"Where am I?" I opened my eyes, dazed. My eyes adjusted to a dimly-lit forest. It had a feeling of oldness—like a thousand years or more. It smelled damp, and of rotting wood. The trees were thick and close together.
I was not alone.
Someone lay next to me. Shrouded in a black coat, with black cropped hair, her pale skin contrasted greatly with her attire. Kneeling next to her, a name drifted into my head.
I put a hand on her cheek. Her face seemed more white than usual. Her skin was ice cold. Not warm, like a living being.
Was she breathing?
One of her hands was clenched over her heart, clutching something golden.
I recognized the locket. It had my picture in it…
"Ah!" I woke with a start. The dream troubled me. I remembered my mid-day nap when I stood up.
But it had felt so real…
Oh, right. Xion had asked me to wake her up when I woke. I sighed. I think I just needed to see her face again, to register she was okay. I zipped my coat up and walked across the hall to her room. I knocked before I came in, just a soft tap.
"Xion?" I asked before I was in the door. "Time to wake up."
No answer. I was inside. There was an eerie silence. Where was she?
Her bed lay neatly made, unlike her. She must have woken up before me. No need to be worried.
My eyes picked up a piece of paper laying on the bed. I instantly recognized her chicken scratch.
I'm sorry. This is the only way to go—a clean break is the easiest to heal. It sucks that it has to end like this. I wish I could have said a proper goodbye. You're my best friend and I love you like a brother, more than anyone else. But please, for your sake and mine, don't try to come after me.
Xion had suffered depression before, but this was by far the most drastic thing she'd ever done. I'd always been there to hug her, tell her the others didn't matter, to comfort her. She had been planning this, hadn't she? Why hadn't she come to me…?
"A clean break is the easiest to heal."
I was running now. I knew where to go. In the forest we had found only a few months ago. We had changed since then.
Running, running. Thinking, thinking. Hoping. Praying I would get there in time.
Oh god. Please don't let me be too late.
Was the dream foretelling the future?
That made me run faster.
"A clean break is the easiest to heal."
"Do me a favor, and don't try to come after me…"
What the hell was she thinking?
I stumbled into a clearing. It was very old, and smelt of rotting wood. The trees weren't as serene as they were in the dream, though. They were menacing.
Something caught my attention.
On the opposite side of the space was a black huddle. There was quiet crying.
Within a blink of an eye, several things happened at once.
She looked up. Her head whipped up, around, and our eyes met. This wasn't the Xion I was used to—this was the wild, rash side of her. I looked at her, pleading, and stepped forward.
Within a split second, I was running after her. She was going fast—giving the escape all she had. Darn it, Xion, I just want to help you!
Another clearing was coming up. She looked back—I couldn't catch a glimpse of her face. She tripped, tumbled, like a broken doll, and was down. Just collapsed in the middle of the clearing. I slowed.
A few feet away, I stopped. Would she try to run again? I edged closer. When I was within a foot of her, I placed my hand on her shoulder softly. She was shaking, but she didn't try to run away. I knelt down next to her and hugged her. I pulled her head down into my lap, rocking her. Her thin frame shook with sobs. After a while of whispering comforting words into her ear, she looked up at me.
Her face was paler than usual. Tears streaked her face. Her eyes were big and afraid, like deer eyes. Big and blue. Her hair was spread misshapenly across her sweaty forehead. She was still panting a little from the running.
"Shh, it'll be okay," I said as she pulled her face from my chest. I stroked her hair.
"I-I'm sorry…" she said.
"Shh." I said. "There'll be time for that later. I'm just glad you're okay."
My statement sent her into a whole new round of sobs.
"What?" My voice rose audibly in alarm, though I tried to hide it. "Are you okay? Are you hurt?"
Her hand, which had been clutched against her heart, pulled away from her. Her pale, near-translucent hand was covered in blood. She held a sharp-looking rock, the tip of which was also covered in the dreadful stuff.
She unzipped her coat a little, and pulled her black tank top off to the side. There were several deep gashes over her heart, and her shirt was soaked in blood. The golden locket hung around her neck, occasionally dipping in the wounds. She rolled up her sleeves to show her wrists, which were streaked with countless red cuts. Some were just scratches, but most had broken her skin. A few looked older than today's.
"Oh my god…." I breathed. "Xion… what did you do to yourself?"
"I… I thought you hated me." She whispered, wiping her eyes on her sleeve. Her voice was trembling and cracked. "Be…because of the fight we had… the other day…"
I shook my head in disbelief. "We get into little fights sometimes, it's only natural! That doesn't change anything between us!"
"I know, it's just…" She broke off, crying some more.
"It's alright." I said, cradling her head in my arms.
When she was ready, I helped her to her feet, putting her arm around my shoulder and my hand at her waist. I tried to allieviate as much of her weight onto myself as I could. I hoped she wasn't in as much pain as she looked. We walked slowly toward the castle.
As we walked inside the entrance of the castle, Axel, Demyx, and Saix were talking. When Axel saw us, his eyes widened and he rushed over. Xion, who was wincing at loss of blood and fatigue, started to faint. Axel caught her before she could hit the floor and swept her off her feet, carrying her honeymoon-style with ease.
"I'm sorry…" She whispered weakly.
"Shh," Axel said, walking briskly. I nearly had to run to keep up with him. He walked quickly to his room and laid her in the adjoining bathroom's bathtub. He helped her shrug off her coat, running the faucet and making sure it was warm.
He held her wrists gently as he ran water over them. She winced. I was repulsed by what she had done, mutilating her own body to the extent of near-suicide. And it had all been my fault. I wanted to throw up.
"Better than getting an infection," Axel said sympathetically, referring to her small whimpers of pain. The bottom of the tub was thoroughly stained red.
"We're going to wait in the room while you wash your chest," He said slowly. "We'll be right outside if you need us." She nodded tiredly. Before we left, he placed a fresh change of clothes by the tub and then closed the door behind us.
We waited. Axel and I sat on his bed, and we talked a little. Our conversation focused on Xion.
"So what happened?"
"She ran away and tried—" I broke off. I couldn't bring myself to say the words. "She tried… to commit suicide…" Tears started to well up in my eyes. My throat burned as I forced them down.
"Did… she say why?"
I shrugged. "We got into a fight the other day, and I think that triggered depression. She said she thought I hated her. That's not true, of course. But… I don't know. If you really want the most accurate information, ask her." He nodded, closing his eyes and resting his head in his hand.
"R-Roxas?" A small voice came from the bathroom a while later.
"Yeah?" I asked, coming over to the door and pressing my ear to it.
"Could you come in here? I kind of need some help."
"Oh. Yeah… of course…"
"The door's not locked."
I pushed the door open slightly, beams of light invading the otherwise dark room. A few rays fell on Axel, his face troubled even his sleep. I willed him not to worry and continued into the bathroom.
She was standing in the center of the room, her back to me. Her head turned slightly. The light danced off her pale, unscarred back.
"What do you need help with?" I asked hesitantly.
"Uh… I can't really move this arm much. It hurts," She said quietly. She held a fresh black tank top in one hand.
"Oh. Okay." I said, walking forward slowly. When I was behind her, I held her hands and put one arm through each armhole in the shirt. I lifted her arms up above her head, and she murmured a quiet "Ouch". I apologized, and unhooking my hands from hers, instructed her to leave her arms where they were. I pulled the tank top down over her head and she dropped her arms.
"Thanks," She said, turning around. She had made a makeshift bandage over her chest wounds with parts of the old tank top that hadn't been soaked with blood. From what I could tell, it was wrapped pretty tight, and the bleeding seemed to have slowed. Embarrassed to be staring at her chest, I looked down and turned for the door.
"Roxas?" She said before I walked out.
"Yeah?" I murmured, my eyes still averted to avoid any awkward tension.
"You're a sweet boy." She said it very softly, almost as if to herself. I nodded and walked out.
A few minutes later she came out of the bathroom. We decided not to wake Axel. We silently made our way down the long, bleak hallways of the castle towards her room. When we reached it, she went in and sat on the bed, rubbing her temples like she always did when she was tired. Her old habit made me smile inwardly.
"So…" I said, leaning against the doorframe. "You must be pretty tired. I'll let you get your sleep. Good night." I turned and closed the door behind me softly, starting the short walk to my room. A few seconds later, there were footsteps and the door opened again.
"Roxas?" She asked very quietly. Her voice was small, echoing in the ominously black nighttime hallway. She sounded innocent, childlike. "Could you maybe… if I'm not being too much of a nuisance… could you please stay?" I turned, surprised at her words. She was staring at me from the doorframe, her large blue eyes managing to sparkle even in the near-blackness.
"Of course." I said, joining her in her room. She silently laid down on the bed, moving to the side. I started to spread my coat out on the floor, figuring it would provide some kind of cushion against the stone.
"You don't have to sleep down there…" Her voice was small. I stood up and sat on the edge of the bed.
"I know I'm being incredibly selfish right now," She said softly after a few minutes of silence. I transferred from sitting to laying next to her. I turned towards her face, but I couldn't make out much besides her eyes in the dark. The fear in them was unsettling.
"I…. I'm afraid I'll have nightmares." She confessed. "The ordeal today… I don't want to dream about it…" She bit her lip to hold back tears. "Just stay close, okay?" One of her hands rested on my arm.
"I'm right here," I said quietly. "And no, you're not being selfish. I would probably be scared, too, if I had just went through what you did." I stared at the ceiling for a while. My hand floated onto hers on my arm.
"As long as you're here, I'm fine," She whispered. The exhaustion of the day's events carried into her voice. Our conversation ended, and in a few minutes, her breathing had become deep and even.
My free hand stroked her hair. "Goodnight, Xion," I murmured. "Sweet dreams." I stared at the ceiling until unconsciousness took me, too.