Disclaimers and Useless/Useful Stuff to Know:
Don't own Kingdom Hearts. Never did, never will.

---

to see with eyes unclouded

appt. 2: safeguard

---

Research is difficult with very plain words and very little details.

For all that Vexen has written, he hasn't actually gotten anywhere. Words on pages tell him nothing, and from day to day, his subject is unwilling to share. He answers stiffly with a blank face and allows physical measurements, mappings, and details. He deals with it, like a burden, because he's been asked to. That isn't terribly shocking, though as much as Vexen is Vexen, he sees little reason why Saix seals his privacy as tightly as he does.

A claymore, Saix says, is a blade but chaotic. It implies then that VII knows the way of swords in detail, yet a claymore -- giant and clumsy, damaging and dangerous -- is his choice.

A shield, Vexen determines, keeps everything away and is far more important than wildly slashing at your opponents.

The berserker is out on a mission for the moment. Vexen hardly knows any details of that matter either, but it doesn't strike him as important. For now, he sits, trying to connect what he knows.

Or rather, what he doesn't know, beyond the very basics of Saix's behavior.

The library is usually a fairly quiet place to be. At times, he sees others there -- Lexaeus and Zexion are never a surprise, sometimes Xemnas when he's being bold, and Luxord seems to prefer to keep himself well read -- but at rarer times, usually when he's looking for someone, Axel will come.

And when he does, Vexen doesn't hide his reaction; he wrinkles his nose in distaste.

"Looks like Saix's got you confused there, Vexen." Axel, for all that he appears to be blunt and bold, keeps himself well hidden. That's a careful thing to know, it's a note IV keeps tucked away mentally.

"And how are your sessions with Xemnas?" The notebook in Vexen's hand snaps shut.

VIII rolls his shoulders back before shrugging. "What, he doesn't tell you?"

"The results are shared at the very end," Vexen responds stiffly, not discussing the matter further. "What do you want?"

"Aw, Vexen. Don't get your panties in a bundle." Axel leans over, tapping the cover of the notebook. "All I'm saying is, you don't know anything."

Vexen snorts. "And you do?"

"Who, me? Well. I've heard things, of course." VIII's grin is sharp, and he might as well have been breathing fire. He brings up his index finger, tracing an 'X' shape to his forehead. "Why not try asking the worst question? Being sneaky isn't your style, you know."

"You don't know anything," IV snaps, standing up, as if to leave, "about how I do my work."

"Right, I'm completely clueless." Axel still points to his forehead. "You wanna know what I heard?"

The academic says nothing. But that also means he doesn't say "no".

Axel turns around as he starts to leave the library. "I heard, he got tortured. A scar like that's not an accident."

Unlike every other mark on Saix, all from battles, supposedly, this is true, Vexen supposes as Axel leaves.

And he ponders.

---

Puzzles are, of course, left best to Zexion.

While Vexen writes notes and follows Saix when he is available, he still learns nothing. The question VIII suggests is ridiculous and far too soon. It could mean a violent reaction, possibly, from the berserker. It could mean anything. It could mean nothing. There are too many variables. Not enough pieces to actually even be a decent puzzle.

It is the first time, Vexen realizes as he sits in Saix's room, that he's ever seen VII dine. He knows, obviously, that the berserker eats, but he's sure to make his own food and keep it all to himself.

He notes Saix's diet choice belatedly in his scribblings.

He asks typical questions. What was the basic life for Aizu? What did Aizu do for a living? What was the terrain like?

But the question -- the question -- eats at Vexen.

He imagines scenarios. Ideas, possibilities, all too radical. Vexen's mind wanders, and all of it makes him realize, he truly does know nothing about Saix that could come up with an adequate conclusion. If he knew enough, he could guess far more properly.

"You're staring," Saix says, very simply.

He's hardly startled to realize it himself. "Of course I am. I'm researching you."

"You're staring at me." VII raises a brow and tilts his head. "But your eyes were vacant."

IV snaps the book shut. "We're done for today." He stands to exit, summoning a portal.

"What is it," Saix wonders, "that you want to ask me now, Vexen?"

The scientist thinks to answer and ask at the same time, to get it over with. Instead, he remains silent as he leaves the room.

---

The next time he's in the library, another annoyance plagues him. While Vexen grits his teeth, he's not sure he's infuriated or grateful at the distraction that hovers over him.

Xigbar is, of course, relaxed. In his hands, he fiddles with a strange circluar stone, a sea-blue with carvings in it. It's almost like it could belong to an amulet, but the thought strikes IV somewhat funny. After all, the sniper wouldn't carry something like that around.

He says nothing, but he's there while Vexen scratches words that mean nothing into his notebook, as if to keep his hand occupied and keep himself like he's busy. Xigbar is there and the Chilly Academic can hear him tossing the stone up into the air and catching it. Even if he misses, he knows that gravity is easy for Xigbar to ignore and keep it from shattering.

Finally, Vexen puts his pen down, almost slamming it. He turns and gives Xigbar a stare. "What is that?"

"Demyx's." Xigbar tosses it again. "Let me have it for now. I asked 'im if I could take a look at it."

"But what is it?"

"Don't know." Xigbar catches after letting it hover in the air for awhile. "I asked the Squirt, but he just gives me that damned smile, you know? Like, whatever, it's no biggy if I wanna take it for a bit, but I know he's itchin' to have it back."

Vexen makes a noise, mostly a bored-sounding one. "What do you want?"

The sniper flips the stone in the air, keeping his eye on it. "Well, other than the obvious?" He grins, like it's an old joke, taps his chest. "Axel says you got puppy problems."

"Axel says a lot of things." Vexen doesn't bother to hide his rolling eyes at the term Xigbar uses.

Pointing at the stone, as if his fingers were a gun, he stops the stone in the air. "Well, think about it. Even if you do ask, what're th' chances he's gonna tell you? Not like Saix tells you anything else." Xigbar catches the stone and holds it out to show Vexen. "Like this. I could ask Demyx everyday 'til we finish Kingdom Hearts, I'll bet you he won't ever tell me. Maybe he made it. Maybe it's his sweetheart's. Hell if I know, but -- anyway, if Saix doesn't want you to know, he's not gonna tell you."

"That was amazingly uninformative," Vexen tells him.

"All I'm sayin'," Xigbar pockets the stone, standing up, "is that it's not like you have anything to lose, right?"

From all what very little Vexen knows, no. He supposes he doesn't. But he doesn't admit this to Xigbar.

"Besides. I heard from Axel," and Xigbar grins at Vexen, like he's ready to laugh, ready to tell another bad joke, "that he got that scar from a jealous boyfriend."

---

It comes out, suddenly, while Vexen is checking the berserker's blood pressure.

"And where did you get that scar on your forehead?"

It's silent in the room, even as he instinctively writes his results from physical determinations into his notebook. It's as if Saix didn't even hear him, or maybe he's trying to figure out the best way to decapitate Vexen. Either way, it's quiet.

Ten minutes go by and Vexen is checking his pulse.

"From a man I trusted."

Vexen stops what he's doing, to actually look at Saix in the face, as if he's never done it before.

Usually, the berserker keeps himself guarded. Composed. His face is usually very blank. He isn't smug. Maybe he's not even calm, definitely not annoyed. He doesn't even ever look thoughtful, nor does he pretend to smile and laugh. Saix, for all of the features he has, somehow retains a facelessness.

And yet, his brows are knitted just slightly, as if he's not sure if he can suggest anger or sadness. Saix's lips are tight, unsure.

Vexen could ask why. Why did this man do this? What was the point? Who was he? What did he mean to Saix?

Somehow, nothing like that comes from Vexen. But he smiles, as if this will do for now.

And the notebook shuts.

"We're done for today."