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Enigmatic Plan

He'd had a passion for science once, and maintains it more out of habit than genuine excitement. His mind requires constant stimulation, feeding on discoveries as a starving man swallows fresh meat. Restraint (usually one of his strong suits) becomes impossible for Vexen at work. The world that never was will never see dawn, making time illusory at best. There is a clock nearby, reading Twilight hours. He ignores it.

Interest also overrides weariness, ordering bones and muscles into obedience against all odds. He forgets stiffness, headaches, physical weight and being while unraveling the heart's mysteries. His face aches beneath heavy goggles. An artificial human lies silent on the table, incomplete. Formulas move like specters across his lips, struggling to recall links between mind, body, and…

He takes notes. Why three components? Were there any other combinations? Tongue sticking between his teeth, Vexen loses himself as Number XII enters the room. She holds back for a minute. Gawking? He scowls. Larxene darkens, then grins in absent, malicious imitation.

"Why are you still working on that piece of junk?" is her question as she saunters to examine his multicolored test tubes.

"It is NOT junk," replies the academic acidly, "This replica could very well mark the first step towards solidifying identity in any conceivable sequence—"

"Whatever." Larxene makes to flick a beaker, and he snatches it out of reach.

"Don't touch anything!"

Hands on her hips, she leans towards him. "What, are you worried I might damage your chemistry set?"

"Good equipment doesn't grow on trees!"

A burst of hollow, derisive laughter. "Like I'd risk the Superior's wrath by ruining your pet project. Really Vexen, I'm not stupid."

He groans, massaging his temples. "Why are you here, Larxene?"

She folds her arms and leans back, wearing a bored expression. "It's my turn to deliver the progress report. Zexion took a bit longer than expected. You're last." An incorrigible smirk erupts. "Wonder what Xemnas will say when I tell him you're slacking off."

"It's nearly three o' clock!"

"Is it really? And that doll still hasn't woken up yet?" The little savage tilts her head, pointed chin directed away from him.

"I only need one more day," he growls, "Maybe two."

"No point in continuing now then, is there? Staying in this musty old basement again would be just so…pathetic. Don't you think?"

His eyes narrow. Her brow cocks, almost like a challenge. "Are you suggesting I abandon my research?"

"I am suggesting," says Larxene, sweet as strychnine, "that you go to bed. Understand?"

Silence. "You're after something," he declares, thick with suspicion.

"Only what I'm always after," she answers evenly, "and I'll get it anyway. Why don't you make this easy?" Baring her teeth like a demon, the afterthought is deceptively light. "Do I honestly have to tuck you in?"

Vexen glowers. "Leave me alone, Larxene."

"Or you'll what?" Taunting, provocative.

"Get out."

First, he earns a childish pout. Then the woman leers and salutes him mockingly. "Fine. There are other options. Have fun, Vexen." With that she departs in a plume of darkness.

Vexen waits about ten minutes before following her lead.

Author's Notes: 1) This story was greatly inspired by Luc Court's A Sorrow Of Magpies. Not quite fan fiction of fan fiction, but it could be interpreted that way. 2) The ambiguity is quite intentional. What do you think is going on?