Disclaimer: Have you seen those whack jobs trying to claim Kingdom Hearts for their own? Between Xemnas, Xehanort, Maleficent, and Squeenix, I wouldn't touch the thing with a ten-yard pole.
First Date – Three lives later, and they still have not gone on their first date. But if reincarnation is all about getting another chance to do things right—whatever that means—he might as well try and make the best of it. Lexaeus x Zexion.
Had desperate urge to write LexZex stuff. What can I say, it's my favorite KH coupling! It totally makes me sad that it isn't as popular, especially compared to Demyx x Zexion. Which is good and all, but… I just really, really love LexZex. I find it terribly cute.
Therefore, it is my ultimate goal to make this coupling as popular as Demyx x Zexion! Okay, so I know I'm going to fail, but I don't care. I'm taking a shot at it anyway, so here is my second attempt at it. Except without the unhappiness and painful angsting of the first attempt (sweatdrop).
Anywho, many, many thanks to Coffee-Flavored Fate for beta-ing this. And for adding the word 'Lexion' to my vocabulary, haha.
I – Lexaeus
Being reincarnated, Lexaeus decided, was not nearly as interesting as one would think. In fact, it was quite the opposite when experiences that were once new and exciting were reduced to dreary repeats that were quite likely to bore him out of his mind. He was, at least, lucky in the respect that the memories of his past two lives had generously held off on flooding back until he was twelve; otherwise, he had no idea how he would have managed to survive the tedium of his first few years as a Somebody.
Still, growing up was a wearisome task to endure. Rather than a child growing to adulthood, Lexaeus found that he was an adult trapped in the body of a child who was growing up, the physical being going through the same motions that the mind had already endured once before. And remembered with picture-perfect clarity. Needless to say, puberty the second time around was no better than the first, but he gritted his teeth and bore it as well as he could because there was nothing else he could have done.
The physical act of growing up was not the only downside to reincarnation. School was a joke; even before the return of his memories, Lexaeus was already considered somewhat of a prodigy. But now he understood exactly why this was so, why he had grasped words, math, and science with such ease that it seemed as if he had been born with it. Aeleus had always been a diligent child, studying hard when other children preferred to play. It had earned him a place among Ansem the Wise's apprentices, where he had taken his studies to a whole different level. And when Aeleus had died, Lexaeus the Nobody had retained that knowledge and added to it, having six years to learn as much as he (it?) possibly could in the desperate but ultimately futile attempt to regain his heart.
With these two lives behind him, Lexaeus the Somebody knew far more than his instructors could ever teach him. It did not take long for him to realize that going through school again was likely to be the death of him.
Thus began his battle with the school system. It was partially successful; his brilliance in his favored subjects showed quickly. Unfortunately, his talents were not applicable across the field, as it seemed that some time had passed between the Organization's destruction and his rebirth. This resulted in a… disturbing deficiency in subjects like history and the finer points of technology. Focusing his energies on these areas of weakness, he learned them quickly enough but the school supervisors seemed reluctant to let him move ahead too quickly. They cited social growth as the main issue; after all, children needed to be with peers of their own age, in order to matureproperly. Lexaeus, who was avoided by said peers both because of his quiet indifference to their collective existence and his overpowering bulk (some things just didn't change), was obviously lacking in this department. Of course, this argument overlooked the key issue that hewasn't a child, but it was not as if he could inform them of the full circumstances of his existence.
After all, the last thing he needed was to be locked up in a mental institute.
So he dealt with it, coping in the same way that he had dealt with his frustrations when Aeleus was a child. He read. He learned about this new world, with its strange technologies and taller buildings, although the people had remained more or less the same. It seemed that some things never changed. This did not surprise him in the least.
Eventually he escaped the administrational system, ending up at the best university in the nation. It was there that he came across his next major surprise, the first he had experienced since opening his eyes to discover that he was stuck in the body of some unknown child that in actuality, turned out to be him.
Vexen, however, did not share his surprise, raising an eyebrow at the man entering his advanced chemistry class. He quickly gestured to Lexaeus to see him once class had ended, before launching into a bored explanation of the course syllabus and grading system.
"You're not the first," Vexen said, not bothering with greetings and getting straight to the point (how very like him) when they had entered Vexen's office. Lexaeus's lips quirked slightly as the blond shoved a plate of pickled daikon at him while continuing briskly, "Xigbar and Xaldin were both in my year. Xemnas and Saix came later; they were in the freshman year when I was in graduate school. I have been waiting for you to show up as well."
"And the others?" he asked, trying the daikon. Too salty, just like before, and the quirk in his lips almost became a smile at the familiarity of it all. How many times had they done this before, whether the setting was of Ansem the Wise's brightly lit labs or the darkness of Castle Oblivion's basements?
Vexen shuddered, "Do not remind me of those… people. I suspect that if they are anything like us, they will probably end up here as well, although I readily admit that I am terrified by the thought of Axel coming through. Whether that is because I am worried he will try to kill me or set the lab room on fire, I am not quite sure."
"You could always fail him," Lexaeus pointed out.
"Yes, that would be an apt revenge, would it not?" Vexen sighed. "He ended my life, and I will end his by failing him. Which will in turn force him to drop out the most prestigious university in the world. And three years from now, I will be delighted with the fact that he is serving me at McDonalds. Not quite the same as what I would really like to do to him, but I suppose that it is the best I can manage under the circumstances. I have little interest in serving time in some filthy prison cell."
This time, Lexaeus did smile—it was a small one, but also the first he had made in a long time. But then, this was the first time he had felt truly human since remembering his past; ironic that it was a fellow once-Nobody who could finally allow him to appreciate the heart he had gained, the ability to feel again. "It seems you have not changed at all, Vexen."
"Sometimes I wonder how much any of us changed when we lost ourselves," Vexen said, pouring tea for the both of them. "Sometimes I wonder if we had not actually known we were missing our hearts, would we have noticed at all."
Lexaeus did not respond. Whether it was because he did not know the answer or if he did not want to think about it, he was not sure. Either way, a companionable silence settled over them until it was broken by Vexen's sharp question. The blond sounded almost impatient, as if he had been holding the words back because Lexaeus should have been the one to first bring them up. "I am surprised you have not yet asked."
He blinked, "About what?"
Vexen looked surprised, "Why, about Zexion of course."
The name sounded familiar, but he could not be sure why. Or why it seemed to resonate within him, even as he could only ask, "Who?"
There was another silence, although this time it was tense. Again, Vexen was the first to break it as he sighed and set down the cup of tea, focusing his full attention on the other man. "Perhaps, Lexaeus, it is best that you tell me everything you remember."
When he had woken up that strange days so many years ago, with the memories of two lifetimes suddenly returned to him, his memory had been crystal-clear. It had not been a gradual process with subsequent dreams containing further information about the person(s) he had once been. Instead, he had simply woken up and known everything. Kingdom Hearts, Radiant Garden (Hollow Bastion), Ansem the Wise, the Organization, the Keyblade Master… all was engrained in him quite firmly, as if it was Lexaeus the Nobody waking up from a long nap.
Except with a heart.
Yet of number VI, the Cloaked Schemer, he remembered little. He remembered the number and the title, but little else that would be useful in distinguishing him from a crowd. A name, a face, a voice. Aperson. He had never thought about it; he had known little of XIII either, for Roxas had not truly been there long enough to remember, and he'd had an arrogant dislike for all the newcomers anyway. Even the Nobody of the Keyblade Master himself had not been immune to this prejudice.
But Zexion? He simply did not remember, although he had never thought to question that conspicuous hole in his memories. He had barely noticed that there was a gap, and it was not until Vexen had brought it up that he recognized it.
Vexen nodded wearily as he finished his recount of what he remembered, "I see. That is strange though, that you should have such a gap in your memories. The question seems to be why you have forgotten that of all things?"
"Maybe I am not the only one who has forgotten something. You might have as well."
"Everything you have told me is something I remember as well. I remember first being apprenticed to Master Ansem, and of our own first meeting. I remember the day Xehanort came, and when he sealed Ansem away and took his name. I remember the day the experiments failed and Radiant Garden covered in darkness. I remember waking up for the first time as a Nobody, and the years we spent afterwards trying to regain our hearts. And try as I might, I still remember Castle Oblivion, and being murdered by that… traitor. I remember everyone and everything, and my memories have been confirmed not only by you but by the others who have come through as well. Yet you, on the other hand, have forgotten Zexion so completely that it makes me wonder if there is not something else going on."
"If there is, I do not know what," he said, frowning. He felt troubled by this revelation, although he had a feeling it was not for the reasons Vexen might believe. True, it was disturbing that he could forget something so completely, and even more so that he had not even noticed it. But for Lexaeus, what bothered him was the very… idea of someone like Zexion. Someone who he had apparently cared for when he was Aeleus, and who he had protected as a Nobody. Surely something as important as that would be the first thing that he remembered, rather than the last?
Vexen nodded absent-mindedly as he now paced about the cluttered office. "I rather would like to unravel this mystery… it is really quite fascinating as an aberration. Although I'm not quite sure what experiments we could do on this, or how… but that is part of the reason why it is exciting."
Lexaeus couldn't help but laugh, "You really have not changed at all, Vexen."
Vexen smirked at him, pausing in his steps to face him. "Nor you, Lexaeus. You're still as easy to talk to as before, and intelligent. I have quite missed our conversations. None of the others indulged me quite as much as you and Zexion did."
Lexaeus began to reply but a sharp knock on the door caused Vexen to start, the scientist looking over at the door and cursing. "Damnit all, my office hours have started. Damn university regulations; I don't have time for this!" Vexen sighed, "Unfortunately, Lexaeus, it seems that our investigations will simply have to wait until I can figure out how to cut eighty people from my class to make room for those on the waitlist. Now why did the department have to decide to make my class a requirement for graduation?"
"Because you're such a good instructor," Lexaeus said straight-faced as he stood up to leave.
Vexen waved him off, seating himself at his desk and pulling out a long list of names and numbers. "Remember, Lexaeus. Just because I knew you in a past life doesn't mean you're getting an automatic A."
"I wouldn't dream of it," he replied as he stepped out of the office.
Waitlists were something Lexaeus got used to very quickly, particularly when he became a graduate student instructor and later, a professor at the same university. His field was, of course, geology. He still felt that connection to the earth despite the lack of his powers. It also helped that not much had changed in the subject, which he was glad of. The stability of the earth had always been soothing, and it was nice to know that some things remained comfortably familiar despite the lifetimes that had apparently passed.
Teaching seemed to be a natural step, as it allowed him to continue researching in his favored area while remaining within the confines of familiar surroundings. He had always been most at ease in the realm of academia, despite the impression he might give off with his bulging muscles. There were other reasons to stay, of course. Vexen's presence was a major factor in his decision, as his fellow once-Nobody had become a close friend. Their relationship now was better even than the one between Even and Aeleus, or Vexen and Lexaeus the Nobodies. Like the latter, they were bound by a peculiar understanding. Vexen was, after all, one of the few people who understood his life, what with going through the same thing himself. He had long ago realized that perhaps the main problem with reincarnation was the way he needed to cling to the familiar. He was not sure why, but he thought that perhaps it was difficult to separate himself from the other Nobody because he could not really change the habits that had become so deeply engrained in him. That perhaps, neither he nor Vexen knew how to open themselves to the new life they had been given.
Vexen did not seem to mind it very much. The blond threw himself into his research, and found the presence of anyone other than Lexaeus a miserable waste of time. Lexaeus wondered if it was a coping mechanism, but then Even and the Chilly Academic had been quite the same, preferring cold scientific fact to the incomprehensible human heart.
As for him, Lexaeus had settled for waiting.
He did not quite know why he waited. He did not, after all, remember Zexion. There was no real reason to wait, except perhaps simple curiosity. He wanted to know who this person was, the one he had apparently known and cared for.
He wanted to know why Zexion had mattered.
Lexaeus knew, of course, that there were billions of people out there, any of whom could be the person he was waiting for. And that same person could end up going to a different university, or be living in a different country, perhaps even a different world. Then there was always the possibility that he had not been reincarnated at all. So much could go wrong, and he might spend the rest of his life waiting in vain.
Yet Lexaeus was patient, and calm enough to lay the facts out before him. Considering the experiences of the other Nobodies, he expected that they were all being reborn. He himself had found Luxord in one of his statistics classes, the former Gambler of Fate laughing about the chances of winning at roulette. There was no reason to think that Zexion would not be as well.
As for the location, this university was the best in the nation. If Zexion was anything like what Vexen had told him, the boy would end up here eventually.
But as each year passed by, Lexaeus's doubts grew. It did not particularly help that since Luxord, none of his fellows—not even the traitors (Marluxia, Larxene, Axel) or those he had barely taken notice of (Demyx, Roxas)—had shown up either, leaving him to wonder if perhaps Zexion might not be coming at all.
Panic was not something Lexaeus was particularly used to, especially after so many years as a stoic Nobody who was incapable of truly feeling such an emotion at all. He fought it by working, both in his research and his teaching. Somewhere along the line he developed a reputation as a good lecturer, and he one day found his classes flooded with students looking for a nice, easy filler class.
It was rather a shock to come to lecture and discover that there was a packed classroom, after so many years of lecturing to half-empty classes.
As he walked back to his office, he was so transfixed by the temptation to crush their dreams (also known as the GPA) for not taking his subject seriously that he rather absent-mindedly walked right into someone.
"Hey, watch it-" an oddly-familiar voice started to say before the words suddenly trailed off into a gargled scream.
Lexaeus ignored Axel's screech as a suddenly equally familiar face made his heart (his heart) lurch into his throat.
The moment he saw Zexion, he remembered everything. It was rather like the first time around; one moment he knew nothing, the next, everything.
There was little time to digest this concept. If it had been under different circumstances, he might have taken the time to marvel over this fact. Unfortunately, right now he could only concentrate on the facts, which boiled down to:
a) It was Zexion, b) it was Zexion walking in the company of Roxas, Demyx, and Axel of all people, and c) it was Zexion.
Zexion, who seemed torn between blinking at him and the spectacle Axel was making of himself. Roxas had raised an eyebrow at his presence while Demyx looked ready to faint, but that was nothing compared to Axel trying to hide behind Demyx, despite the rather obvious mismatch caused by Axel's long, lanky limbs.
It should have been amusing. And he supposed that it was, but Lexaeus was too busy focusing on Zexion, who did not seem at all pleased to see him. If it had been anyone else, they would have found the expression of complete indifference quite the same as any other day.
But Lexaeus knew now that Zexion had never given him the same face that he displayed to the rest of the world. Not until now, at least.
"Zexion," he said quietly. He did not know what else to say.
Zexion's expression did not change, remaining cool and apathetic as he said, "Do I know you?"
"Look man, I don't know what I can tell you."
He did not seem to remember Axel's voice being quite that high-pitched, and it should have amused him as much as the sight of Axel and Demyx trying to hide behind each other. Unfortunately, even with the addition of one grade-A heart, he was not inclined to be sympathetic to the fact that Axel was… freaking out like fuck crazy.
Granted, being dragged off by a giant, angry man you had betrayed in a past life was bound to bring about a fit of hyperventilation, but honestly. There was no need for hysterics.
"Indulge me," he said in a warning tone. The kind that said in no uncertain terms, I can break your neck in a split-second, and barring that I will fail your ass faster than you can say college dropout.
Seeing that Lexaeus was quite serious, Axel raised his hands in the universal surrender gesture. Yet the old arrogance was quickly coming back, the familiar cocky confidence as Axel said with an off-hand shrug, "Hey, your guess is as good as mine. I was pretty surprised too, when I walked into my dorm room only to find one Cloaked Schemer throwing his physics textbook at me. Nailed me in the forehead too. Thought he was trying to kill me since… well, I was the one who sorta offed him." Axel paused here, looking for a reaction, but he gave none. This was something he had known, having heard it from Vexen who in turn had heard it from Xigbar and Xaldin. Upon deciding that Lexaeus was not going to carry out his threat and break some bones (preferably those in the neck), Axel continued, "As it turned out, I had just woken him up from his beauty sleep and that was his typical good morning reaction. Or something like that."
A pang as that off-hand remark reminded him of past mornings in past lives, where with practiced ease he would duck the book Zexion had fallen asleep with when it was thrown at his head. Late nights for the Cloaked Schemer meant late mornings, and only Lexaeus was brave enough to continue with the wake-up calls after the incident with Demyx and the Really Heavy Medical Textbook With the Beautifully Intricate Drawings of the Human Heart.
He covered for his momentary lapse by stating the obvious, "He didn't remember you."
"Nope. Not a bit. You think he'd be hanging around with us if he did? Guy doesn't remember anything."
Doesn't remember you went unsaid. He frowned, wondering if the smirk on Axel's face had anything to do with that little fact. "Why not?"
Axel shrugged again, "Like I said, your guess is as good as mine. But…" Here, Axel seemed to have the decency to look embarrassed, something Lexaeus would never have associated with the Nobody. But then, none of them were quite the same anymore, were they? "It's probably my fault. Because of the entire dying thing… um. It was sorta different."
He blinked. Now here was something interesting. Vexen had not been able to give him the exact details of Zexion's death; apparently Axel had skimmed over it during his report on the debacle of Castle Oblivion, and everyone was too worried with the likely disruption in their plans to ask for the full story in just another of those many deaths. "How so?"
"Well… like, when we died, we just… you know, died. But with him, the Riku Replica absorbed him. I don't know if that really makes a difference, but there you have it. That's what Roxas thinks, anyway. That maybe the two of them got so intertwined that when he was reborn, he lost his memories of the good old days."
Lexaeus was silent, thinking this over. On the analytical side, he was deciding that he needed to run that theory by Vexen, although Axel—or rather, Roxas—probably had a point. But it would still be good to have a second opinion, especially from someone like Vexen.
The other half, the emotional side, the side that had remained quiet for so long, felt both ill and angry with this description of how Zexion had died. It demanded retribution, but he fought down the fury and focused instead on getting all the facts.
"I see," he said, somewhat strained. "Although that still does not explain why he is hanging out with the likes of you and IX." After all, if Zexion had not been so busy hating them on principle, he probably hated them for the simple fact that they were loud and in Axel's case, painfully obnoxious.
"Hey, I've been nice to him. Really," Axel added with a slight smirk at Lexaeus's clear disbelief. "I guess I felt a little guilty about what happened, now that I actually can feel guilt and all. Besides man, why are you bothering with the numbers still? I would have thought you'd been around long enough to realize that we're not members of some Organization anymore, and we don't have to answer to our Superiors. And Zexion isn't some number VI anymore. He's just Zexion now. You want him back, it won't be based on what happened before, seeing how he doesn't remember that shit anymore. Got it memorized?"
Now those were words he honestly would never have expected coming out of Axel's mouth. He almost wanted to look behind himself to check if Roxas was there, holding up signs on what to say. XIII had always been intelligent, despite his non-scientific background. But then, understanding the heart didn't require years of research; it required something significantly deeper than that.
"Did you tell him?" he asked. "Did you tell him about who he was? Whoyou were?"
"We… sorta tried, but he won't believe us." Lexaeus couldn't help but smile slightly at that; it sounded exactly like Zexion, who seemed to require hard data before he took anything at face value. Never mind that was probably what had led him to his death; Zexion would not have acted until he had definitive evidence that Marluxia was about to betray the Organization. He would have found itdeplorable to act without sufficient proof. Axel caught the grin, "Heh, you probably figured that already. Guy's way too analytical for that. Or he just still has that stick up his ass, I haven't decided yet."
"Axel," he growled, and the red-head laughed.
"Yeah, yeah. Only stick allowed up his ass is yours, I know. Now will you mind letting go of my neck? I sorta like breathing, seeing how it actually means something now."
Lexaeus did as he was asked. There was no real reason not to, since the conversation seemed to be finished. As soon as he did, Axel straightened and brushed down his shirt, giving him that arrogant, cocky grin he had always hated, "So no hard feelings, right?"
"None whatsoever," he assured the red-head, before punching Axel in the face with all the force he could muster.
The first time, it was not Lexaeus and Zexion but Aeleus and Ienzo. This, he now remembered clearly. It had been the day before Christmas Eve, but he had planned on giving Ienzo his gift early—an ancient tome on the workings of the heart, engraved by the hand of one of the most famous theoreticians in all of Radiant Garden's long and prestigious history. The end conclusion of the book, of course, was that the heart could never be truly understood. But there were times when people got very, very close to understanding, at least, the heart of one other person.
It was not a very subtle message, but that was more or less the point. It wasn't that Ienzo was too dense to figure out the unspoken message; quite the contrary, the boy was too likely to overanalyze, picking apart at the message until the end of the world.
The end of the world. How should he have known that the day would come sooner than anyone could have predicted?
Aeleus had thought that, by giving the book to Ienzo the day before Christmas Eve, the other apprentice would have ample time to finish the book before Christmas, what with no research being planned on the holidays. Aeleus had hoped that this way, he would be able to celebrate Christmas with someone he cared about, and with someone who cared for him as well. But things have such a horrible way of backfiring, and Aeleus had barely stepped out of his room when he was met with Braig, streaked with blood and roaring at him to get out before-
But what of Ienzo? Aeleus had asked. What happened to Ienzo?
And Braig had stared at Aeleus as if he had lost his mind, the Are you fucking insane just waiting to be asked as Braig reached over to drag him off by force, however unlikely a task that was, but he'd already lost Dilan and Even and Ienzo and that pretty young maid who—
And Xehanort in the middle of it all, crazy and twisted and a monster of their own creation when they threw their morals to the wind in the name of research and now look at what they had unleashed, and maybe they deserved to die too but survival instinct was hard to let go and they had to get out now before the darkness took them as well.
They hadn't even gone one step before it was too late, and then there was nothing.
It took a few days after the inquisition of Axel for Lexaeus to approach Zexion again. He wasn't sure why. It was not as if he did not know where to find the boy, having both access to school records and the simple fact that Zexion was in Vexen's class. Vexen had been quite calm as Lexaeus related the facts over, and he seemed to agree with Roxas's theory of why Zexion no longer remembered anything.
"The manner of death does seem peculiar," Vexen said with a decided grimace. Lexaeus knew he was thinking about his own death, and the certain pyromaniac who had caused it. "But it is impossible to know for certain. I doubt he will be remembering anytime soon though. In that respect, perhaps he is lucky."
Vexen shrugged. "The bad thing about retrospection," he said mildly as he stirred his tea, "is that it gives you an uncomfortably clear view about those you thought you once knew."
Lexaeus wasn't sure what that was supposed to mean. And he couldn't be certain that it was the reason why he did not seek Zexion out again as soon as he could, but waited for some time to pass.
Unfortunately, time did not heal all wounds, or at least not enough time had passed for certain injuries to mend.
"He broke my nose!" Axel wailed (albeit a bit unclearly) when he approached the small group.
"And I am sure you deserved it," Zexion replied coolly, not even looking up from his book. Demyx looked somewhat frightened while Roxas just nodded in complete agreement, causing Axel to grab the shorter blond and cry fake tears into his shoulder (while careful not to injure his nose any further).
"He did," Lexaeus affirmed. He felt no guilt whatsoever; perhaps even a little bit of pride. Probably not the best use of his heart, but hey, whatever worked.
"Do I dare ask what he did this time?" Zexion asked, as Roxas was too busy trying to shove Axel off and Demyx still looked like he was going to be ill.
Lexaeus shrugged, "You could, but you probably will not understand."
At this, even Axel stopped his fake crying while Roxas paused in his attempts to push the idiot away. Demyx blinked and started to open his mouth, but before he could speak—although what he could possibly say was beyond anyone's guess—Lexaeus said simply, "I knew you in a past life."
There was a silence, before Zexion sighed, putting down the book to look at him. "Professor…."
"Professor Lexaeus," Zexion said firmly. "You do not seem like the joking type of person to me, so I must tell you that I have heard better pick-up lines on daytime soap operas."
Demyx's incredulous "You watch daytime soaps?" was dwarfed by Lexaeus's, "It is not a joke, nor a pick up line. It is a statement of fact. The others have tried to tell you the same as well, have they not? As has Professor Vexen."
Zexion's brow furrowed, "Perhaps, but your story is too far-fetched to be taken seriously."
"What reason would we have to lie?" Besides the fact that Axel and Demyx were practical jokers, anyway, but he hoped that by the question Zexion would interpret it more as Roxas, Vexen, and himself.
"None that I can think of," Zexion admitted readily. Apparently he was being given the benefit of the doubt, although, "But then, you have given me little reason to believe you either."
Sometimes he wished Zexion could be a little less analytical. But there was not much he could do about that, and even if he could he was not sure he would. There was something endearing about that attitude, even if it made him feel more than a little exasperated.
The feelings of exasperation were starting to outweigh any endearment he might have felt. To the point that he was almost ready to bang his head against the tree, although he refrained. Out of respect for the tree.
Before he could express his dissatisfaction, or perhaps try to further persuade Zexion that his intentions were real—more real than they had been the last time, anyway—Roxas said quietly, "Axel, Zexion. Your class is starting."
As the former XIII spoke the words, he kept his eyes steady on Lexaeus, who held the gaze as the two students in question got to their feet to get to class. Axel rushed off without much prompting, but Zexion hesitated for a second, looking over at him before he too departed.
Once they were gone, Roxas asked, "What exactly are you trying to do?"
He took a moment to think over the question. "I'm not sure."
They both knew that was a lie, but how much of one was uncertain.
"Well, you're not going to get anywhere at this rate," Roxas replied bluntly. It felt a little weird to get lectured so by someone who looked like he had barely passed puberty, but he managed to keep his face expressionless. But again, Roxas had always been quite bright—although his taste in companionship was more questionable. "I don't think he's ever going to believe us."
"Would you have?" Demyx asked, but both Lexaeus and Roxas decided to treat that as a rhetorical question and ignored him.
"I will think of something."
"I'm sure you will," Roxas replied coolly, idly flicking at a blade of grass. "But you might want to do it sooner than later."
"Um, maybe you should just tell him how you feel," Demyx said suddenly, grinning nervously. And to this day, Lexaeus liked to think that the reason why he and Roxas stared at the former water-user so was because it was the most sensible thing they had ever heard Demyx say.
Not because he was right. Of course not.
Lexaeus the Nobody, in contrast to his former counterpart, had never tried anything so sentimental. In fact, Lexaeus the Nobody had never tried anything period. There had been little point. Nobodies did not feel. Fact of life. Nobodies did not worry about things like love. Simple truth. If he was to worry, he would worry about more important things like the quest for a heart.
First the heart, and then he could concern himself with confessing and first dates. First the ability, and then the emotion.
Still, he had (as best as he could without that heart) kept close to Zexion. But that was habit more than anything. As Aeleus, he had always been at the smaller man's side. As Lexaeus, the familiar pattern remained, perhaps in a parody of the person he once was. But there was no feeling behind it. No need except that preference for the familiar, no what except to keep what little he possessed. And that was Zexion, who saw equal use for him in his constant schemes to maintain control despite being the weakest of them all when it came to physical combat. When it came to Nobodies, rank mattered less than ability, and despite how fixed their positions seemed members like Marluxia could attain roles far beyond the number.
Case in point, Castle Oblivion.
Zexion knew, better than anyone, that if he was caught unprepared in a battle, he would not able to win. Perhaps that was why he kept close to Lexaeus, as anyone faced with the threat of dealing with Lexaeus as well… needless to say, in the end it was a mutual, unspoken agreement that had kept them together.
There were, of course, times when Lexaeus thought that perhaps it was more than practicality on Zexion's part. That perhaps, there was his own habit and shadows of desire left in the Nobody's shell. The instances that prompted such trains of thought were rare and long in-between, but one instance stood out.
Under different circumstances, it could have been a date. It was at least the closest they had ever come to one, that time Zexion had invited him to watch the destruction of a world. Granted, it was not a particularly romantic event, but Zexion was at least smiling as the darkness that the Cloaked Schemer had himself so carefully cultivated spread quickly out of control as to engulf the world and all of its inhabitants into their own oblivion.
The sight of the hearts floating up and disappearing (theoretically to Kingdom Hearts, practically to who the hell cares, let alone knows?), a rainbow of color that seemed to out of place in contrast to the stark black of the overwhelming number of heartless… it was actually quite beautiful, from a purely aesthetic perspective. If he thought about it now, the incident was as disturbing as it was odd. Yet a part of him remembered it almost fondly. For the color of the hearts gave some life back to Zexion's own pale face, returning the more human dimension that had been lost when Ienzo had given in to the darkness. And the tiny smile of triumph, not as much from the destruction but the simple success of his plans, was another trait Zexion had inherited from Ienzo. That need to be right, that pride of accomplishment.
But most of all he remembered that even though he was a Nobody and could not truly feel, a part of him came very, very close to throwing petty reason aside and deciding that he did not need the burden of a heart in order to love.
Lexaeus did not know how to describe the relationship the two had fallen into, primarily because there seemed to be too little of one to describe. Despite the weeks that had passed, the most they had shared was brief conversation. At least Demyx had stopped squealing nervously when he 'loomed from behind' (Demyx's words, not his), and Axel had finally stopped moaning about his healing nose. Still, those small reprieves were nothing compared to the fact that he was not getting anywhere with Zexion, which was not the easiest thing to admit. Even from their first meeting, Aeleus and Ienzo had shared a bond. It was strange to realize that this bond was now one-sided after so many years and so many experiences… but then, the memories were one-sided as well now.
He persisted, although he was not sure where they were going.
Zexion, however, knew exactly how to describe it, and apparently had no issues with sharing his views with Lexaeus.
"Surely you have other students to stalk?" Zexion asked rather peevishly one day as they walked to the bioengineering building. Apparently Zexion was not having what could be termed a 'good day', and this additional distraction was not making it any better.
It took him less than a split-second to pick out an excuse from the number he had prepared. He had known this topic would come up sooner or later, considering the fact that Zexion still did not believe him, and had planned accordingly. He had drawn up a number of justifications for why he might be following Zexion, all of which were completely true, none of which were at all reasonable.
"My class is in there," he pointed out.
Zexion rolled his eyes, immediately spotting the flaw in that argument. "Professor Lexaeus, your class is not for another hour."
"I know." He was too tired to come up with a different excuse, which Zexion would have shot down anyway. He found it easier to simply concede the point and wait for Zexion to smirk in triumph—perhaps the achievement would make him a little more open to discussion, although what they would discuss was a definite question mark—but the younger man simply looked at him in thoughtful contemplation.
"What you said," Zexion spoke the words as quietly as they were surprising, "about our past lives."
He cocked his head slightly as he looked Zexion over. "So you believe us now?"
Zexion shook his head, "What I am about to ask does not have anything to do with whether or not I believe you. For the sake of the discussion though, let us say that I do believe. I admit there may be a certain merit to what you have said, even though reincarnation is a concept that is too abstract and fanciful to believe. Yet between you, Professor Vexen, Axel, and Roxas, there are certain… points that are explained quite well by what you have told me."
He raised an eyebrow, but Zexion apparently did not see the need to elaborate on what those 'points' were, and Lexaeus was not the kind of person who asked such questions. Or at least, he did not ask such questions of Zexion. Their relationship had always operated on the concept of unspoken mutual understanding, and Lexaeus sensed that this was one of those things that the younger man did not wish to speak of. Bringing it up was more for the sake of an argument, although what that argument was precisely was something Lexaeus was uncertain of.
He was sure that Zexion would not leave him in suspense long. And of course, experience showed that he was painfully, painfully correct in this notion.
"But what I cannot understand," Zexion said, his tone mild and matter-of-fact, "is why any of it matters."
And that… that was not quite what he had expected to hear. It was, in fact, so unexpected that he stopped short even as he echoed, "Why it matters?"
"It was, after all, a past life," Zexion pointed out. "Why should it matter so much now, when this is a different life? Surely you would have created a new one by now, and would no longer need to concern yourself with what happened so long ago?"
Well, of course. This was an argument Vexen had brought up many a time already, the bitter lack of movement in their lives. Yet hearing it from Zexion was a completely different story, as the words were coming from… an opposite spectrum, in a way. What Vexen said was something he himself felt, but what Zexion was now saying… suddenly he understood. He understood things that he had never quite questioned, and his revelations were not pretty.
He had known, of course, that Zexion did not remember. He was constantly reminded of it in their brief meetings, where Zexion was the same person he had known, the same person he had loved even without a heart—but so different because he simply did not remember. Yet he had never thought through the full implications of this concept.
Unlike him, unlike Vexen, unlike any of the other Nobodies who had been reborn knowing exactly who they once were, Zexion had grown up with nothing. He didn't know who Ienzo or Zexion the Nobody was or what they had once done, instead born with a blank slate. A new life. Thechance to have a life at all, without being weighed down by the knowledge of past lives as he and the others had done.
Lexaeus and the others were the same people they had once been (albeit with a heart), trying to find a place in this strange world they had abruptly found themselves in. But for Zexion, this was it. There was nothing to compare this life to, nothing for him to hold him back from the life he so rightfully deserved. He was the same, but he was completely different.
He was perhaps the only one of them who was truly alive.
It explained a lot, like why Zexion was at present a student—a brilliant one, granted, but he should have been more than brilliant at the age of twelve—instead of the University's youngest professor, or a prize-winning scientist, or a company CEO, or justsomething to reflect the experiences and knowledge store of two lifetimes. Something more than a straight-A student with an amazing future before him, since he should have, by now, by all rights, be living that life already. It explained why Zexion was allowed, in a way, to have a second chance to have the life that he should have had if Xehanort had never come, if the apprentices had not so foolishly tried to understand things no one ever could, if the darkness had not gone out of control, if they had not lost the one thing that truly mattered-
And most of all, it explained why Zexion felt absolutely nothing for him now.
The silence was long. Awkward. He knew that, but there was nothing he could do about it. Zexion was looking at him patiently, as if realizing he needed this time to work things through himself.
Finally, he said simply, "You're right."
Zexion blinked, looking truly startled by this concession. He opened his mouth to speak, but Lexaeus did not wait to hear what he had to say. Instead, he made his farewell and departed for Vexen's office, feeling the weight of Zexion's gaze on his back as he left.
"But surely you do not mean to give up?!" Vexen looked absolutely dumbfounded, as if Lexaeus had just insulted his pickled daikon (which was actually not too salty this time, but a bit soggier than usual). "That is quite unlike you, Lexaeus."
He shrugged, although it felt more like he was trying to shrug off the feeling that he was going through therapy with a particularly twitchy psychiatrist. As pleasant as his conversations with Vexen were, once they started to discuss more personal matters, Lexaeus couldn't help but feel like he was being studied as thoroughly as one of Vexen's precious DNA samples. It was more than a little unsettling, and reminded him exactly why he always avoided creepy Professor Hojo of the biology department. "There is no point. And it is not fair to force my feelings on him."
Vexen frowned at him, throwing himself into the ragged chair. Or at least, he would have if said chair was not covered with books, forcing the academic to settle for a sofa arm. "That is true, but it is no reason to stop trying. Stop feeling sorry for yourself. Just because he does not love you now does not mean it will stay that way forever, unless you mean to tell me that Ienzo fell in love with Aeleus at first sight? You won him once; there is no reason why you cannot do it again. The basis of your relationship remains, and you have a chance to make it last this time. Will you waste it and hope his next incarnation somehow miraculously remembers, or will you do something about it?"
He blinked at Vexen, causing the man to snap, "What?"
"Honestly, I do not think I have ever heard you speak so passionately on something that does not have to do with your experiments."
At this, Vexen seemed somewhat mollified as he smiled, "But Lexaeus, what experiment is more interesting than ourselves? I do not think anyone has gone through quite as many fascinating changes as we have."
"Fascinating is not the first word I would consider to describe our experiences." His own smile was starting to develop, despite the blackness of his prior mood. If there was one thing Vexen was excellent at, it was giving him a clear perspective. Some might have considered the former Chilly Academic's views to be just as his name had implied—clinically distant and icy cold. But facts aside, Vexen approached the puzzles life threw at him with a rabid enthusiasm that could be quite infectious to others who were similarly inclined to solve puzzles instead of being brought down by them.
"But it is fascinating," Vexen insisted, now on his feet and pacing about the office. "Don't you understand? We have hearts again. We are whole again. And yet here we are, still deeply entrenched in the past. I admit I am not immune to this flaw, but even I recognize that we seem to have spent our lives obsessing over the past when we should be taking advantage of this boon. But we cannot, can we? The very fact that we are here right now, together, shows that we have not been able to move on. We have been given the opportunity to live again, yet why does it seem like we have not been able to move on at all?"
"Habit," Lexaeus said. "Perhaps it is habit."
"Humph," Vexen sniffed. "A poor rut to fall into. Sometimes I feel jealous of Zexion. He at least seems able to do what we cannot."
"And yet even he is here, friends with the remnants of the Organization."
"I would blame that peculiarity on the gods, if there were any that I believed in. It almost feels like a poor joke at our expense."
"There are worse fates."
"Indeed. But let us not tread too far off-topic," Vexen said, looking him over sternly. "Zexion. Will you let him go because your relationship can never be the same, or will you be willing to start over?"
"Under the circumstances, I do not think I really have a choice," he replied, keeping to himself that the reason why he did not have a choice was standing before him. He knew Vexen would strangle him with bare hands if after that stirring performance, he did not show some initiative to pull himself out of the stagnation that he had allowed himself to be drawn into.
"Very good," Vexen nodded. "Now we must figure out a way to bring you two together, without relying on the past. Perhaps moonlight serenade to Wagner's Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg or Bizet's Carmen? Or, well, it is a little more crude, tattooing his name to-"
Lexaeus laughed dryly as he remembered precisely why people thought Vexen was a romantically inclined as a porcupine that had been run over by a pickup truck. Twice. "Perhaps I should simply do as Demyx suggested."
"Demyx?" Vexen said scathingly. It was not surprising, seeing how he had a poor opinion of Demyx's brain. Most of them did, although that was perhaps not completely fair since Demyx was attending this university. Which incidentally enough, had a wonderful music program that offered very nice scholarships to the musically-talented….
But never mind that.
"He said I should just tell Zexion how I feel," Lexaeus elaborated, although there was not much to elaborate of this decidedly simple plan.
There was a silence. Then, Vexen said in a strangled voice, as if he could not believe he was admitting to this, "Yes. Yes, you could do that. Indeed." He straightened, trying to regain his composure after such a shock. "Perhaps it is the only course of action left to you."
He smiled, "Yes, I rather believe it is myself. After all, what do I have left to lose now?"
"True, true," Vexen replied. But, not to be outdone by Demyx of all people, he continued, "But barring that, I do believe the serenade idea has its merit. You do have a wonderful base voice, and-"
But as things usually did when it came to Zexion, his plans did not go quite as he had planned when quite out of the blue, Zexion approached him and made the first move.
Despite the fact that Zexion did not remember him, the smaller man was still completely capable of ordering him about without words. Soon the two were seated at the small café just off the main campus, Lexaeus having paid for both their drinks. Once he had handed over the iced coffee, Zexion wasted no time in jumping straight into the conversation.
"You cared for me," he said in no uncertain tone, giving Lexaeus no opportunity to… well, then it wasn't as if he was going to deny it or anything.
Still, he was somewhat taken aback, and required a split-second to recover before saying, "Yes. I did." I do was perhaps what he should have said, but too late for that as Zexion nodded.
"Did I care for you as well?"
"I believe so."
This was unfortunately true. He had never gotten a response, after all. What they had shared as Nobodies would never be a substitute for what Aeleus and Ienzo could have had, but that was under the assumption that Ienzo had cared for him as well. But this was not something Aeleus had ever questioned. He had simply known. Taken on some faith that could only be explained by those in love.
Of course, he could have just been indulging in stalker-ish tendencies, but he rather did think it went deeper than that.
Again, Zexion nodded, and Lexaeus almost wanted to twist uncomfortably under the contemplative look. He needed to say it. He needed to say what he should have said that day before Christmas Eve before darkness had overtaken them, said what he could not have said those long years of being Nobodies, said the moment he saw Zexion again in this life and realized that he might never be able to move on until he had finally said those words.
Those simple words that meant so much, which made them so damnably hard to say.
Before he could, Zexion put down his drink, fingers twisting absent-mindedly. Part nervous tic, part habit, and the clear words, "I don't remember."
He would wonder later if perhaps he had overreacted, and if so, why that was. But at the time, all he could think was that this little… obsession of his was perhaps as futile as the quest of Organization XIII for hearts. No wonder XI had turned against them; perhaps he had been the only one clear-headed enough to see that they were going nowhere, and perhaps never would. And perhaps, with a perspective untainted by past lives and past concerns and past failures, Zexion could see the situation more clearly than he or Vexen could, or more practically than Demyx's simple optimism could ever hope to attain. Maybe there wasn't a point, and probably he was being a fool to think that there ever was.
It was enough to make him wish that he could have moved on all those years ago, before having met Zexion again. But simple intellectual curiosity had kept him bound, waiting to see what would happen. And then his emotions had served to entrap him in this peculiar situation, one he had no problem blaming Axel for. It was almost enough for him to wish that he had done more than break VIII's nose, but that was beside the point.
He made to stand, no longer looking at Zexion. "Yes, that is true. And I apologize for the inconvenience I have caused you, which is why-"
But before he could give up, Zexion grabbed his wrist, pulling him back. Not all the way though; Zexion didn't have the strength for that. "Don't you dare walk out on me like that! I am not finished," he said sharply. "So sit down before I change my mind and…."
Zexion's voice trailed off, but he managed an impressive glare that made Lexaeus arch an eyebrow and obey, taking his seat again. They sat there, looking at each other in silence before Zexion said, "Do you think I would take the time to speak to you if that was it? I thought you had a little more sense than that."
He started to speak, but again, Zexion cut him off, "And don't… don't just tell me I'm right. You did that last time and left, before I could even finish. Why? What does it matter if I'm right? Why does the fact that I do not remember have to be the end of it?"
He felt somewhat startled. Zexion tended to do that. Sometimes he wondered if maybe he should stop being surprised, if maybe he had been surprised so often that he should have been used to it by now.
"I simply do not wish to force you-" he began slowly, and this time really was not surprised when Zexion made an impatient sound. He quieted quickly, allowing the other man to speak.
"And I never said you were. I never said I would let you. But if you cared for me like you said you did, and if you care for me now like you once did, why can you not let that stand on its own merit? Why should the past matter? There is nothing I can do about that; no matter how much you and the others tell me of what I once was, what we might have been, it means little to me. I do not care about the past. But that does not mean that should dictate what we have now, does it?" Zexion crossed his arms, looking at him with a hint of irritation before saying tersely, "You went about it all wrong."
"Did I now?" he asked, settling back into his chair.
"Yes, you did," Zexion replied firmly. "I'll be the first to admit that my social skills are… lacking, but one thing I am certain of is that your actions were completely inexcusable. Acting like a stalker, being all mysterious, never really explaining yourself. You acted like I should have known, which I suppose is understandable given the circumstances, but then you seemed to give up when you realized I didn't. I had to figure things out on my… own." As he spoke the last word a small smirk seemed to curl his lips, as if he was reliving a pleasant memory.
Lexaeus knew that when Zexion smiled like that, it had been at the expense of another. He did not envy that person one bit.
"But, in the end," Zexion continued, smile gone, words soft, "you made a mistake in never giving me the chance to know you. Let alone…care for you as well."
"Hrm," he murmured as he felt a smile of his own at the corners of his mouth. But he kept his voice bland and serious as he asked, "So tell me. Do I still have a chance to do things… correctly?"
"What do you think?"
It was the moment he had been waiting for, the moment he had been hoping to make reality for so many years. And despite the fact that he'd had plenty of time to prepare, what with it being their third chance, their third life, their third time—he still felt almost nervous to say the words that had for so long danced in his mind. A memory of what could have been, but who was to say that they needed to stay that way? How could he hesitate now, when it was finally time to take the question and make it actually mean something?
Perhaps it was because, despite it being their third life, this would be the first time the words would actually go somewhere. That they could have the relationship that they had been so close to having back when they were two naïve apprentices, about to plunge their world and lives into chaos and darkness. That instead of living in stagnation, they could finally move on to something real instead of making do with the possibility.
Yes, the implications of the words this time were far more than they had been the last time, wrapped as they were in the regrets of past lives. It was almost so much that he was worried it would not go right, considering past experiences, but what was the saying?
Third time's the charm.
"If you are free tonight," he said, "I would like to take you out."
There was never any doubt. There would not be ever again.
"Much better. I accept," Zexion replied simply, leaning back with a self-satisfied smile. It did not last long though, as it turned to a slight frown when he said, almost in a whine, "Although really, it is not quite fair. You have an advantage, seeing how you seem to already know everything about me."
Lexaeus gave him a crooked smile, and resisted the urge to ruffle his hair. "That is something I do not think you have to worry about. Quite the contrary, really; I think you will see that it is not very much an advantage at all."
… in which PM realizes she cannot spell 'daikon' (thank you, Coffee-Flavored Fate, for catching that utter stupidity of mine). Um. Yes, I really am Asian, but my Asian pride is apparently a bit lacking (sweatdrop). Although for those of you who don't know what daikon is or its significance, it's like a white radish. In the Chain of Memories manga, Vexen makes some for the others (at least Ithink it's Vexen… to be honest, I always just assumed it, but it could be Zexion instead), and Zexion later uses it as his 'keyblade' when he's impersonating Sora.
On a more serious note, one of the main themes of this story, particularly this chapter, is the idea of not being able to move on. There are a lot of reincarnation stories where lovers in past lives are drawn together, but here, I wanted to focus a little less on 'love is inevitable' and more on… just being so stuck in who you are and what you once were that it's impossible to make a new life. That wasn't my original intent of the story, but during the initial draft of the scene where Zexion asks Lexaeus why their past lives matter… it was at that point I realized how different it must be for the two of them, with one person remembering everything and the other, nothing. That realization set the tone more for the rest of the story during my rewrite.
The next part follows the same events from Zexion's perspective (though for the most part not the same scenes), and the third part will be their date. I'm a bit swamped with other fics though right now, so I'm not really sure when the chapter will be posted.
And finally, Marluxia and Larxene were supposed to show up, but their scene got lost. There's a pretty decent possibility they'll show up in the next part, although no promises since Zexion is one uncooperative bugger.
Finished: October 31, 2007
Edited: November 8, 2007