Disclaimer: I do not own any of the Kingdom Hearts character. I only own this idea.


He's always been afraid.

It's been a double edged word all his life. He has his old world to thank for that, he supposes. There, fear kept him alive. All the adrenaline it fueled always tired him out at the end of the day. At the same time, it had been the only thing that had kept him breathing.

Fear and darkness. That's all he can truly remember of his world. He remembers most of all how vital they both were to his survival.

"Ienzo? May I speak with you?"

One foot is already out the door, and the small, timid boy teeters between the room and the hallway. Up ahead, the others are already halfway to the outside. He can just barely hear Braig's loud voice rattling off a crude joke. Dilan is the only one who laughs. Even simply complains.

The only one who has stayed behind is Elaeus. His warm blue eyes stare down at Ienzo from behind already too-long strands of curly strawberry blond. Gently, he reaches down to touch Ienzo's shoulder. From the very first time they had met, Ienzo has always compared Elaeus to walls, or perhaps ground. His touches never hold any double-meanings, just like his words. They are honest touches, reassuring 'I will protect you' touches and 'never fear' touches.

"I'll wait for you," the other apprentice says simply, and Ienzo only nods. Hesitantly, he steps back into the classroom to face Master Ansem.

Truth be told? Ienzo doesn't know he should feel alone around their master. He admires him so badly, yet… It's so nerve-wracking to be near him. How is he supposed to act around a man who's so confident? How can he possibly compare to this genius and all of the older apprentices? As Ienzo quietly shuffles past rows of tables to Ansem's desk, he reflects on how insane it is that a boy such as him has become an apprentice.

Ansem is still looking over some of the papers they've all written for today when Ienzo finally stops in font of his desk, so he simply waits. Shyly, he keeps his head down and watches through his long black bangs.

There is a sort of brilliant light and energy to the way Ansem moves, even when he's simply reading, Ienzo notices. One would normally think of blood when seeing red eyes, but to Ienzo, Ansem's eyes are like fire. They spark with ideas and thought as they flicker across the paper. Even his movements, as his hand guides ink across paper, possess that fiery sort of grace. IT is all, Ienzo thinks, something he will never have.

"You always seem to shrink in on yourself, Ienzo."

Surprised, Ienzo jerks his head up to look at Ansem, eyes wide. As a result, more messy bangs fall into his face. He'd been so lost in thought… He hadn't expected Ansem to suddenly pay attention to him. Biting his lower lip, Ienzo quickly lowers his head again. "O-Oh. I'm sorry."

There's a soft sigh from in front of him. Due to his position, however, Ienzo doesn't see the patient and gentle smile on Ansem's face. There's a certain hint of it to his voice, however. "There's no need to apologize, Ienzo." Ansem pushes his chair back and stands. "I was simply stating a small observation of mine." Despite the reassurance, Ienzo does not look up. He simply remains where he stands, almost completely frozen. The only movement Ienzo makes is some light fidgeting as he hears Ansem's heavy footsteps come towards him. What he doesn't expect, thought, is for the blond man to kneel in front of him, smiling. "You're safe here, you know."

The words are all there, perfectly arranged inside his head. As much as he wants to say them, however, Ienzo finds that they trip and scatter on his tongue, and it leaves him stuttering for a good five minutes. Ansem has a blessed amount of patience, thankfully, and this reassures Ienzo enough to get his voice out. "I… I don't know how. IF…" He struggles for a moment. He just had the words, where had they gone? "If I was confident, I would die." Immediately, Ienzo flushes red with embarrassment. What had he been thinking? That sentence made no sense, he was so stupid…

By some miracle, Ansem seems to understand. "I see. Well, one can be confident while still being cautious, Ienzo." He pushes himself back up onto his feet. The pressure of his hand is warm and encouraging on Ienzo's shoulder and the boy relaxes. "I wouldn't want to keep Elaeus waiting, so you can go. However, I'd like to see you here tomorrow morning. Would that be alright?"

Confusion twists across Ienzo's face, but he nods obediently anyway. "Of course, Master."

And the first step is laid down.

Author's Notes:

Admittedly, I have a bit of a weakness for Ansem/DiZ. I mean, he's just such a complex and tragic character, I don't know why he doesn't get more love. (Wait, I do. He's old, he badmouths the pretty boy Organization, and heaven forbid if he actually acts like a bad guy. C'mon guys, the Org. has done worse, and they don't even apologize for it. At least Ansem does. )

Wait, where was I? Oh, right. Sorry, wandered off. Anyway, I really do find the untold Apprentice era of the games simply fascinating, and possibly heartbreaking. I always thought the reason that Ansem got so obsessed with revenge was because it hurt so much that the people closest to him had betrayed him in such a way. My personal headcanon always figured that he did have a close relationship with the apprentices, at least in the beginning.

That's what I'm going to try in this little short project of mine, focusing on Ienzo and Ansem. Besides, I need something sweet and happy to take my mind off of MotB. XD

Reviews and constructive criticism are always appreciated!