Ok, before I go any further, let me apologize for not updating in so long. My excuses this time are many, including college admission crap (which is FINALLY OVER!), finals, AP testing (I passed everything! No 101 classes for me this year!), graduation practices, graduation, weeks of parties, two week-long trips with friends, family visitation for like a month, baby-sitting my sister so my mom can work, losing my notebook during said activities and having to start almost from scratch (my plans for the story changed a lot upon further reflection), writer's block, going to Otakon, locking myself in my room for a few days to read the last Harry Potter book (which was AWESOME!), and getting ready to move twice in the next month. I AM SO SORRY, BUT I DID HAVE REASONS!

But, there does come a time when excuses are just that; excuses. Yes, I've been busy. But I've always been busy, and always will be busy (cough- 9am to 9pm practices for college band camp starting in two weeks). I've just gotta learn to suck it up and work around it without leaving four months between updates. Thus, this chapter which I decided to type up at 1:45 this morning.

Thank you for your amazing patience, and I SWEAR I'm sorry!

Disclaimer: I really hate these things, but I don't feel like shelling out the money for my entire college education just because I got lazy and some lawyer got bored (or desperate) and decided to check fanfics for disclaimers. I DON'T OWN THE RIGHTS TO KINGDOM HEARTS, OK?


"What?"

Zexion scrutinized Larxene, who was comfortably sprawled on Avalon's bed, and Marluxia, who leaned against the closed door to keep anyone from intruding. Both managed to appear smug and elated at the same time, and Zexion could smell honesty. There was no question that, to their knowledge, Marluxia and Larxene were telling the truth.

"I said, 'Our hearts are back,'" Marluxia repeated impatiently.

"That's… impossible," Zexion responded flatly. "We haven't done anything that would conceivably-"

"Can I ask you something?" Larxene interrupted. "If that Guardian girl could save our bodies from being taken by the darkness, is there any reason she couldn't do the same for our hearts?"

Zexion stiffened. Larxene had a valid point; if Avalon's light could fight the darkness from their bodies, why couldn't she also extract their hearts from the same force? Why hadn't the possibility occurred to him before?

Zexion numbly felt his wrist for a pulse. He was able to find the area with ease, unlike many other people (like my Psych class: we all thought we were vampires or something), because of habit he'd developed in his early days as a Nobody. He'd taken to feeling his pulseless wrist after each failed experiment to remind himself why he kept going, why the entire Organization kept searching. But this time, it was there. A steady, strong, genuine pulse.

Zexion's wide-eyed look made it clear to Marluxia and Larxene that he'd found the same thing they did.

After a long, thought-filled silence, Zexion quietly asked, "Do you realize what this means?"

"That the Organization has fulfilled its purpose," Marluxia answered flatly. "It has no point in existing any longer."

Zexion nodded gravely.

"What?" Larxene's upper body snapped into a sitting position. "But… that's what was keeping all of us together! We can't disband now!"

Zexion shot her a penetrating, questioning look. "I thought you wanted that."

Larxene recoiled slightly, looking vaguely hurt. "That's not it," she responded so earnestly that Zexion found himself actually listening to her instead of getting annoyed. "We didn't want to bring the Organization down! We wanted to make it better!"

"Make it better?"

"You were there when the Organization was created, Zexion." Marluxia said, crossing his arms again. "You know better than us that it failed in its efforts. And we thought we knew why…"

"…Why?" Zexion asked against his better judgment. He just couldn't resist a chance to have the other side's thought process explained to him.

Larxene smiled and shifted her weight back, supporting herself with her arms. "Because Xemnas was the leader. He doesn't even remember what being human's like, so how could he help us regain our humanity?

"Well…" Zexion rubbed his chin thoughtfully, "Demyx did ask me something along those lines a while ago… I just thought he was trying to create trouble."

"Not addressing the problem is what's 'creating trouble,'" Larxene countered.

"Maybe it is…" Zexion admitted thoughtfully.

Larxene caught Marluxia's eye and winked, mouthing "Told you so."

Zexion was actually listening to their side. A loyal founder thought they had a valid point. Marluxia just shook his head in disbelief, making Larxene grin. "Almost makes me feel like we could have overthrown Xemnas without the elaborate takeover plan," he mused.

"You might have succeeded had you simply talked to all of us," Zexion criticized, glaring at his companions with his one visible eye. "Except perhaps Vexen and Saix…"

Larxene shook her head. "I don't think you would've honestly listened without your heart. You would've turned us in the second we mentioned a shift in power."

"… Was I really that bad?"

"Yes," Larxene and Marluxia replied at the same time.

Zexion frowned.

"We've succeeded in straying extremely off subject," Marluxia said flatly.

Zexion crossed his arms. "You're right. We should be discussing what to do now that our hearts are back."

"Let's not tell the others," Larxene said quickly.

Zexion and Marluxia stared at her.

"Well, you two said it yourselves; without a common goal, we have no reason to stay together." Larxene looked back and forth between the two. "We need each other right now, since we're in a completely new world. But if they knew…"

"Vexen would run out the door with that shrill laugh of his, yelling about how he 'can leave the imbeciles at last.'" Marluxia finished, rolling his eyes.

"I don't know that that's entirely accurate…" Zexion said with a frown.

"But can we risk it?" Larxene asked pointedly.

"It just… doesn't feel right," Zexion replied feebly.

The other two shot stunned looks at each other.

"Wow." Larxene shook her head. "You're a completely different person with your heart."

Marluxia fixed the surprised younger man with his gaze. "You're the schemer, Zexion. What would you have done as a Nobody, without any moral reservations?"

Zexion hesitated for a second before lowering his head guiltily and replying, "I… would have been safe and not told them."

"Then that's what we'll do now," Marluxia said firmly.

Zexion shook his head in disapproval before Marluxia stepped aside and opened the door.

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"Did they find anything of use?" Vexen asked immediately after the three filed back into the living room.

"Did you fix the device?" Zexion asked flatly in return.

Vexen glared and brandished something that looked like a wrench. "We don't need your sarcasm. Just say 'no' and be done with it!"

This drew Lexaeus' attention. The scientist fixed Zexion with a stare not unlike his own. "Is there a reason you answered his question with a question, Zexion?"

Lucky for Zexion, a series of sharp knocks at the door diverted everyone's attention.

Suddenly united by the possibility of being discovered, the inhabitants of the living room wordlessly crowded into a small circle so they could discuss the situation without being overheard by anyone who might be at the door.

"We don't know for sure if anyone's there," Marluxia pointed out. "It could have just been something falling out of a tree or blown by the wind."

Another series of knocks.

"Or not…"

Zexion sniffed the air tentatively. "It's a girl." (Sniff) "About Avalon's age." (Sniff) "No scent of powers related to the Keyblade or Guardian."

"You can tell that much from the smell?" Larxene asked, intrigued.

"How do you think I always had an idea of what was happening, even without our crystal ball?" Zexion asked, referencing the basement monitoring system the "topside" members had taken after breaking their own.

"… Oh."

"But who is it?" Vexen asked, rubbing his chin. "One of her friends, perhaps?"

"That's not an issue right now," Lexaeus said firmly, noticing that the knocking had grown increasingly more insistent. "How do we get rid of her?"

Larxene shrugged and Marluxia shook his head, both at a loss for discreet ideas. Lexaeus and Vexen, however, both turned to Zexion with faces that made it look like they were trying very hard not to laugh.

"No," he said flatly after realizing what his coworkers were thinking.

"You must."

"No."

"It's the only way."

"I refuse."

"But you're the only one who can pull it off."

"I. Will. Not."

Larxene exchanged a glance with Marluxia before asking, "He won't what, now?"

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Outside, a girl with curly, dirty-blonde hair pounded her fist impatiently against the blue-painted wood of the cabin door. "C'mon, Av! It's me, Vikki! Are you asleep again or something?"

She lowered her fist in a sudden moment of horror. Avalon was hard to wake up. If she really was asleep, she probably wouldn't wake up for a very, very long time.

"Av!" Vikki shouted again as sudden desperation seeped into her mind. Being stuck outside in the middle of the mountains didn't seem like fun, at least not unprepared.

But before she could resume pounding, the door swung open. Vikki jabbed an accusing finger at the girl in the doorway. "Did you forget?"

Avalon stared back at her, looking slightly confused. The expression shifted to something oddly akin to a chess player sizing up their opponent. She then sighed, raised a hand in front of her mouth before clearing her throat, and replied in an unusually sweet voice "Forget what?"

"You invited me over, remember?"

Avalon instantly adopted a forced-looking half-smile that Vikki had never seen on her. "Oh, yeah. Sorry about that," she said quickly, her voice shifting to its usual tone. "It's just… I'm feeling a little… icky, and I just woke up…"

Well, that explained the black tank top – pink plaid pants combo.

Avalon's smile faltered slightly. "You know, I still don't feel quite right, and I don't want you to catch it, so…"

Vikki looked the other girl over inquisitively. Something about her didn't seem… right. She couldn't put her finger on it, but something was off. "Well, I just drove four hours to get here, so I'm staying," she finally said, shouldering her way through the door before her friend could protest. "Besides, you have the worst immune system I've seen in anyone who doesn't have something clinically wrong. Chances are I won't get it."

Avalon's eyebrows went up a little. "But I really think it's contagious."

Vikki's green eyes bored into her friend's as she flatly asked, "Are you throwing up?"

"No..."

"Fevered?"

"Um…"

"Sneezing?"

"Well, no, but-"

"Coughing?"

Avalon burst into a sudden fit of hacking.

Vikki watched in alarm as her friend calmed herself with what appeared to be a great effort. "You ok?"

Avalon, nodded, her hand over her chest.

"Are you sure? That didn't sound good…"

"I'm fine, I'm fine." Avalon waved her hand weakly. "But it could get worse, and I really don't want you to catch it."

Vikki shook her head. "Look, I just drove for four hours, and I can't just turn around and drive back now. I'm tired. Besides, it's just coughing, right?"

Avalon watched Vikki for a moment, then shook her head and closed the door. "Ok, but you have to promise to leave if it looks like it's getting worse."

"Are you trying to get rid of me or something?" Vikki asked playfully, walking toward the living room to set her stuff down, Avalon following close behind.

"Of course I am," Avalon replied with an enigmatic variation of her new half-smile.

"Well, you'll have to do better than that. You should know by now I don't scare that easily."

Avalon sighed. "I can see that," she muttered to herself in an exasperated tone.

Vikki turned to the TV and looking curiously at the poor, abused, slightly dismantled PS2. "Well, I see you decided to bring it. But what happened?"

Avalon tilted her head slightly, looking very confused. Some of the confusion faded after she followed Vikki's gaze, but she still looked like she didn't get something. "Oh? The PS2? It stopped working…"

"Man, that's balls," Vikki responded heatedly. "Did you at least get to start it?"

"Huh?"

"Kingdom Hearts 2," Vikki eyed Avalon as though surprised by her lack of understanding, "You know, the game you've been looking forward to playing ever since Chain of Memories came out? And you told me the entire plot from Kingdom Hearts 1 and Chain of Memories just so I could be up to speed with the new game? And then you freaked out because I finished it way before you?"

Avalon seemed, for lack of a better word, shocked. "A… game?"
Vikki turned back to her friend, her forehead furrowed with worry. "Av, seriously, are you alright?"

Avalon swayed slightly, but managed to avoid tipping over by grabbing Vikki's shoulder.

Vikki put an arm around her friend's shoulders and felt her forehead with the other. "You're not fevered or anything…" she said, puzzled. "But you're going to bed. Now."

"No, I'm fine," Avalon protested.

Vikki shook her head and practically dragged her friend to the door she supposed led to the bedroom. "I don't feel like dealing with your dead corpse just because you didn't want to listen to me. You're going to bed if I have to sit on you to keep you there," she said firmly, reaching forward to open the door.

And then she found herself face-to-face with Larxene, Marluxia, Lexaeus, and Vexen.

There was a very long silence.

Once her mind registered the fact that she was looking at Organization members, Vikki accidentally dropped Avalon in surprise. The thud alerted her to the fact that she'd dropped her, but when she looked down she saw not Avalon, but Zexion propped on his elbow and rubbing the back of his head, wincing in pain.

"Wha- How- But- You-!" Vikki glanced frantically around at the very real video game characters, all of whom looked extremely nervous. After taking a moment to calm herself, Vikki reached forward to touch the closest member; who happened to be Zexion. And since it was Zexion, "touching" meant "ruffling his weird hair."

"You're real," she said disbelievingly to the visibly annoyed Cloaked Schemer.

"Thank you for your diagnosis," he snapped, his patience worn thin thanks to his recent ordeal of having to pretend to be Avalon, being dropped on the floor, and having his hair mussed. With as much dignity and indifference as he could muster, he pushed himself to his feet and attempted to fix his hair.

Vikki broke into a grin. "That's boss! But where's Av?"

The Organization members exchanged looks.

"Our knowledge is extremely limited," Lexaeus said reluctantly. "Perhaps you could help us… fill in the gaps?"

That phrase seemed to bring Vikki's rational mind back into play. Fangirlism aside, the personalities and previous actions of the people in front of her began to run through her mind. Vikki cast suspicious glances at the people around her. "You didn't take Avalon prisoner, did you? And you're not going to… say… torture me and force me to tell you whatever you want to know?"

Everyone exchanged looks again.

"Um… no…"

Without warning, the girl turned and bolted for the door. "Yeah right! I know how you people operate!" she called over her shoulder.

"Why do I feel like Avalon was the easy one to deal with?" Zexion asked with a sigh as Marluxia disappeared into a dark portal and reappeared in front of Vikki to cut off her escape. What he wouldn't give for the good old days when his problems consisted only of ADD and an annoying coworker…

"Oh, balls!" came a cry from the kitchen. Seconds later, Marluxia emerged from the room with the struggling teenage girl slung over his shoulder.

"Look," he said calmly. "We just want answers. And we're going to get them… through whatever means we deem necessary." His last statement was as calm as could be, but that didn't cover the threatening note buried within it.

Vikki visibly shivered despite herself.

"Oh, come on," Larxene scolded, walking up to Marluxia and tapping him on the nose. "You'll never get her to play that way."

"Then what do you suggest, Larxene?" the man asked wearily.

Larxene just smiled. "Let me talk to her."

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It had been three days since her arrival in Twilight Town, and Avalon had only been able to find tiny little jobs here and there. Poor Riku and DiZ were living on snacks and sandwiches she snuck them from Seifer's house.

In a desperate attempt, Avalon decided that maybe she should let the job find her. And so, she posted a notice on the bulletin board reading:

17-year-old girl for hire. Odd jobs, home services, office work… I'm not picky. Pay negotiable.

A decent idea, yes. Unfortunately, Avalon hadn't taken her current reputation into account. Within 12 hours, Seifer's house was bombarded with men asking Avalon to perform certain… acts, so to say. One of the requests was so explicit, and the man so insistent, that Seifer had to forcibly remove the man from his home, blushing furiously the whole time.

Needless to say, Avalon found it necessary to add a note about what she would not do.

After posting the amendment, Avalon ventured to Market Street with the intent of buying what food she could for Riku and DiZ, promising herself that she would learn to cook eventually.

It seemed the lady at the Chinese restaurant had heard of Avalon's job-hunting.

"So, I hear half the men in town are flocking to Seifer's house," the woman said conversationally while stirring the white rice Avalon had ordered for poor Riku and DiZ's dinner. "That's where you're staying, right?"

Avalon let her head sink from her hand to the picnic table with a groan.

The woman glanced at her and laughed. "It's all right," she consoled, "Not everyone in town has jumped to conclusions. A lot of us are on your side; especially since Hayner's group started standing up for you."

Avalon glanced up hopefully. "Really?"

"Really."

The girl smiled to herself, sitting back up to rest her head on her hand again and noticing the clear, cool evening air for the first time. #(So they're campaigning for me, huh?)# she thought with a rush of fondness toward her new friends.

Her mood lightened, Avalon sat at the table conversing with its owner until her food was ready. The woman packed a variety of foods into containers, and the containers into a bag, then held it out to Avalon with a smile.

"Um… I think this is a lot more than I paid for…" Avalon glanced into the bag. "Like, a lot."

The woman smiled again and waved her hand dismissively. "I know. It's a special, 'Welcome to Twilight Town' discount. Oh, and if you can't find a job in the next few days just come back here. I could use an assistant chef, now that I think about it."


Alright. It is now… 4:07 am… I'm falling asleep… But I feel so much better now that I have something to post! And I finally got to use one of my little disconnected scenes that I randomly decided to write! The first of about ten zillion… Most of them are fluff, though, not really plot.

I shall now save the document to my wonderful flashdrive of awesomeness, since I'm working on my laptop which has no internet, go to sleep, and post this online as soon as I wake up. I wrote a chapter! I wrote a chapter! Yaaaaaaaaaaay!

Wow, I'm getting kinda delusional. Sleeping time.