It took me forever to write this. I just could never get it started, but then I just finished posting TCST chapter 4 and this came to mind. Weirdness, huh?
Eh well, enjoy.
Holding Ice, a Juxtaposition
by Darkness Princess
It was warm where he lay. Warm and soft, a bed of flowers underneath us as he slept by the bank. He would probably wake up confused and lost, but at least it was warm.
Sometimes, I thought he needed it.
He was always so cold. He spent so much time alone, sitting quietly in the council meetings, avoiding everyone at meals—if he brought himself to show up at any, that is. Sometimes, I caught him in the kitchen, pulling snacks from the refrigerator and cabinets to restock his shelves, and I would convince him to stay and join me for a calm meal. The first time I offered, he fled in confusion. After all, why would I, the new member and already dubbed as cunning and manipulative, offer to do anything for him, a higher-ranking officer? There would have to be a catch involved. There would have to be something to it.
There wasn't, of course.
I told him that the second time I offered, but he shyly declined and fled to his laboratories. Third time, he was more bold about his response, and the fourth, he dismissed himself and hadn't returned.
Well, he possibly had returned during my slumbering hours, but from what I feel, he hasn't.
I pity him sometimes. The lonely scientist in his lower labs, laboring away on his latest projects and focusing on three things alone: doing as the Superior demanded, testing as the Superior demanded, and caring for others as the Superior demanded. Sometimes, I wondered if he even thought freely on his own.
But of course, that's a silly thing to ask.
He has free will; he just keeps it restrained. I think that's why he does during some nights, when he slowly strolls down the hallways the next morning fighting back yawns and trying to rub shadows from his eyes. It was sometimes cute. He rubbed his eyes as a child would, with loosely rolled fists moving back and forth in semi-circles. It was pretty harmful, I thought, being so obedient to a man such as the Superior, with motives only vaguely described. But the first five followers had put their faith directly in such a man's wishes.
Trust. That was what they called it.
Truly, what was that? This belief that one man knew what he was doing, fiddling with the properties of hearts.
Number VII joined board immediately. I knew Number VIII was a bit skeptical, and Number IX seemed too giddy and confused to care. Number X… I think he's still where I am, trying to make up his mind.
And that leads to me, number XI. I'm already one of the Superior's favorites, probably because I'm cunning. It's a bit of a surprise to me, how fast I made it this far. I've only been here for a week or two.
Even in that period of time, I've noticed certain cliques forming.
Numbers II and III have been introducing X to the different aspects of being a Nobody, and V has spent much of his time with VI, away from everyone else in the lower levels. VI is a loner, and a quiet one at that, but some nights, I pass by and hear him talking to V about anything that's come to mind. And sometimes, spoken as if a secret, I've heard IX's name travel through bits of their conversation, though VIII has been spending a lot of time with IX, and myself. VII merely follows the Superior around, much like a puppy tagging along with his master.
Though, even with all these gatherings, I wonder about Number IV, the one who lies curled in my grasp, and I begin to wonder. With whom does he spend time? The Superior rarely sends him on missions, probably believing that he is most productive behind three doors in the lower basement.
I've only had the chance to witness his work on three occasions. The first time, he had been stitching a wound, emerald eyes staring sternly at the wound in front of him as his hands moved with careful precision. I was amazed by his skill, though the sight of the wound upon Number II's chest made me dizzy and confused, something in my chest disturbing me, and I exited the room before he finished.
My second observation was equally unpleasant. He stood over a table, a small cage in front of him. This laboratory, Number VI had explained, was for his scientific testing upon the properties of the Heartless. Following that were various other words describing the procedure, half of which I didn't understand due to the smaller Nobody's expanded vocabulary. (I first suspected that he was showing off to impress me with his vocabulary, though upon listening to his talks with Number V, I noted to myself that the boy probably studied a dictionary in his spare time.) Once I watched the procedure, I found myself unable to eat for days.
Cruelty. Sheer brutality in the form of a crafty scalpel and keen eyes locating the exact places to puncture. He had taken a Soldier Heartless and completely dissected it, slicing it and ignoring its cries of pain and discomfort as he searched, until a glowing pink heart floated through the ceiling and the creature disintegrated, leaving only a pile of its blood. And Number IV only sighed as he looked at the mess, then turned to Number VI and declared the project a failure.
I had to wonder how he did it. Standing pale behind Number VI, I stared at the table with tears in my eyes, asking him how he could do such a thing. He had given me an even look—
Cold… always so cold…
—and he told me it was nothing. He had done it before he was Number IV, before being called Vexen. It didn't bother him anymore.
He had a quiet sense of courage about him, when it came to him being capable of dealing with things some others wouldn't even approach. But he was quiet—he was often a pushover and bullied on numerous occasions, and he seemed to punish himself for not being as perfect as the Superior wanted.
I wanted to help him. Number II told me on numerous occasions that being a nobody, we didn't even exist even though our physical existences proved us wrong on that theory. And if we couldn't handle it, we were better off giving away our bodies and ending our quest to become real again.
Die. Basically. If you couldn't stand up to the pressure.
Vexen could, I was sure. If he wanted, he could've let a Heartless destroy him in the dark confines of his laboratory, but he continued to work for his answers. He was just being so neglectful of himself.
That was what brought me to my third encounter with him, to where I brought him to warmth.
Barely a floor to the lower levels, I heard scuffling and a few things squeaked. Four heartless of varying sizes had escaped, all of them against the thin, shaking figure of Number IV. I wanted to step in and help him, but I also wanted to know: could he hold his own?
He had summoned a shield to his hands, white and blue—icy—and his thin fingers had a tight grip upon it; he protected himself from a shadow heartless jumping at him. Behind him, a monkey-shaped heartless—I recognized it as a Powerwild, from Number VI's lectures—jumped upon his back and he merely swung it from him, swinging his shield. The shield's lower point went straight into the shadow's skull, and it vanished as a heart floated through the ceiling again. Number IV's element came into play as a layer of ice coated the ground in front of him. The Powerwild struggled against it and Number VI glided to it, shooting an icicle from his arm. It stabbed through the Powerwild and left blood upon fading ice.
Then he stumbled upon a shudder as a floating Yellow Opera shocked him. Turning around, he aimed a hand at it, temporarily sending it to the ground cased in a chunk of ice. Keeping that out of the way, he turned to the Soldier heartless and smashed it to the ground with his shield, standing to reveal a floating heart and bloodstains.
By this time, he turned around to focus once again on the Yellow Opera. I hadn't noticed it had moved until he spotted me and his eyes widened.
"Marluxia, watch out!" he shouted.
I jumped back as large chunks of ice shot from the ground in a wave heading straight to me, and my eyes watched as they came closer and closer, stopping right in front of me in an icicle taller than I was, piercing the heartless floating in front of me. The icicles vanished, and Vexen stood, shield dripping in heartless blood, staring at me.
I could see he was startled and my heart sank.
"Vexen…?" I said softly.
He looked at me and the shield vanished from his grasp as he sank to the ground. From there, I could see his small figure shaking, and he frowned, staring at his hands.
"Vexen… are you alright?" I asked.
Vexen didn't move, besides his shudders and slight spasms. "M-my experiments…" he mumbled. "T-they… gone, four of them… the S-Superior, he'll—"
He would be punished for this, wouldn't he? Letting it get out of control, losing four caught test subjects… but that wasn't even his fault. He was even attacked through it.
His body twitched.
I hurried over and grabbed his arm, tugging him to his feet. My eyes stared at how thin he was—I could basically feel his bones through his heavy coat. He cringed slightly and I pulled him close to me, wrapping my arms around him as I began to walk backward.
If there was anything I had learned in the past two weeks, it was how to arrive in my room safely, my garden. And I made sure I made it with him in my arms.
We collapsed upon the bank of my small pond and he quickly began struggling against me—no, not me, against himself—as he clawed weakly at his coat, struggling to shirk it off. I found myself having to unzip it myself and let him go, only to have him crawl close and begin whispering apologies.
He had only whispered for a few minutes before he mumbled and silenced himself, and I looked down to notice him sleeping. Poor thing, he was so tired.
I wondered if he was always this tired. Always alone and awake so much, he had to be. He really needed rest. With a slight frown, I took his coat and washed it in the pond, then hung it next to mine to dry. At least, when he awoke, he wouldn't have to face the reminder on his layers.
Then I returned to his side with a faded pink blanket and wrapped it around him. He childishly nestled into it, holding the corner close to his neck as he curled close to me. I smiled.
For being one of the oldest members, his actions didn't seem to show it. I liked that. I wondered if maybe this childish self was the real him, and his mature, silenced-away demeanor was merely a front, but he seemed so naturally cold…
Nothing like this warm, thin body I held in a loose grasp.
I could remember dozing off and waking to find him still sleeping, and I had gotten up to speak to Number V about Number IV's whereabouts, and I had returned to find him sleeping. However, this time, as he turned to settle his head on my stretched arm once more, he woke and stared at me.
He looked exhausted still, with puffy eyes and dark shadows underneath, and he gave me a small, confused stare.
That only lasted a second before he launched into a full panic, staring upon his bare chest as he began to panic.
"What did we do?" he squeaked, trying to cover his chest yet not really sure how. "Why am I here? Marluxia, please tell me we didn't do anything. Where's my coat? What's going on?" He didn't even wait for an answer as he forced himself to stand on unsteady legs and struggled to look around for his coat.
I only grabbed his arm and pulled him back. "Stay," I said softly. "You were just resting, you need it…"
Surprising enough to me, he stopped struggling, but instead wrapped his arms around my waist, his head against my chest. I hugged him gently and smiled to myself.
And we stayed like this for as long as we could, with him just letting me hold him, letting him silently know that he didn't need to stay in his cold, dark laboratories all the time.
"My garden is always warm," I whispered, "for when you need it."
Vexen looked up with a tiny smile, then snuggled close and shut his eyes. "Marluxia…" he whispered.
"Yes, Number IV?"
"Why are you so…" Words seemed to fail him as he took a few seconds to think, though he could only repeat the beginning of a question.
I offered an adjective. "Nice?"
Vexen shook his head. "No… you're… you're…"
"…trusting? Caring? What?" I asked.
"Pink!" Vexen said quickly, before letting out a soft chuckle.
I looked around for a few seconds, trying to figure out what he meant by that. Besides my hair, I didn't see any—oh…
Half my garden had changed to the color pink, to support the mood. Vexen had just now noticed it.
"Well, you see, it's not normally like this…" I tried to explain, but he merely snickered against my chest and I gave up. "Just because I like sunlight…"
"I don't have a problem with sunlight—" Vexen began to argue.
Gripping his shoulders, I pulled him from me, holding him up so I could look into his eyes. "Vexen, you melt in the sunlight," I told him. "That's why you hide, isn't it?"
"I don't hide from it!" he said defensively. "I don't melt either, contrary to your beliefs. My element may be ice, but it doesn't mean I'm one large glass sculpture!"
I had to sigh. "Vexen! I don't mean literally…"
I left him to reflect on this as he sat up straighter, rubbing his eyes in that kiddy manner as he thought of what I meant. From there, he sighed and looked down, though I stood and began to gather our coats.
"Come along, Number IV," I said, "We're going to eat. You need food; you're thin in that unhealthy manner…"
He gave me a wounded look, as if I had just offended him, and I merely handed his coat to him. "It's true…"
"Is not, Number XI!" He debated.
I merely smirked and draped an arm around him, poking him lightly in the side as I led him towards a newly opened portal. He didn't argue… that was good. I had to smile as I continued to walk. "Number IV, I think you shall be eating your meals with me from now on," I declared.
He gave me a wide-eyed stare. "What?"
I only smiled at him and we crossed through to the hallways. Immediately, his body tensed a bit and he tried to shy away from me, but my grip around his shoulders kept him still.
"This will be a pleasant change," I decided.
Vexen mumbled crossly, "No it won't."
"You'll enjoy it."
"And maybe if you're lucky, I'll kiss you."
His eyes widened at me, and I merely smiled and kept moving forward.
So weird, how the one day I'm not exactly happy, the idea pops up. So I wrote it. It had the feel I liked and though I didn't really know how to end it, I think it came out okay enough in my book.
I think my MarlyxVexen muse likes to take over my time in a set period (because I did not move from my seat until I finished it). My neck kinda hurts, but V for Victory!