She sat quietly, her hand gliding across the paper in her lap. Her entire attention was focused on the sheet before her; the girl was bent nearly in half to see the details of her picture better. Pale, platinum blonde hair fell in a curtain around her face and screened her features, but every now and then she would brush it back and her face would come into view - pale, smooth skin framing deep blue eyes wide in her face and which were currently narrowed in concentration. She was thin, too thin, and though her skin was a soft pale shade there was a faint grey tinge underneath it.
The chair she sat in was a simple white one, without armrests, almost invisible against the walls which were the same color. Elegant columns in the four corners of the room supported a high ceiling, and pedestals with flower carvings stood like sentries beneath the high, thin windows along one wall. There was only one exit or entrance, a double door on the wall opposite the windows, and an ornate crystal ball stood in the room's center.
The girl's chair was in a corner next to the windows, out of the direct center of the room. There was a small, circular table in front of the girl upon which colored pencils lay neatly in a row. Behind and above the girl's chair stood a bird cage, just as white as the rest of the rest of the room. Inside of it, instead of a bird, was a tiny, fabric doll wearing a white dress and with blonde hair.
Everything was silent; the only sound was the scratching of the girl's pencil, which paused occasionally as she surveyed her work or erased a mistake.
One of the doors swung open slowly, making a low creaking noise, but the girl didn't look up. Her only reaction was a momentary pause in between her pencil strokes. Black boots made soft clicking sounds as their owner walked across the room. Her visitor said nothing, merely walked behind her chair and placed a hand idly on the back, looking over her shoulder at the drawing.
Making a noncommittal "hmm" in his throat, the man turned away and moved to the wall behind her. Green eyes flicked to the back of the girl's head once before rising to the ceiling, and the man crossed his arms over his chest silently.
A small smile traced its way across the girl's features and she closed her eyes, sighing softly before continuing to draw.
The pair stayed that way for countless minutes, neither of them paid further attention to their companion. The man who had entered the room was strikingly different from the small girl who was so focused on her work. If she was a vision of white, he was her opposite in striking black and red.
He was lithe and lean, but gave the impression of hard angularity and strength. Even while he leaned casually against the wall there was a catlike readiness about him that suggested he might spring at any moment - either to attack or to leap out of danger's way. His hair was spiked back smoothly and a dark red, almost black at the roots. Underneath each brilliant green eye was a small, triangular tattoo.
All in all he was a forbidding figure, especially since his face was currently pulled into a slight frown.
At length, the blonde girl straightened in her chair and stretched. The red-headed man glanced at her once and then looked away again. She continued to be oblivious to him, or ignored him, and gently set her drawing on the small table in front of her. Closing her eyes, she leaned back and rested her head against the back of her chair. It was then that the man spoke for the first time.
"The Superior gave Larxene a mission today."
The girl opened her eyes and turned around to look at the man, blinking rapidly. She did not speak, merely gazed at her companion with doe-like blue eyes. After a few moments, the man continued.
"Marluxia will be filling in for her today."
The girl did not respond, did not even blink, but her pale skin turned even paler and her pupils contracted slightly. A few seconds later she slowly nodded and turned around. She did not pick up her sketchbook again, only grasped at her knees and stared at her feet - any trace of contentment that had been there before was now gone.
"Thank you for telling me," she said in a barely audible voice that was, nevertheless, calm and collected. The man nodded once, and for a moment the green fire in his eyes softened minutely. Then the softness was gone and his eyes were as they had been before, and he returned to contemplating the ceiling.
Time passed, as time always does, and eventually the man pushed off the wall and walked to the door. He opened it without a word, but paused before walking through to turn back to the girl.
"He'll be here shortly," the man said, his voice a flat monotone. The girl didn't look at him but she did nod, and the man left without another word.
This time, the silence was absolute. The girl did not pick up her drawing equipment again, only continued to stare at her feet. Although her exterior didn't show it, her thoughts were in turmoil and she was petrified.
Marluxia was coming.
What should she do? Could she do anything? It was bad enough when he came to visit her, then she was only in his presence for, at most, an hour at a time. If he was going to replace Larxene as her supervisor for the next shift…
A vision of his face swam up before her eyes, and she could not stop the shiver that traveled up her spine. Steely blue eyes, darker than her own, staring down a medium length patrician nose, a face supported by a strong jaw, smoothly shaped. Light brown hair, tinged with hints of pink that shone through when he moved or the light struck him correctly, layered and thick falling to his shoulders -shaggy almost. A handsome face, and an expressive face.
One that had haunted her nightmares for as long as she could remember.
Marluxia was a man of opposites. He had shown her both an unrealistically gentle side and a terrifying side. Very rarely did he use kindness with her, when he did it caught her off guard, most of what she knew about him she had learned by watching him in his garden. He kept it in the courtyard beneath her windows, and she was able to watch him because he would only tend the flowers at night.
Because, little one, they need the daylight to grow - it is not the time to interrupt them.
No one watched her when she slept, so sometimes she was able to sneak to the window and watch him as he spent hours at his tasks. His plants were an oasis of color in the harsh stone court, kept in white planters of varying sizes and arranged into a pleasing maze. He seemed especially fond of one particular plant, which he had informed her was called a rose, and roses were the only flowers in the garden. He did keep various other shrubs, trees and herbs, but did not tend to them with the same tenderness as the roses. Sometimes as he was clipping back the rose bushes, if he was facing her windows, she would see a look of such calm serenity on his face that it would shock her to her very core.
When he cared for his plants, Marluxia was calm, meditative, peaceful and even caring. And, now and then, she would see that same look upon his face when he was visiting her. Once he had even scolded Larxene for bullying her, taking up the unusual position of protector.
Not often, though. Mostly around her Marluxia was an inactive threat. He would often have mood swings, and more than once he had become abruptly violent with her.
Ice in his blue eyes, withering away the faint hints of green light and warmth.
Rose petals rapidly shriveling to brown dust as they fell around his face.
A blow so swift she only felt the pain after she was lying on the floor.
She never knew what to expect from him, never knew what he wanted from her, couldn't understand him. He lacked consistancy. And these days he was especially frightening. Marluxia seemed to have a special interest in the pictures she drew of the brown haired boy - Sora. He was always badgering her about them, cajoling her into making more, hovering over her as she did. When he spoke to her about the pictures it almost seemed as if he were planning something for the boy.
Why is Sora so important?
Why indeed? What do you think?
The whole situation felt wrong to her, and whenever she thought about it vague anxiety would begin eating away at her insides. The boy stirred up feelings inside her that were totally foreign, warm feelings of comfort and security, even if they only seemed to be echoes. If Marluxia was planning on hurting him in some way, she didn't want to be involved in it.
I don't want to.
You think you have a choice?
Pain in her upper arm. Pulled sharply to her feet.
Marluxia made her do a lot of things she didn't want to.
Please… why do I have to?
Because I say so.
A much larger hand closing around hers, forcing the shears shut. An unopened blossom falling to the ground. Severed. Bleeding.
Would she have to hurt the boy?
Closing her eyes she lowered her head sadly, releasing a barely audible sigh. None of this was helping her. Hopefully everything would be fine while he was with her this time. Maybe he would be in one of his apathetic moods and ignore her. But if not, she had to prepare herself to deal with it.
A faint hum intruded into her thoughts and, curious, she looked up to see what it was. At first the room seemed empty, nothing out of the ordinary was in sight. Then her gaze traveled to the window nearest to her, and she saw something small and dark hovering in the light. Blinking rapidly, she shifted in her chair to get a better look. It seemed to be no bigger than the palm of her hand, and darted back and forth as if it were uncertain about something. Momentarily she wondered what was holding it up in the air like that, but then she saw faint blurs on its sides.
Wings, she thought, fascinated.
Seeming to reach a decision, the small creature darted into the room. It was so fast! Her eyes almost couldn't track it. It hovered and zipped around the crystal ball, flying back and forth almost comically, and she felt the corners of her mouth pulling into a smile as she watched it.
Now that the light from outside was no longer blinding her she could see it more clearly. It seemed to be some sort of bird, delicately shaped with a long, thin and straight beak. It's body was a vibrant shade of green and its underside was pearly white. It was never still for more than fifteen seconds at a time, but its movements were so graceful that it appeared unhurried and relaxed. Such a charming little creature…
Suddenly, it zipped forward and crashed into the crystal, and she gasped in alarm. The tiny bird seemed to fall, before recovering and rising back to its former height. Whirring away from the crystal it flew about the rest of the room, but now she was worried. What if it hurt itself the next time it hit something?
She rose from her chair without thinking and began to follow its progress around the room, not certain what she intended to do but wanting to keep the beautiful creature from further harm. The tiny bird was suddenly in front of her face, meeting her gaze with a tiny, jewel-bright black eye, and without thinking she reached up and caught it between her two hands in a kind of cage.
Its wings stopped fluttering and she felt gentle weight on her palms. There was a faint, tickly soft sensation and she realized that she was feeling the bird's feathers. Opening her hands slowly, cautiously, she peered down at the bird. It stared back at her, unafraid, and seemed to be mildly curious. Warmth rose in her chest, an achy protective feeling. Something inside her seemed to be glowing. She knew instinctively that if she squeezed the tiny creature only a little she would kill it, but everything inside her rebelled against the thought and she felt a sense of wonder at holding something so delicate and fragile, so beautiful and elegant in her hands. She could almost feel the tiny pulse of life between her fingers...
Realizing what would be the sensible thing to do, she began to walk over to the window to release it back where it had come from - where it couldn't collide with something and hurt itself. At that moment, behind her, she heard the door creak and open.
She whirled around, a startled gasp escaping her before she could stop it, and gently clutched the tiny bird to her chest just below her throat. Eyes wide, she stared at the figure in the doorway.
Tall, dark and forbidding, Marluxia stood before her, his face blank. Their eyes met and he stared down at her, a familiar look in his eyes, and her stomach seemed to turn to ice. For a moment he was silent, then his deep voice traveled across the room to her.
"What do you have?"
There was no menace in his tone, but the words chilled her. She felt certain that if he saw the bird he would kill it, crush it, destroy it.
Petals scattering as the bud fell, severed stem trailing behind it…
She couldn't let that happen, and began backing away from him slowly. Brief annoyance flashed across his face, but he did not move. She resisted the urge to tighten her fingers around the bird, terrified of hurting it.
"Naminé, do not make me chase you." Now his voice carried a warning, and the girl called Naminé could not stop a shiver.
But she did not give in, only kept pacing backward steadily. Marluxia's eyelids dropped slightly, forming the look she recognized as being a signal that he was in a foul temper. Part of her screamed to give in, to let him see the bird, thinking that maybe he wouldn't hurt it after all.
She felt its little body trembling beneath her fingers, afraid for the first time.
A faint thump as the rose bud hit the floor. Final. Inexorable. It was dead.
Her resolve hardened, a faint frown appearing on her face, and when she felt her heels hit the wall she began to turn around; raising her hands to set the bird free. From the corner of her eye she saw him shift forward, knew he was coming, that she had gone too far by disobeying him so openly… but she felt the life springing forth from her hands, saw the wings thrumming and the tiny bird flying out the window, and couldn't care. Part of her seemed to be soaring away with it, flying high and far up into the air away from her white room, away from his garden, away from the castle. Free. Alive.
He was beside her, grabbing her wrist and jerking her back, but as she turned to look at him she saw surprise on his face. He was not looking at her.
He was looking out the window.
Yes, she thought, it got away. It got away and you can't hurt it now. I saved it.
Marluxia looked down at her, a frown on his face, but she felt unafraid for the first time around him. A strange calmness seemed to steal over her, a feeling that all would be well. Even if Marluxia wanted to hurt the boy, she would make certain it didn't happen. Even if she was always in a cage, she could still help others escape. She would protect Sora, just as she had protected the bird.
She did not panic or cower, even when he raised a hand to strike her, and after he left her that day she did not succumb to the sense of defeat that usually plagued her in his wake.
All would be well in the end.
A one shot I've had sitting around for a long while but hadn't finished. Thanks to a new story by Manwathiel I got re-inspired and finished it. Check hers out, OK? Great.
No real romance in this one, I wanted to focus on something different. The original concept came to me when I was reading a "For Better or For Worse" Sunday strip that involved Michael rescuing a hummingbird that flew into his house. It really inspired me, and I wondered what kind of an effect an experience like that would have on Namine. I actually started writing the story after watching the sugar-water feeder at my best friend's house and seeing hummingbirds for the first time in my life. They really are beautiful little creatures. Let me know your thoughts, if you feel like it.
AND TO ALL MY "SILENCE" READERS: I am fully aware that I have kept you guys waiting a very long time. You have my apologies, but this is the only thing I've had time to finish thanks to an end-of-the-semester workload and an upcoming college bill. I have been making steady progress on the next, and last, chapter, so don't form an angry mob yet. Remember: If you kill me I will never finish the story.