing now.
Clearly now he could see Demyx's sea breeze eyes and the gentle pull of skin over his cheekbones. He could hear all the kind words the Nocturne told to him in that first meeting. The helping hand upon his arm and Demyx had been like a savior.
He wondered as the images came to him, piece by piece, if he returned that kindness to Demyx. He still wasn't sure yet, as he stared unseeing up at the sky, his body left far behind in Kairi's loving care.
He only got fast hits of picture, sound, smell…The pavement beneath his feet had been slick. The city had smelled like rain and ozone. He hadn't been afraid though, he had found that strange at the time and as he relived his own experiences in fragmented form, he found it strange again.
Why should fear and anger be dependant upon the heart?
The door shut on him with a sudden motion. The door to the memories he had painstakingly unlocked. It practically slammed in his face and he came to, blinking uncomfortably under the daystar.
Kairi and Selphie stared down at him.
"Roxas," the redhead murmured. "Roll over or you'll burn again."
He complied dourly and watched the girls walk away again.
Demyx…it had taken a week, but he finally remembered something.
He heard Demyx's ethereal voice in his sleep that night. It sang to him and he grasped desperately at the strands of consciousness, trying to remember the words, but they slipped through his fingers.
He jolted awake to a bright Monday morning with obscenely chirping little birds. And Demyx's voice in his head. Roxas hummed the tune as best he could remember it.
He headed down the stairs of Sora's house towards the kitchen, Sora's parents waited there. Sora's mom had breakfast for him and Sora's dad asked what he was humming.
Roxas smiled back benignly. "I heard it in my dreams last night."
Something about his voice must have frightened them, as they both turned very pale. So, Roxas just smiled more, didn't eat his breakfast and left the house.
There were only two more days of summer. That early in the morning the town was still deserted, the streets empty, the seas unsailed, the island's sands were sadly without feet upon them.
Roxas walked the island's perimeter, soaking in the history that permeated the place. His door remained stubbornly shut, wood swollen from moisture and caught in the jamb.
He hummed his little song, not at all peaceful, but appearing so externally as he wandered the island. Internally, metaphorical fists beat upon a metaphorical door while he screamed curses, oaths, and obscenities.
The door remained resolutely shut and he wondered if there was also a metaphorical treasure chest he needed to open in order to precede? Just as his anger was cooling, he found himself in front of a physical door. It was the door that Sora and his friends had been drawn toward. The childish scratchings on the cave walls escaped his notice as he set upon that door like a hungered wolf. His fingers scrabbled at its flat surface, desperate for purchase.
The door had no knob, so Roxas punched and kicked and even attempted to set the maddening thing ablaze. He only came away with a bloody hand. He shivered in the dank air of the secret place and decided he better preferred the dock as his place to think.
Two days, no dice. He heard Demyx in his sleep every night, nothing more, nothing less. Infuriating. School was worse. Sora's mother and Sora's father smiling at him from the doorway, and Kairi, Sora's dearly beloved, smiling at him from the street. Roxas didn't smile at all. He trudged down the cobbles in his ridiculous school uniform while a haunting melody played itself over and over in his head, driving him thoroughly crazy. He wanted to go back to the dock and lie back on the warm planks, staring up at the sun.
His skin was darker even than Wakka's and as he walked across the campus every eye was on him. Some remembered Sora, others didn't. Some thought he was Sora. Roxas didn't speak with any of them.
He made his way to his classes and there he waited, staring out the window straight on into the sky. And humming.
"Somewhere our hearts exist…independent of time…"
He forgot the words as soon as they came out of his mouth. Even though he grappled desperately with his memory to remember them, he could not get them back.
He spent the first day of school trying to reclaim them or at least get new memories, but he had no such luck.
Home again, home again, jiggedy-jig. He wished that were a new memory and not something stupid he'd once heard Pence say.
The second person he remembered was Larxene. She was a series of pains, flashes, and cruel smiles. Blue eyes. Laughter…
Needles pressed into his skin, delivering precise shocks to his nerves. The scent of burning hair.
"Twelve and Thirteen! What a pair we are!"
She'd been crazy, every line in her body was sinuous grace and shadow. Her eyes bright and her mind broken.
"No memories? Hah! You're lucky! They don't chain you down!" Then her rage would fly and there would be more injury. His body, her mind.
"Repeat, Roxy, Repeat! Thundagun!"
Lightning flash. Crash. Crash. Crash. Demyx sang.
"Listen, Thirteen, you're only trash."
He woke up panting. The birds were chirping and the sun was rising and…He was panting like a dog.
"Larxene," Roxas spoke the name like a prayer. A prayer for more memories to come. Perhaps, if he could reclaim himself, if he could show the strength, there would be a way to get his heart back? Wishful thinking after a fortuitous night of dreams.
He hummed Demyx song once more as he prepared himself for school.
Sora's mom and Sora's dad waited for him downstairs. He smiled brightly at them both and offered to take out the garbage.
Something about him made them uneasy, Sora's mom tittered nervously and said that was fine. Sora's dad tried to smile, failed, and then thanked him. Roxas smiled wider, took the kitchen garbage and himself out the door.
"Lightning flash…crash, crash, crash! Listen, Thirteen! You're only trash!"
He went to school early because he had nothing better to do.
Along the way he eyed the town around him, making critical comparisons. Destiny Islands was a bunch of huts, in his opinion. There were roads and there were actual houses, but compared to Twilight Town and the snippets of the City he saw in his memories…He found the quaint island living deplorable, at best. He longed for the continent. Perhaps he would convince Kairi to take him Sunday.
Roxas felt as if he hadn't slept for a year, so jarring was his memory, or was it a dream? of Larxene. The movements, the smells, the sights, the sounds and the words stuck in his head. He had long since left the garbage behind, but he also had his schoolbag slung over a shoulder. Everything inside its canvas shell was also refuse, useless material that he could do without. Books and papers and pencils. He almost left it in the street, but then he was there at the school.
He passed through its unprotected gates onto the campus. There he was accosted by a small horde of girls who seemed to have been lying in wait
"R-roxas?" There was stuttering and instead he thought about Larxene, tall and proud and mad. Her eyes gleaming and her words caressing his ears like sandpaper.
"Roxas?" A second girl was quivering before him. She had black hair and brown eyes. Roxas thought instead of Naminé and Kairi.
"Roxas?" There were so many girls, all of them holding small pieces of paper with his name on it. He thought instead of Demyx and the way he smiled.
The papers were love notes. Every last one. Roxas knew it and therefore only opened one. He read it in silence while the sacrificial lamb waited in terror for his resolution.
He broke down laughing. His laughter echoed off the stones of the building and the metal of the gate. It resounded off the ocean and the trees. He began to cry with mirth, hunched over clutching his stomach as the laughter poured forth from him in great waves.
"You're kidding?" he asked when his breath once more returned to him. The girl began to cry in earnest. The others tried to comfort her, more still tried to take her place upon the altar. Roxas refused to accept any more sniveling love letters and pushed aside each simpering female who barred his path on the way to his classroom. These stupid girls didn't compare.
Early still, the classroom was empty. Roxas greatly appreciated the chance to be alone. He hurriedly took his station up beside the window and stared off into the sky.
"You're kidding," he mumbled. "But I can't get the joke…"
He had done well to play at mirth.
Kairi confronted him later, and asked him why he had been so harsh. He smiled at her like he did all the others. But he wrapped his arms around her, pulling her in tight to his body and rested his chin on her shoulder.
"I can't do anything else," he whispered. "I have no heart, remember?"
With Larxene came Marluxia. The smell of flowers, wild now tamed, filled his entire being and made him light headed.
Roxas remembered that he was always impressed with Marluxia. He laughed at anyone foolish enough to challenge the Graceful Assassin, who could kill just with the scents of his perfumes. Yet there was something he had always hated about him.
He and Larxene…She and Marluxia.
Madness fitting, madness, with Naminé between.
How did Naminé fit?
He didn't know.
She was there, with a yet unnamed and faceless figure at her back. Hand on her shoulder as she drew.
Somewhere our hearts exist, independent of time. But not for Thirteen. Our thunder crash. Unlucky flower, imagine that?
The broken chain at Naminé's feet, Roxas knew it was Marluxia who had shattered it. He reached forward to pick it up, to reclaim it, to recall his memories and fix what had been done, but poisonous barbs stuck his fingers.
Marluxia appeared before him again, Larxene at his side, her smile as lost as ever. The vines came slithering in, wrapping up all the Roxas hoped to claim. Taking it away.
Roxas wished for fire, and found not even water.
flower, imagine that!
He woke up in Sora's room, with Sora's parents downstairs, in Sora's house, in Sora's town, on Sora's world. He wanted to go back to Sora's island so he could replace Sora's memories with his own.
The dream came back to him.
Unlucky little flower…Not for you, our thunder crash!
He went down to breakfast without the song. He let it linger in his mind, caged, like a beast.
He stopped dead on the stairs, one foot suspended in midair. Then he fell, tumbling to a sickening thud at the bottom of the landing.
Sinuous, graceful, shadowed. Organization XIII.
No dream was of yet as clear as the one he had of Demyx, and even that memory had been fragmented and difficult to understand. The others had just left him with names, vague impressions, sounds and feelings. Nothing solid. He didn't know Larxene's eye color and he wasn't sure if he was taller than Marluxia.
"Roxas? Honey, are you okay?"
"Roxas? Hey, buddy, come on, look at me!"
"Call the hospital, dear!"
Did he dream or did he remember? Whose cruel heart toyed with him like this? Slowly he faded to black, Oblivion in his grasp.
Roxas awakened in the hospital bed with a redhead at his side. He blinked blearily at the figure.
"I'm going crazy on these islands."
"I know, Roxas." It was Kairi. She reached out and took his hand, squeezing gently. "I know."
"How do I leave?" he asked. The song danced through his head with its new added verse.
Hearts guarded from Thirteen by fearsome beasts. Unlucky flower, wilting now. Trash, trash, thunder crash!
"I don't know. The door has closed, I don't know of any other way."
"I remember not remembering."
"I met you in my dreams, remember that?"
He heaved himself up out of the bed, his bare feet alighting on the cold floor. His eyes glazed over as new memories forced their way in.
He could hear the rhythmic thump of Demyx's heart right beside him; it had a very special tattoo. It sped up very suddenly and a rough voice echoed in his ears.
"That the kid?"
The face was world-weary and scared, the hair was graying, and his eye, only one, was golden like a hawk's. Roxas tried to pull up a name to go with that face but failed.
"This is the new kid."
Everything in the castle was white, white, white, white, white. Floors, ceilings, walls. Icy white. Roxas wondered at the stark contrast of black coats, it hurt his eyes.
"Well new kid, welcome to the Organization…"
Graceful. For someone so gruff, the man moved with speed and agility. Sniper. The Freeshooter, whose name was…He couldn't remember.
Suddenly Kairi was on him, her arms around his waist as she cried.
"Kairi?" Roxas murmured, confused by this turn of events. "What's wrong?" He was in the hospital, but he would be fine. He saw no reason to be disturbed by his memories. He was actually quite thrilled that they were at last coming with greater frequency. However, Kairi continued to cry.
"I'm afraid for you, Roxas."
He stroked her hair, noting for the first time that his right wrist was in a tight wrap. He wondered how their hair might have felt under his fingers. Naminé, Larxene, Demyx, Marluxia, the Freeshooter.
you down from far above, a shot like thunder crashed…
A day in the hospital and then he was released. To him no more dreams came. He had only the song, which he guessed was only half done.
No memories for months. He skipped class often to go out to the island dock and sit as he had in the so recent summer. Still no memories surfaced.
In his fall down the stairs he'd broken several bones, which he found pathetic, at best. He had claimed to be a warrior and then was bested by stairs. The cast on his leg was only a nuisance for two days. He'd healed himself as soon as he had the mind too, then the doctors had to believe him, and then the removal came.
He thought he would go insane in the monotonous routine of an Islanders life. Unbearable. Small-city life in Twilight Town had been bad enough and now this?
He told his thoughts to Kairi and she smiled her sad little smile and told him about the letter she had let float to Sora.
He understood then that she felt the same way he did. Left on the backburner…He didn't want to be the ace in the hole any longer.
"Kairi, come on, let's stop waiting. Let's find a way off this island."
Her eyes were the ocean and his body was the vessel. Storm clouds hovered above their heads and the lightning arced between them.
"Yes," she said. Her grin almost seemed happy for once. "Yes, Roxas."
They were down at the mainland beach staring out at the island contemplating their escape.
"Somehow…we have to get off this island. We can't wait any longer."
"My thoughts exactly! If you have a dream, don't wait. Act. One of life's
little rules. Got it memorized?" There was a jolt and both islanders turned to stare at Axel who had appeared by the water and Axel stared back in shock. "Roxas?"
Roxas stood defensively before Kairi, even though inside his head the singing had raised to a deafening new volume.
"What are you doing here, Axel?"
"No! That's my question!" the redhead protested, coming forward, chakram in hand. "You…you're supposed to be in Sora! I've been…Roxas!"
Flames began to lick the sands, superheating and cooling under the tide, producing steam and gleaming glass.
"I've been looking for you, Roxas."
Center of the sun…unlucky flower, watch you burn…
"I can take you back with me now."
A vision took over Roxas' vision. He stood motionless as Axel attacked and Kairi screamed for him to move. But he couldn't.
Something else had taken over. He saw a ruined courtyard and heard the sounds of battle all around him. He felt his mouth…no. Someone else's mouth, move and speak and there was Demyx in front of him…Sora and Demyx were battling. The water controlled by the lithe musician while Sora danced to the tune, destroying form after form until all that was left was Demyx. He beat the blond down until he could no longer move and it was time for the keyblade's finally strike…
His hand faltered.
Sora's hand faltered and he fell to the ground, clutching at his shoulder in pain.
Axel jammed one of the spikes of his chakram into Roxas' right shoulder, hoping to incapacitate him. Kairi let out a furious little sound and rushed forward to Roxas' defense. The blond wasn't moving. He was still just standing there!
Sora's eyes turned upwards as the pain began to subside. He stared at the panting Nobody before him. The name rolled from his mouth,
"Axel, stop it!" Kairi cried out. "Stop! You're hurting him!"
Axel growled and nearly struck her, but Roxas said something that made him pause.
"Demyx is hurt." Roxas' eyes were unseeing even though they were directed straight towards the man who was once his best friend. "He's fighting Sora."
"Do you really remember him?" Axel whispered. His fingers tightened on his weapon, his anger was still a palpable glow of fire all around him. But still he wanted to be hopeful.
"Hollow Bastion," the blond said in reply, and that was all.
Demyx still watched the little keyblade boy in surprise. His face had gone slack and his eyes glazed over, yet he still spoke. He seemed to be in pain however as he still held his shoulder gingerly.
"He's coming," Sora murmured. "Roxas is coming."