Jazlynn made a challenge for a romance pairing between Marluxia and Xion in her story "e l e v a t o r." Well, genre fail, but I got them together in the same room, so I'm happy.
Marluxia nodded to her and continued on the path through his garden, noting how careful she was to step only in his footprints and to shy away from anything that looked too close.
"How do you keep the vines away from it?"
He looked to where she had nodded, at the distinct clearance between a tree and its neighbor, a vine that was otherwise wild and aggressive.
The lord of the castle smiled while Xion's worried gaze raked the area between the two plants.
"I don't have to." He left it at that and continued walking.
Calling the divide between the two plants distinct was an understatement to Xion. The vine literally stopped growing toward the tree and instead made a curved wall around it, as if the two had agreed upon a line. She broke her gaze away from the sight and rushed to catch up with her superior. Falling behind in the garden was not an idea she found reasonable, or was she lucky enough to be afraid? No. In this place she felt far from lucky, if anything. She stopped at Marluxia's side and watched him as he sang to what looked like an overly large urn with vines coming from its base. It rumbled happily in response to his voice, and the whole ground seemed to shake as it did.
There was a small tag sticking out of the dirt near it that had a label, which she leaned forward to read. But before she was close enough, she felt his hand on her shoulder and quickly stepped behind him when one of the floral appendages began snaking its way toward her.
"Nepenthes Rajah," he explained.
"Sir, what are we doing here?"
Marluxia smiled and took hold of her hand to lead her back down the path toward the two plants that respected each other's privacy the way opposing armies do. "You noted so well, I think, how the tree and the vine do not battle with each other."
Xion eyed the vine suspiciously for the movement she had seen from the other, but looked back to Marluxia and nodded when she was satisfied. "Yes?"
"I brought you here because I heard about your latest ill fated escape."
Xion raised her eyebrows, not sure of what to say in response.
Marluxia leaned in closer to her and whispered, "I don't like Xemnas either."
He pointed at the boundary between the vine and the tree, a No Man's Land of sorts. "Stay here, and watch closely."
She was alarmed to see him go, but didn't dare move from the spot; not even when the rustling of vines came to close for comfort, and not even when she faintly heard her name called from a nearby bush. Marluxia returned with a mouse cradled in his palm, and stood next to her again, with their sides just so close to touching.
"How many times have you tried to leave now, Xion? Eight? Ten?"
Xion eyed the mouse rather than answering, and Marluxia feigned rhetoric rather than pushing the matter. He tossed the small mammal between the plants, and the reaction was instant brutality. The wall of vines lashed out and fell limp as soon as it touched the ground, while the tree attacked with its branches and tangled and crushed everything in its path. The vine never had a chance, much less the mouse.
"The vine..." Xion pointed at the carnage shakily. "When it touched the ground..."
Marluxia nodded. "Toxicaria. I find it is aptly named."
They watched in silence, Xion feeling insecure about such a dangerous place, while the tree hastily finished off the mouse and then tugged the intruding bits of vine loose and devoured them as well through a hole hidden somewhere in its branches. Marluxia took Xion's hand again when it was over, and she watched with some foreboding as the now static tree fell behind them on the trail that led deeper into Marluxia's garden of horrors.
"Tell me, Xion. What is it about the Organization that you just can't stand?"
She opened her mouth to answer, but quickly closed it and looked to her pacing feet while she thought further. His thumb caressed her hand as they continued, encouraging a response.
"I... it isn't anything personal. I just... I don't want to..."
His melancholy smile faded to a grieved distaste, and she stopped, worried that she may have said something wrong already. But Marluxia reached out and plucked a leaf from a nearby plant. She wasn't one to tell, but it appeared that the pigment was the wrong shade of purple relative to the rest of the bush that had been calling to her earlier. Marluxia dropped the leaf to the ground and continued walking.
"You don't want your heart back?" He supplied.
"No. It's not that. It's just... I know that what we're doing is wrong."
He peered at her over his shoulder. "Wrong?"
"The way we treat Naminé, for starters. How can we really morally justify keeping her locked up and forcing her to change people's memories?"
He didn't have an answer, so they walked in silence, punctuated by the rustling of leaves and the motion of the underbrush, until they reached a patch of more plants that looked like discolored Sunflowers. Above their stems, the chlorophyll green mixed with a fall orange that turned to a blood rusted red as it reached the petals, which looked significantly more like teeth. He began pulling more mice from his cloak and tossing them to each of the flowers, which snapped shut on contact.
"How can I justify the deaths of the rodents, Xion?"
She tried to think of a better answer than what came to mind, but she'd been outwitted.
"The plants have to eat."
"And we need Naminé to get our hearts."
He tossed the last of the mice and took her hand again. "However, when we have our hearts back, Naminé can go free. That's assuming that Xemnas is no longer in control, of course. He wants to use her to conquer worlds."
Xion checked her shoulders for peeping Toms. Axel could be melodramatic at times, but he was probably right about people being turned into Dusks for disloyalty.
"Marluxia, are you trying to recruit me for a coup? Is that why we're here?"
He nodded bluntly and she took a step back, releasing his grip. "No. I don't care who's in charge; I don't want to be part of the organization. I want out."
"And what? Xemnas is going to let you go?"
Despite an extra beat to lie, he said, "Of course."
Xion bit her lower lip in thought, being just as terrible at hiding emotions as when she'd actually had them.
"And what if I don't believe you?"
His motherly smile disarmed her almost as much as his response. "That's fine, Xion. So long as Xemnas never finds out about this conversation."
She nodded. That was a deal she could keep, easily if she could escape first.
"Are you sure you don't want to join us, though?"
She blinked at the plural.
"You're not the first person I've spoken to, Xion. You are number fourteen after all."
She readjusted some hair that had fallen in front of her ear and mumbled, "Oh. No. I'll be fine. Will that be all, sir?"
He nodded slowly. "As long as you're sure."
She smiled apologetically at him, although she didn't feel sorry, and turned to leave down the path with a weight of tension lifted from her shoulders. It was then that her senses had returned to her, as they had stepped out while she was focusing on not saying anything wrong during her conversation. So it was only then that she realized she had been followed. She jumped backward into Marluxia's arms with a shriek as a vine made its way toward her. But rather than protecting her, Marluxia held her in place and shushed into her ear, calming her instinct to struggle. It had appeared menacing at first, but the vine moved slowly, like a lion that was only out to play.
"It's only following your scent," he whispered. "It likes you."
She gulped and summoned her keyblade as the vine found its way to her low-heeled boot, where it stopped on her toes.
"You see? Harmless."
Her breathing slowed back to a coherent rhythm, and her chest heaved less under the weight of his arms, armor that held her down. "How long will it sit there?" She asked with a sense of trepidation.
Marluxia brushed a lock of her hair behind her ear before answering, "We'll just have to wait and see. And while we have nothing better to do, we can continue our conversation." She saw through the ploy instantly. Marluxia would keep her here until he got the answer he wanted.
"Marluxia, please. I don't-"
"Tell me, Xion. When the fighting begins and you see your friends killing each other, whose side are you going to take? And you can't say you wouldn't take a side, because we both know that's a lie."
Xion moved to heave his arms off, but he constricted, and the vine wrapped itself around her ankle, cutting her skin with its thorns. Instinct gripped her again and her voice shook almost as much as her body.
"M-M-Mar- Marluxi- what are you-"
He shushed her quietly and covered her mouth until she was only struggling in occasional jerks out of discomfort. "Just listen, Xion. When you see Roxas and Axel fighting, whose side will you take? What if Xemnas is at your side ordering you to kill one of them? What then, hmm?"
She shook her head free and screamed, "I don't know! Marluxia, please, I just want-" But his hand returned with more hushes.
"Now let's imagine a scenario in which Xemnas has caught you trying to escape yet again, and he decides that you have to be made an example of. Would you really keep this a secret then?"
She kicked furiously to free her leg and was almost successful until he wrestled her to the ground and held her there with his weight, pinning her arms above her head.
"Wouldn't that be a nice time to suddenly remember incriminating evidence against me?"
"I promise he won't hear anything from me, Marluxia. I wouldn't do that. I hate Xemnas. We all do. Maybe not Sa'i'x, but he's insane. Please! Just let me go. I don't have anything to do with this."
He swallowed hard, his aggravated breath showering her with the mask of a foul mood. "You know, Xion," he said in his still motherly tone. Xion peeked off to her side at motion coming from just off the path.
More vines were crawling her way, disturbing the underbrush as they did. She shrieked, almost drowning out the Graceful Assassin as he murmured, "I'm not the first person to realize how special you are to the Superior."
The vines began to tangle around her arms while Marluxia stood off of her. It was too late to struggle, even before they wrapped around her throat and waist, and clasped her wrists and ankles together. More thorns cut into her skin, and the vines began to drag her away through the garden past trees that snagged her hair and bushes that called her name until she reached what was by all appearances a large, living urn. The vines lifted her upside down, over an aperture hardly aesthetic enough to call a mouth, for a view of a throbbing black hole. She squirmed against the manhandling and was rewarded with more cuts.
"Would you like to think about it some more?"
The vines abruptly stopped and her around to face Marluxia, who was standing on the path several meters away.
She gasped, tasting sweet air when the constriction left her throat, trying to ignore the urn that was so close to snapping at her hair.
"Marluxia, don't do this. You know Xemnas will ask questions; he'll catch you. Please!"
He shook his head and tsked.
The vines constricted, squeezing her into a breathless ball, and then dropped her into the urn.
She fell into a world of dark liquid that burned her skin and dull teeth that gnashed at her bones, grinding her nothingness. Pain slapped her ever side, stung her senses, clawed at her sides. And then a sudden burning hole opened in the side. The plant shrieked as an arm came through and jerked her from its stomach along with several liters of acid. It spilled out onto the ground, and was soon set ablaze by flames she couldn't even feel as she struggle through. She gasped for air and summoned her keyblade again, swinging wildly at a vine that tried to grab her. The strike connected and it burst into flames along with the entirety of the plant. But like a true terror of Oblivion, Nepenthes Rajah continued writhing at her, trying to swallow her whole. She swung hard at more vines, watching them fall back as the flames bit into them harder. So much of it was cleaved and damaged that she was beginning to believe it immortal until its ashy end several moments later. The vines dropped to the ground as the gourd gave out its final willowing drawl, and the plant lay still.
Her energy spent, Xion stumbled backward and bumped against something stiff.
Like a tree. Her throat seized up until it said, "You alright?"
She turned and tackled his stomach with a sob. "He's trying to kill me!"
The "he" in question sighed. "Hello, Axel. It's so nice to see you."
Axel turned with Xion still clinging to him. "Oh. Marluxia. Sorry about your plant," he said just as truthfully.
A bush nearby murmured his name and he snapped his fingers at it, bringing about yet another gout of flame.
"Wanna explain why your plants are eating my friends?"
"I did tell her to stay on the path. In hindsight I should have kept a closer eye on her. You of all people know how quickly she can get lost."
Axel didn't answer, and instead opened a corridor into darkness.
"Come on, Xion. This place is Creepy with a capital C."
I have a strange definition of pairing, I suppose. But nothing says I love you like feeding your significant other to a plant, right?
As usual, be sure and shred in your review. The writing must improve!