Disclaimer: Kingdom Hearts is the property of Square Enix and Disney.
To Die Alone
As their days grow shorter, the nightmares get worse.
It had started off as something small; brief flashes of darkness that interrupt his more peaceful dreams; always passing by too quickly for him to fully grasp their meaning and by the time he wakes up, he has already forgotten most of them. The dreams were insignificant to him; everyone had nightmares every now and then, and his were most probably the product of mission-induced stress. Easily ignored.
In the last few weeks, however, they had gotten worse. What had originally begun as glimpses of images that made him mildly uncomfortable had now become intense, horror-filled dreams that left him waking up in a flurry of movements as he hastily checked himself for injuries. Then, when he had confirmed that he was still breathing and seated very much in his room, he would close his eyes and count slowly, attempting to return his frantic gasping for air to a more steady pace.
For a while, it works and no one notices. Life goes on as usual, or usual as it can get given the current circumstances. The others work hard through each day that comes, squeezing in as much training and work as possible into the limited hours.
For a while, Luxord is relieved because no one notices, so no one questions, and he can pretend the dreams never happened.
So when Xigbar lets himself into his room one day and promptly sits at the table with the air of a determined businessperson, it comes as quite a shock. "What's up?" he asks.
The sudden visit surprises him, and as a result, he spends perhaps a few seconds too long blinking unsurely at his unexpected guest. "Pardon?"
"Something's been bothering you," Xigbar says, making it sound more like a fact than a question.
Luxord's fingers refuse to set down the papers in his hands, stubbornly holding on to them as if they could provide some sort of cover for him. "What makes you say that?" he asks, careful not to let anything show in his expression.
"Well, it could be because you look like someone who was just forced to run a hellish Olympic marathon for three days in a row, complete with jumping through rings of fire and dodging wired machines and arrows," the sniper replies, managing to look completely serious as he said it, "or it could just be my instincts. Whichever."
Luxord does not answer immediately. Instead, he studies the Nobody in front of him, measuring the sincerity in the man's expression and voice. When the pause has stretched into a long silence and he still hasn't found any signs of mockery, Luxord finally says, "It's nothing."
To which Xigbar replies with a dramatically exaggerated sigh, leaning back in the chair and cupping the back of his head with his hands. "Well," he drawls, fixing Luxord with a skeptical look, "I don't believe you, and I'm not going anywhere until I get a proper answer so you can either sit there and pretend it's nothing or you can tell me exactly what it is and get this over and done with."
"I'm not pretending," he says, emphasizing the word. "It really is nothing."
Xigbar makes a small noise of disbelief and does not move.
Turning away from the gaze, Luxord returns to the papers he had been in the process of reading and continues from where he had left off. For a while, there is another silence as he reads about cities built by necromancers and seemingly endless catacombs that are completely empty save for one room – and that one exception held a thick book and seven clothed-figures hung at its walls. Just as he has almost forgotten about Xigbar, the man makes his presence known again when all of a sudden the words that were in front of his eyes disappear into thin air in a blink of the eye.
When he looks up to glare accusingly at the offender, Xigbar smiles, the papers perched in between two fingers. "I need to finish reading those."
"I know," the sniper replies, "and you can have them back after you tell me what's been troubling you."
Luxord suppresses an irritated sigh, knowing from experience that when Xigbar sets his mind on something, there was no moving him. "I've been having nightmares lately, so I haven't been getting sufficient sleep. That's all."
If he had expected the sniper to be satisfied with that, then he was horribly mistaken. If anything, the information merely makes Xigbar lean forward in interest. "Tell me about them."
For a moment, he wants nothing more than to stand up and yell at Xigbar; to tell him that his dreams are none of his business and that he had no right to waltz into his room and prod him like this, poking for answers because it is simply plain rude. Then he realizes it is Xigbar he's talking to and not one of the others like IV or VI – Xigbar who might honestly want to help him.
He meets the other Nobody's gaze and notices Xigbar watching him expectantly, though patiently. Luxord struggles to remain stubborn for all but three seconds before he surrenders.
After he finishes sharing what little he remembers of his dreams, there is a short pause before Xigbar says, "That's not much to work with, you know."
"It's all I can give you," he replies.
"Hmm..." Now, Xigbar is drumming his fingers thoughtfully against the table, gazing off into empty space as he ponders his thoughts. Luxord lets him think, but he grabs the papers from the sniper, content to go back to reading as he waits.
All of a sudden, Xigbar abruptly stands, pushing back his chair with such force that it nearly topples over. In one swift motion, he hooks his foot around a chair leg and sets it back down on all fours. Then, he turns to Luxord and says, "I need to talk to Xaldin."
He's gone before the words sink, and Luxord has no time to stop him from leaving. Instead, all he can do is watch as the tendrils of darkness twist and curl in the air before finally disappearing, wondering if he should be worried about what awaits him tomorrow.
The next day, he returns from the mission completely exhausted.
He heads straight for his room, stopping by the kitchen only long enough to drink a glass of water and to take off his jacket when he reaches his room. Luxord just about collapses onto his bed and closes his eyes, hoping for sleep to come quickly.
Thankfully, he soon feels everything slip slowly out of focus. His thoughts wander as he gets distracted and he remembers the roads he had traveled earlier today. It had started of with stairs that had eventually led to a long, winding path, lit only by torches, the fire casting shadows against cold stone.
His own shadow had followed him silently as he walked, searching for signs of magicks. He had walked for hours without seeing a single sign of life, continuing down the path that seemed to stretch on endlessly. Finally, when he had been about to give up, he had turned a corner and reached a room lined with metal coffins. Pausing, he had noted that each coffin was bound by thick chains – like prison – all held securely in place by large shining locks, looking as if they had only been there a day.
He had taken a few steps into the room, examining the coffins as he passed when, as he had watched, every lock in the room slowly but surely began to rust; they turned from polished gold to the copper brown of old age in a matter of seconds. He had stepped back unwillingly, having been caught off guard. After that, the chains had fallen to the ground, slipping off the coffins smoothly, clinking together. The next to follow had been the lids, sliding open to reveal hands.
As he had stood transfixed, figures began climbing out, gripping the edges with their hands and pulling themselves up, dropping chunks of flesh and skin onto the floor with every movement. He had felt something grab his right hand, and when he turned he saw a an arm holding onto him, only partly covered with skin that at some places he saw the white of bones and the brownish red of decaying flesh. He had tried to jerk his hand back, but the grip had been stronger that he had thought.
Suddenly, there had been a face less than an inch away from his face and angry red eyes had burned into his. Luxord had felt sick; the air had a nauseating odor to it, and he could feel brittle nails digging into his skin, meat and blood dripping all over and he had felt like throwing up. The risen man had then wrapped his free hand around Luxord's neck, hard enough that he felt skin tear and blood spill out and he couldn't breathe then the man had opened his mouth to reveal sharp pointy teeth and bit into his shoulder, ripping away fabric and digging into meat and he could feel other hands grabbing him and teeth tearing away and he couldn't breathe-
-and he gasps, jerking awake with such force that he nearly throws himself over the bed. He closes his eyes only to instantly reopen them when he sees the dead faces of zombies. Instead, he settles for taking deep breaths, practicing inhaling and exhaling steadily until his heart rate returns to normal.
Lying back on the mattress, Luxord stares up at the plain ceiling. His chest feels heavy, crushed under an unknown weight. Then, although he is dead tired and he can't even focus on what he's seeing properly, he pushes himself of the bed and heads to the bathroom to shower.
At dinner, Xigbar and Xaldin discuss their missions. They start off friendly enough, sharing bits of their travels and describing the locals, but soon the conversation turns sour. Eventually, they end up glaring at each other and arguing in loud voices, food temporarily forgotten.
Later, Xigbar stops by his room and insistently presses something into his hand.
"Eat two before you go to sleep tonight," the sniper tells him. "Don't forget, okay?"
Luxord glances briefly at the pills before nodding.
That night, he dreams of the metal coffins again, only this time he's trapped in one of them.
Imprisoned. The realization sends panic up his throat and into his mouth. He tries pushing against the lid, willing it to move but it doesn't budge. As his arms protest against the futile attempts to escape, he stops trying and settles for lying still, listening to the world outside.
It's very quiet. He hears nothing but silence; even the sound of his own breathing can't be heard. As he strains harder, his ears pick up the sound of footsteps that seem to gradually grow in volume. The footsteps become louder and louder before finally coming to a stop.
Suddenly, as if his body had a mind of their own, he reaches up and pushes at the lid, only this time the covering moves easily, as if it weighed no more than a piece of paper. He pulls himself up and grabs the first thing he finds.
The arm is warm in his grip.
The man turns and Luxord finds himself in the odd position of looking at the mirror image of himself. Then he opens his mouth and takes a large bite, chewing and reveling in the taste of fresh meat.
Luxord jerks awake and just barely makes it to the bathroom before he starts throwing up, still tasting blood.
He continues taking the sleeping pills for an entire week. With each passing day, the dreams worsen.
"They're not helping," he informs Xigbar when the Nobody finally returns to the castle.
Pausing in the middle of taking a bite out of his sandwich, Xigbar blinks once before understanding dawns on him. "'kay," he says after swallowing. "I'll think of something else."
Luxord inclines his head and leaves the man to his lunch.
Afterwards, he finds himself being dragged towards the City. He tries asking the man leading him about what he was planning to do there before deciding he'll find out soon enough. Besides, at the speed they're going, it's all he can do to not trip.
They wander around for a while before Xigbar finally stops and makes a satisfied sound in his throat. Releasing Luxord's, the sniper turns around to face him. "So. How are you feeling?"
Even with the world still spinning around him, Luxord manages to fix the man with a glare but he answers the question seriously. "Not so good."
Xigbar nods agreeably, arms crossed. "Right. We're here to fix that." At this point, he rubs his palms together, an eager grin creeping onto his face as he speaks. "Get ready for the most exhausting, energy-draining practice dual you have ever experienced in your entire life!"
Looking at the sniper's expression, Luxord almost flinches away; he feels weary just thinking about what the other is suggesting. "You intend to tire me into sleeping?"
"I have no difficulty sleeping," he points out. "My problem is the dreams that come with it."
"I know, I know," Xigbar says. "That's why we're gonna go all out for the next few hours. By the time we finish, you're going to be so tired that you won't even be able to think straight. Your brain will be just as tired and all you'll both want to do is sleep. So you'll sleep like every other night, only minus the nightmares. See?"
Luxord squints slightly at the sniper as his vision blurs unexpectedly. "My brain is me."
"So you're giving yourself nightmares? Man, that's tough."
Shaking his head in an attempt to clear it, he says, "Anyway, I don't think I'm in any condition to be fighting 'all out'. It'll probably be more like you having an unfair advantage and beating the crap out of me." He may still be able to do explore other worlds during missions but actual battle is a completely different matter.
"Oh, come on," he protests. "You know that's not going to happen."
"Xigbar, you saw me walk into the door just now."
"That was just now. After all that walking we did, you're more awake and alive. And we'll be training here, not in those buildings, so you won't walk into any more doors or walls or windows." Luxord opens his mouth to object further but the other Nobody waves his hand dismissively, interrupting him before he can speak. "Don't worry," he says, grinning. "I'll do my best to not kill you."
He wakes up to the sound of a pounding noise, ricocheting off the walls and filling the air.
It takes Luxord a while to realize that the pounding is happening in his chest, beating far too fast to be safe and that he can't get any air into his lungs. He chokes then, trapped in between trying to breathe and coughing. Clutching white sheets tightly, he forces himself to calm down, focusing on his knuckles and the sound of his own breathing to avoid thinking about other things; the dream still hovers behind his eyelids, a rush of images at the back of his mind that threatens to swallow him whole as he does his best to ignore it.
When his breathing is under control again, he relaxes, feeling blood return to his fingers. Every muscle in his body aches and he's sore all over. Even the smallest of movements hurt, sending sparks of pain running up his body. There is a small throbbing in his head, banging agonizingly against his mind and his chest contracts painfully with every breath.
Some part of him recognizes his empty stomach but he can no longer bring himself to move. Instead, he remains in bed, thinking that he'll find something to eat later.
About an hour later – during which all Luxord does is stare off into space, thinking distractedly about random things – he hears a knocking sound from the outside. He doesn't answer and there is a short, thoughtful pause before the door creaks open and Xigbar's head sticks itself in.
The sniper looks at him wordlessly and then disappears only to return a few minutes later carrying a plate of bacon and a mug of hot coffee. The door shuts behind him without being pushed and Xigbar sets the food he has brought on the bedside table.
After giving it a scrutinizing look, Luxord slowly pushes himself up into a sitting position and reaches out for the coffee. He takes a large mouthful and the liquid burns his tongue, sending a wave of fire down his throat.
It's a pleasant feeling.
Xigbar is silent the entire time he eats, watching him with the slightest of frowns from the chair he has pulled closer to the bed. The quiet hangs over them both, not quite soothing but not uncomfortable either. Still, Luxord avoids meeting his gaze, choosing to keep his eyes trained on his food until the sniper finally speaks.
"You look terrible."
The words strike him as oddly funny and although Luxord doesn't know why, he laughs, the sound coming out of his mouth in chuckles.
His reaction only deepens the scowl on Xigbar's face. "Hey, I'm serious."
"I know," he replies, still smiling slightly. "I'm just laughing for the sake of laughing."
The sniper glares at him suspiciously, taking of his right glove and reaching out to touch the back of his hand to Luxord's forehead. Caught off guard, he goes still and watches as the other withdraws his hand, sighing. "You don't feel sick."
Luxord thinks about it for a moment before offering, "Just so you know, the world's looking exceptionally bright today."
"What do you mean?" he asks.
Shrugging, Luxord takes another sip from his drink. "It just looks brighter. Or sharper. As if everything is being magnified and someone installed invisible lights everywhere. Or our world magically conjured a sun out of the sky overnight." He pauses. "Or maybe I'm just going blind. What do you think?"
To which Xigbar responds with a long, worried look and says, "Okay. Tell you what. Why don't you try getting some sleep?"
He shakes his head. "I just woke up."
"That's alright. You can always go back to sleep and don't try to argue with me," he says, when Luxord attempts to interrupt, "because I'm not listening. Just put your head on that pillow, close your eyes and you'll be asleep in no time."
For some reason, Xigbar – with his hands on his hips – reminds him of a hen scolding its children; the sight amuses him. "Who are you, my mother?"
"Sleep or I'll shoot you," the sniper threatens.
Trying to suppress another bout of laughter that is making its way up his throat, Luxord obediently places the now empty mug on the table and lies down. When Xigbar makes no move to leave, he says, "What, you're staying?"
"How else am I supposed to make sure you don't go off and do something else?" the sniper replies, rolling his eyes as if it's blatantly obvious.
Luxord frowns slightly, not having the energy to argue it and merely turns away, showing his back to Xigbar. He inhales softly and closes his eyes, hoping against all odds for peaceful slumber.
It does not come, and he finds himself once more in the catacombs. The torches aren't lit, causing the paths to be enveloped in darkness; he can only barely make out the walls in the dark.
Evidently, just standing there isn't going to better things so he starts walking, half-blind down the corridor. He passes room after room, most of them closed whilst some remain without doors. The atmosphere is tense, an ominous aura reeking out from between the bricks shaping the wall; the air is sticky with pressure, pushing against him from all directions.
Luxord turns a corner and freezes; hundreds of familiar metal coffins greet him, all arranged neatly in rows.
When the first of them opens with a screech, he whirls around and runs.
The dead come after him.
Instantly, the silence is broken as they climb out of their prisons. Metal hits the floor repeatedly in a deafening noise, soon joined by angry snarls and hurried footsteps. Luxord doesn't dare turn around, keeping his gaze straight ahead and bracing himself for any other danger. Heat touches him from somewhere to his left and he glances there to find its source. What he sees only makes him run harder.
The other rooms are a blur of images as he rushes past them, but his pursuers are constantly behind him, coming closer with every step he takes. He hears them whisper his name hungrily and the sound raises the hair on the back of his neck, giving him goose bumps. Then the walls join in, moving as unseen creatures crawl out, baring their teeth at him, their eyes empty.
A sudden light appears then, illuminating the path so radiantly that it turns everything white. Blinded, he trips and falls to the ground. From behind him, he can hear the others drawing closer, their cries getting louder and he scrambles to his feet in a panic, doing his best to run again, trying to put distance in between him and them.
At length, he reaches another room and realizes with a sinking heart that he has reached a dead end. A growl reaches his ears and he turns around to face the angry souls, the burning people, and the unknown darkness. As they press slowly forward, he steps backward, going as far as possible. When he bumps into the wall, he feels his stomach lurch with terror, his heart pounding so hard against his ribcage that he's sure it will explode out anytime.
Suddenly, a voice speaks, ringing loudly in his ears. "Who is dead?" it asks, and Luxord involuntarily answers that question in his head, picturing the deceased Organization members.
He is conscious of the fact that the crowd in front of him has stopped, but it does not relieve him; they are close enough that he can smell them, and feel the fire on his skin.
The voice speaks again, saying, "They've had their deaths. Now it's your turn, Luxord. How will you choose to die?"
He swallows hard, not answering. All of a sudden, he is trapped again in the metal box, the coffin pressing into him from all directions and breaking his bones one by one – all of a sudden, something hot is digging into his abdomen, twisting cruelly before he is devoured by flames, fire licking his hands, his neck – he is being consumed by darkness, their teeth and claws tearing at his clothes and body and he can't see anything at all – he is surrounded by intense, bright light and parts of him are slowly vanishing, evaporating into the air in soft wisps of smoke.
The sensation disappears as quickly as it had come and it leaves him crouching on the stone floor, choking back bile as everything drifts in and out of focus repeatedly. He can hear his heart beating again, louder than ever this time and the sound fills his ears.
The clock is ticking.
Moving as one, the mass before him lunge towards him and then, there is emptiness.
A low sound penetrates quiet, ticking softly and as he listens, it becomes slower and slower and slower.
Then it stops completely.
And Luxord dies.
For a while, his mind is blank; no words come, no thought surfaces and he is alone in the emptiness, drifting aimlessly without body, without heart. Something heavy presses at him in the void, an unseen pressure against his bones.
He hears a voice then, speaking too softly at first to be audible but gradually getting louder. The voice isn't the same as the previous one; this voice is warm and reassuring. He can't make out the words but he feels the emptiness around him change, the numbness fading away and shifting into something more relaxed. The invisible burden in his chest leaves too, slowly draining from him.
A sense of serenity surrounds him and he doesn't dream of anything else after that.
Luxord wakes up slowly – no gasping, no sudden jerking. He opens his eyes and waits for them to focus. The room is dark again, the way it always has been and he hears rain pattering lightly against the windows. The castle is wholly quiet, save for the rain.
He is about to move when he realizes that someone has slung an arm over him, lightly holding him in place. Looking down, he sees another's fingers intertwined with his own, clutching his hand gently.
Aware now of the presence of someone else, he hears another set of breaths near him, the pace a steady rhythm.
Luxord closes his eyes again, listening to the sound of the other man's breathing.
He'll thank Xigbar later.